It is traditional in a number of sports, particularly individual endeavors, for competitors to shake hand after the match. One of these sports is tennis. After the match concludes the two, or four, players approach each other at the net and shake hands. A French player named Laurent Lokoli refused to shake the hand of a Slovakian player named Martin Klizan at the conclusion of their match at the French Open, and that has people upset.
I’ve played competitive sports almost my entire life. The first real organized sport I played was called Khoury League baseball but most of you know it as Little League. At the end of the game we’d do a stupid little chant to the other team. 2 – 4 – 6 – 8, who do we appreciate? Giants, Giants, Giants. Or whatever the other team’s name happened to be. Was it fun? Nope. Especially after a tough loss. It was pretty much like that for the course of my athletic life. I played tennis in high school and you always shook hands after the match. I never refused to do so nor did an opposing player fail to complete the ritual.
I think it’s a good ritual. Sport is not life and death. I’m a big believer one of the most important lessons I learned in my sporting career was how to lose with dignity. Anyone who plays sports is familiar with losing. It’s a good lesson to learn. You lost but life goes on. Some losses are more difficult than others, believe me, I know. I certainly never lost a match in a major tennis championship but I lost some painful ones to people I didn’t like much. Still, I think I’d shake hands even under the circumstances of this match.
That being said, as a Libertarian, I’m of divided opinion on this subject. I think Lokoli has every right not to shake the hand of an opponent he felt was behaving poorly during the match. He suspects Klizan was faking an injury to throw Lokoli off his game. No one should be forced to shake anyone’s hand at any time. If you want to shake, shake. If not, don’t.
On the other hand, as it were, it is clearly poor sportsmanship from Lokoli. He lost the match and abandoned a traditional and worthwhile ritual. There is plenty of time to hate later. The effort required to shake the hand of a victorious opponent is miniscule and some good can come of it. The old story where two boys who just had a fight are forced to shake hands has meaning. There is something about that touch, that connection. It’s reminds us some things are really not very important. A high school water polo match or the finals at the French Open.
There’s more in a handshake than people imagine.
By Tom Liberman
Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time.