Ladies and gentlemen, I hope your week’s
been a little bit less problematic than my existence over the last seven days. No matter what happened this week, or how we may feel about the hate crime committed by Bobbo on Brian Ching, there is still a new week to come. Today is Friday, which means tomorrow is Saturday, so unless you have a real shitty job that makes you work tomorrow, it’s time to party. Grab your favorite cocktail and strap in. It’s going to be a wild ride.
As the match ended Tuesday night, I noticed one of the greatest traditions in all of sports take place — the trading of sweat-soaked jerseys from opposing teams. I am sure with the continued coverage of the World Cup by ESPN, non-soccer fans will be looking awkwardly at the TV saying, “Why is he giving his jersey away, doesn’t he need that later?” After thinking about it for a couple days, I decided that it was in fact the greatest sports tradition in any highly played American sport. There simply is nothing like it anywhere else. I will get to the reasons soon enough, but first I want to explain another great sporting tradition that takes place on college campuses on Saturday afternoons all over the country.
While I played soccer for roughly 12 years, I was a decent player, but my 5-foot-5 200+ lbs frame was always more suited for rugby. I understand this is not a rugby blog, but the sport is in a tie with soccer for my favorite sport ever. Rugby players don’t wear hefty pads like the football pussies, and we get to kick the ball too, so it’s basically the best of both worlds. One of the greatest things about rugby is the community it creates due to the rugby social. Saturday was a rugby day in my collegiate world. During the match, there are hard tackles, cleat stompings, and a whole manner of other violent nonsense. No matter what happens during a match, both teams get together to sing disgusting, flighty, depraved songs, and get completely fucking shit-hammered. These songs include such gems as “Yo-Ho,” “The S&M Man,” and the always crowd pleasing, “Jesus Can’t Play Rugby.” If you screw up the words to one of these songs, you are given the privilege of “shooting the boot.” This tradition involves chugging a beer (and possibly other gross shit) out of a used rugby boot while the whole crowd tosses more beer on you and screams. If you fuck it up twice in a row, you have to shoot the “anal boot.” I won’t go into details, but the mental picture you have, it’s much worse than that. I distinctly remember one match breaking some dudes nose, and pounding beers with him 40 minutes later. These Saturday parties are clearly not The Masters, but it still is a tradition like none other. It’s time to take a look some other major American sports traditions.
NBA – There really is no tradition to speak of here. When the league poster boy can run off the court without even speaking to the victorious team (Lebron in 2009), you really don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to mentionable traditions.
MLB – There is a long list of traditions and “unwritten rules” in baseball. I am not going to focus
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on these. I am only interested the post-game traditions. Most teams have some sort of team handshake that takes place after a victory. I would not go so far as to call that a tradition. There is nothing that both teams are involved in after any particular game.
NFL – Football has a bit more post-game tradition than the previous two sports, but nothing really to interesting. In the closing seconds of the game, opposing coaches jog out to midfield with an army of overweight security guards and do the handshake, or awkward side hug. Occasionally opposing QB’s will do the same, but only if the media has made a big fucking deal about it all week. It’s not much, but it’s better than the previous two.
NHL – Without question, the NHL has one of the greatest postseason traditions in any sport, the post-series handshake. No matter what has happened during the series, every player from both teams lines up and everyone shakes every hand presented to them. This is not just a quick shake, this is something more. This is nothing like the “good game” bullshit at your local T-ball league, there is acknowledgement of excellent individual performances. Even if a team loses Game 7 on home ice, they wait on the ice for the other squad to finish celebrating, it simply means that much.
Finally, we get back to international soccer. I understand most readers of “the greatest blog of our time” have some knowledge of the reasons behind the tradition of jersey exchange, but many may not understand the history. An old Washington Post story traces the tradition back to the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. Others feel the tradition started even earlier in 1931. The story goes something like this. During a friendly between powerhouse England and, at the time a much less talented French squad, the French shocked the English by scoring five goals in a victory. This was an unprecedented and unexpected result for both sides. To commemorate their victory, the French asked the English to trade jerseys, and the English agreed, thus beginning the long standing tradition.
While the birthplace of the tradition may be debated, why has it continued for so long? The first explanation is simple; it is a sign of respect and sportsmanship. After 90 minutes of fighting for a victory, it is an acknowledgement of the effort that your opponent has put in to be on the pitch. It is important to remember that no matter the outcome of the game, the jersey exchange still takes place. Also, this is an exchange, not just a donation to the winning team. While it is a sign of respect, it also speaks to something much more. It is a simply representation of equality. In the world’s most popular game, international conflicts, alliances, and quarrels are forgotten. For those 90 minutes between the white lines, everyone is a part of something bigger than themselves. On a much more practical level, soccer players are also incredible soccer fans. Imagine being able to come off the pitch with the game worn jersey of an international star. After an international career by the likes of a Donovan or a Beasley the collection of jerseys they would have would be astounding. I certainly would have them all framed somewhere. Basically this tradition kicks ass. If you disagree, you are entitled to your opinion, but you are also entitled to be wrong.
It’s Friday, so it’s time for Puck’s Free Advice. I know I am about 4343 years too late on this YouTube video, but whenever you are having a shitty day, or even week a miserable week, it can never be as bad as this kid’s night. Check it out and feel better.
And boom goes the dynamite! Sorry for partying.
Puck is the pop culture guru for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.