Shaking Hands

[ Posted Thursday, October 28th, 2010 – 16:32 UTC ]

[Program Notes: This article is going to attempt to pull together two completely unrelated observations via a cheap literary device, just to warn everyone in advance. This is what writers do when they have two things they want to talk about, but only one article in which to speak. We're going to be on a pretty locked-in schedule here for the next few columns, so this is the last chance I'll have for almost a week to just blather about the random thoughts that flit through my fevered brain (that would be GIANTS fever, of course). Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right, just wanted to sketch out the next week for everyone. Tomorrow, Friday Talking Points will be pre-empted by our annual Hallowe'en column, with two nightmares to send shivers down everyone's spines. Monday should be Obama Poll Watch day, but because it is the last day before the election, I will be running the last of the Senate Midterm Elections Overview columns, with my final picks for all the Senate races. Tuesday is Election Day, so there will likely be something or another to talk about, and then Wednesday it'll be a slightly-belated Obama Poll Watch day. Whew! If that isn't enough for fans (who seem to have adopted the term "Weigantians," which I will use henceforth), I will also be appearing on tomorrow morning's Shock And Awesome podcast with the incomparable T.J. And The Tux, broadcast from New York City's East Village Radio. Tune in around 11:00 East Coast time to hear it (the show starts at 10:00, but I'll be interviewed in the final hour), or download it later and listen at your leisure. Enough of all this shameless self-promotion, though, let's get on with the actual column, shall we?]


Incivility seems to be running fairly high in the country right now, what with heads being crushed under boots by political supporters and whatnot. But the incivility which has me scratching my head has nothing to do with politics. Instead, I've been asking a question which (so far) has remained unanswered, so I toss it out today in the hopes that a sports whiz knows the answer: Why do professional baseball players not shake hands with the other team after the game?

When the game's over, each team lines up and shakes hands with itself, but they refuse to meet at the pitcher's mound (so to speak) and congratulate the opposing team, in what is a standard ritual for just about every other sport -- and even in non-professional baseball. So why don't the pro baseball players shake hands with the other team? It's absolutely mystifying.

I think they used to, but I could even be wrong about that. I seem to recall seeing teams do this in the past, which (if I'm right) means that at some point, they stopped doing so. Was there an "incident" at some ballpark which led to scrapping the tradition? Inquiring minds want to know.

It is even more mystifying when you consider that baseball players are held up to a much higher scrutiny in terms of "being a role model" than professional athletes in other sports (football, to name just one). Major League Baseball prides itself on this high standard. So why isn't this basic part of sportsmanship displayed after their games?

I found only one possible explanation out on the web, but it's pretty weak and even the blogger who brought it up thought so -- a rule in the book that says: "Players of opposing teams shall not fraternize at any time while in uniform." Like I said, pretty thin.

Anyway, if any sports guru would like to chime in and explain this puzzling situation, please do. Which means it is now time for the aforementioned cheap literary device -- the head-snapping segue.

Speaking of shaking hands with your opponents, President Obama just sat down for an hour with some liberal bloggers for a question-and-answer session. Since I've been calling on the president to do exactly this -- reach out to the Lefty media -- for quite some time now, I could not let it go by without at least drawing some attention to it.

President Obama didn't make any news in his chat with the bloggers. He was even up front about this, saying at one point: "I do not intend to make big news sitting here with the five of you, as wonderful as you guys are."

But you know what? That's OK. Obama took questions from everyone, he showed respect to the bloggers, and they returned this by pressing him on several issues, but always doing so respectfully. Obama's answers were not too surprising, being in tune with his other statements on all the issues he was confronted with. They were standard political fare, in other words -- which is what you'd expect from any competent politician. Read the whole transcript to see what was talked about (it's a fascinating read, if only to see what questions were asked).

The extraordinary thing about the meeting was not what was said, though -- it was that the meeting happened in the first place. In the post-Rahm era inside the White House, it seems that President Obama is listening to advisors who are telling him to do some work repairing his relationship with the "professional Left." This is a very good sign indeed. Obama's been frustrated by the Left, all the while egging them on by telling them to "hold me accountable." Yesterday's meeting shows that Obama is opening the door to an actual two-way conversation, in stark contrast to the "insult them and refuse to apologize" attitude, which emanated from his former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel.

One can only hope that this relationship improves over the next two years. President Obama should be commended for reaching out to the Lefty blogosphere at this point. If he continues to do so in this fashion, eventually the acrimony from the White House during the first two years of his term may be able to be forgiven by the Lefties.

Reaching out your hand to others is important, whether in baseball or politics. You can call it sportsmanship or you can call it political savvy. You can even, if you're cynical (or a fan of mob movies or the writings of Sun Tzu), call it "keeping your friends close and your enemies closer."

President Obama isn't going to make big news on the Lefty blogs (much less in the mainstream media) from anything he said yesterday. But the fact that he held the session at all may have a positive effect for him in the long term. Bloggers who have spoken on the phone with the President of the United States may think twice about using scathing language to describe him in the future. Oh, bloggers will continue to express their displeasure with Obama's actions -- but they may do so in a slightly-more-polite way -- especially if they think they'll be asked again to pose questions to him in the future.

Which brings us to the end, where we desperately try to shoehorn these two disparate subjects together once again. And, in keeping with the theme of politeness, I will end by presenting President Obama's closing words (where he was asked about the World Series), without pointing out how very wrong his final sentence turned out to be. Whoops, I just did so -- sorry about that! Let's just shake hands and forget about it, OK?

... the Series? You know, let me not wade into this one. (Laughter.) I think it's fun. But my White Sox aren't in it, so I just want a seven game [sic]. But I've got to say, Lee looks like a pretty tough pitcher. (Applause.)


-- Chris Weigant

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


3 Comments on “Shaking Hands”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Speaking of shaking hands with your opponents, President Obama just sat down for an hour with some liberal bloggers for a question-and-answer session. Since I've been calling on the president to do exactly this -- reach out to the Lefty media -- for quite some time now, I could not let it go by without at least drawing some attention to it.

    I would be more impressed if Obama sat down with people like me...

    So much for Obama being President of the UNITED States, eh...


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    Apparently, MLB is not the only group not interested in shaking hands.

    Negativity Update: 2010 Features Similar Rates of Negativity,
    But Dems More Likely to Attack Personally.
    Dems and Reps are Similar in Proportion of Negative Ads, but Dem Strategy Likely Driven by Desire to Draw Attention Away from the Policy Environment

    As we reported last week, ?claims that 2010 is the most negative election to date may be premature. In an analysis of close to 900,000 airings from January 1 to October 5, 2010, the Wesleyan Media Project finds that the distribution of positive, negative and contrast ads is comparable to 2008 in proportion, if not in volume.? In an update to that release, and with a focus on House and Senate races, we continue to find similar rates of negativity. Furthermore, we find that Democrats and Republicans are airing similar proportions of negative (and positive) spots in federal races. However, there is one crucial difference: Democrats are using personal attacks at much higher rates than Republicans and a much higher rate than Democrats in 2008.


  3. [3] 
    dsws wrote:

    I took a quick look at the non-answers on google. (One of the top google hits is someone on telling the person who asked to just google it. I think the internet has just epitomized itself.

    Where there is anything substantive, the attitude seems to be that baseball is more like war than like an affair of honor, so that teams have enemies rather than opponents.

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