Why, some of the reaction bordered on the unsportsmanlike – or, at least, the hysterical.
As the smoke began to clear later in the week, it seemed that the KHSAA had clarified that it had not outlawed the practice.
The intent, the KHSAA said, was to make sure principals, athletic directors and coaches were fully aware that the game officials are not responsible for oversight of any activities that go on after the end of a contest. In fact, rules prohibit them from taking part in any form in any activities after the final horn sounds.
That’s not how a good many people interpreted Tuesday’s original message.
“In haste to get the information out, the normal expected quality control steps were not executed to ensure such clarity. For that, I apologize to our member schools,” KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett wrote on Wednesday.
Clarity of message is indeed a problem in a culture such as ours, with instantaneous and widespread communication through social media. The description of something “going viral” has a negative connotation to it, and appropriately so.
Defining good sportsmanship in our time can be a challenge as well. Many young athletes nowadays are unduly influenced by the show-off attitude of sports stars at the college and professional levels.
Merely defeating an opponent seems, for some athletes, insufficient reward. “Showing them up” is de rigueur.
In the aftermath of a game in which players go to extremes to embarrass an opponent, when players have been posturing and trash-talking all through the course of the event, isn’t a post-game handshake an act of hypocrisy?
Thankfully, the “look how great I am” antics of so many athletes nowadays are not very often replicated by local high school players. Almost all of the time, Marshall County athletes and their opponents in this area play hard but with respect for themselves, each other and their sports.
Occasionally, tempers flare, but seldom is it because of dirty tactics or blatantly unsportsmanlike conduct. There just isn’t that much thuggish behavior among western Kentucky athletes.
Most coaches in our area set a good example for their players. Some are more demonstrative in their actions and some penalties are assessed from time to time.
A reminder that it is up to the host school and the administrators and officials from both (or all) participating schools to monitor activities that don’t fall within the purview of the game officials is a good thing. In the best of environments, an incident can occur. Even the best of our kids are, after all, kids.
We are in favor of the ritual handshakes, but more importantly, we are proud that in this area they are almost never hypocritical. They merely affirm the kind of hard but clean competition that has preceded them.