Greatest sports traditions
History matters in all sports, and traditions can bring the past back to life for a few moments, or remind you what's really great about sports in the first place.
Here are my five favorites:
5. The handshake line: It's always heartening to see good sportsmanship on display. The NHL allows you to marvel at how 40 players who have been beating each other's remaining teeth out for four playoff games or more will line up after the final horn of the series and, despite all their previous intensity and animosity, exchange handshakes instead of punches.
4. Olympic closing ceremony: The handshake line writ large. In a world so full of strife and conflict, it's good for the soul to see hundreds of the planet's best athletes break national ranks and jovially mingle after weeks of pressure and deathly-serious competition.
3. Thanksgiving football: As any tailgater worth his salt-shaker knows, pigskin was made to go with gluttony, and no day is made for gluttony like Thanksgiving. With the Lions so often in the dumper, the annual game in Detroit is usually a turkey that is done by halftime, but there are two other courses on the menu now. And in the realm of good, clean fun, it's hard to beat a game of backyard touch football before settling in front of the TV to scratch, belch contentedly and give thanks for the NFL.
2. Retired numbers: Ever since the Maple Leafs (Ace Bailey's 6 in 1934) and Yankees (Lou Gehrig's 4 in 1939) ushered in the tradition, retirement ceremonies have given teams and fans one more chance to appreciate and honor their legends by placing their numerical identities, if not their accomplishments, out of reach of other players. And those numbers on the outfield wall or hanging from the rafters are a real nice source of pride and reflection that you can be savor any time you're at the game.
1. Stanley Cup on the road: How cool is it that a major pro league allows its historic championship trophy to spend a day with each member of the winning team? The tales of the Cup's travels during the past 80 years or more are legion and legend -- at the beach, in strip clubs and bars, visiting nursing homes and players' high schools, and even floating in Mario Lemieux's swimming pool. The concept makes the old punchbowl truly the people's trophy.