In the realm of same-sex interactions, however, it ends up being all about context. In public places, such as a baseball field or a basketball court, men feel comfortable with all manner of physical interaction. "An audience negates any type of [sexual] interpretation, because so many guys are around," Morman explains. "I can slap you on the butt if you hit a home run in front of 500 people, and that's O.K. But if you come over to my apartment and I slap you on the butt and it's just me and you, there's no other potentially reasonable explanation for why I did that."
Celebrating is risky business. Cardinals placekicker Bill Gramatica tore his ACL in 2001 while jumping for joy after making a field goal, an accident that landed him on one list of Lamest Sports Injuries Ever. But that was a solo act. Chest bumps involve far more coordination. The run-up. The launch. The connection. And, of course, the landing.
The last part is where it all went wrong for Chris Halliday. Last June the senior at Auburn (Mass.) High was brought in to close out the state Division 2 championship game against Plymouth North. With the final pitch of the season, he induced a fly ball to center. Bedlam ensued. And then, well, here's how Halliday remembers it:
"I throw my glove up in the air and I just fall on the ground and I'm doing like a snow angel. It felt awesome. I couldn't believe that we won. After that I get up and I look toward the bench, and all the guys are running toward the field. The first guy I run toward is Kyle Beede, our backup catcher. So I go up for a chest bump, and I think we miss—my memory gets blurry about here—and when we landed, he landed on my leg. I'd never broken a leg before, but when I landed I felt something ... bad. I was lying there and I said, 'Man, I think I broke my leg,' and he said, 'Shut up. Let's go.' Then I looked at my left leg, and it was at a 90-degree angle. And he looked at it and ran away to get help. And the rest of the guys are coming at me, running at me to do a big pileup, and then they all saw my leg and they turned and ran the other way, like they'd seen a friggin' ghost."
Eventually Halliday was taken off the field on a stretcher, triumphantly holding the championship trophy aloft—a pose that was photographed and ran alongside a Boston Globe story. Within 24 hours doctors inserted a titanium rod and three screws in his leg. He spent weeks in bed, forbidden to walk. Only now, nine months later, can he run again, but memories of his accident haunt him. "I want to play basketball with my friends, but I can't because I get so scared," Halliday says. "Every time I see someone jump off the ground and land, I cringe."
Sometimes there is a complete disconnect between the fiver and his fivees. Take Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien. In October, against Ohio State, Tolzien was having a nightmare game; he'd thrown two interceptions that were returned for scores. In the third quarter he finally led a field goal drive and, understandably pumped, headed down the sideline, arm upraised, hand extended. But no fives were forthcoming. Tolzien paused, then turned and headed back the other way, again offering up his palm, but again he had no luck; several players walked past him as if he were invisible. Finally, after 14 seconds, he lowered his hand, his five unrequited.
Uncommon as the Unrequited Five is, it's still seen more often than the Official Five, perhaps the rarest species. Its most famous practitioner was Titans quarterback Vince Young. After the final play of a Tennessee victory in November, Young saw referee Jerome Boger approaching the line of scrimmage with an arm raised, most likely to signal the end of the play. But Young, perhaps thinking that Boger couldn't contain his enthusiasm for the Titans' win, met the ref's hand with a high five. (The NFL, being the NFL, reviewed the play later and released a statement saying that it was "not Jerome Boger's intent to exchange a high five with the player.")
Finally, there is the Illegal Five, which would not be mourned if it became extinct. Last year, during the seventh and final inning of a junior college softball tournament game in Minnesota, Ashly Erickson of Central Lakes broke up a no-hitter and won the game with one swing of the bat, only to be called out upon reaching home because of an NCAA rule prohibiting high fives, a bevy of which she'd exchanged with teammates on her way from third to home. Opposing coach Jean Musgjerd of Rochester Community and Technical College, who informed the umpire of the rule, offered no sympathy. As she later told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "You don't want to win in that way, but you have to play by the rules." It was not noted whether, after providing the quote, she exchanged high fives with her assistants.