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The Zak Zone

November 10, 2011

Last week, I wrote about the competitive nature of athletes coming together and celebrating the opportunity to play again against an old rival.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the game, but from what I heard, I missed a good, competitive game.

I was also told that the game got a bit chippy at times, but when the final horn rang, the teams came together in the ultimate show of respect: The mid-field handshake.

Although the two teams battled back-and-forth in a slugfest and tempers surely rose at times, they respected the game and their opponents enough to come together afterwards and shake hands.

Growing up playing sports, I know that the ultimate sign of disrespect is skipping the handshake.

I used to play roller hockey, and I can remember one particular time when I went through the line after a game and dropped my hand below one of my opponent's hand to skip the shake after he had slashed at my wrists repeatedly that game.

The player and I later made nice, but I remember that being the only time I ever skipped a handshake.

I felt horrible, and actually felt like I had done more than disrespect him. I had disrespected the game I loved so much by allowing my on-the-floor mentality influence my off-the-floor actions.

Saturday's game was held to benefit the alumni associations through Alumni Football USA, but Monday night, Jack LaMarca Stadium hosted another fund-raiser game that was a bit more light-hearted: The Powderpuff football game between the Jaw-Dropping Juniors and the Savage Seniors.

Now, I'm definitely not trying to say that the 100-plus girls who came out to play in the benefit game for Make-A-Wish don't respect the game, but Monday was an entirely differnt atmosphere under the lights: It was fun.

The level of competition was high. The girls gave it their all on every snap, and there was no doubt in my mind that both teams wanted to earn the victory, just as both teams wanted to win the Route 36 Rivalry Saturday night. But the energy in the air was a positive one.

Coaches (including coaches from other sports and some of the senior and junior football players) were laughing and joking with players during the game.

The players on the sidelines, and there were many players on the sidelines with so many turning out, were positive and encouraging toward both teams.

And the cheerleaders... Well, what can I say about the cheerleaders?

The boys dressed in crazy attire held a special place in my heart, because as a high school senior, in the third-annual Punxsutawney Powderpuff game, my friends and I were dressed in camoflague pants and white tank tops cheering on our team — the Brutal Babe Seniors.

At the end of Monday's game, I heard the Savage Seniors coach Katie Irwin screaming above the senior players' celebration of their 24-8 win, "It's time to line up and shake hands."

The age-old tradition continued Monday night just as it always has. A sign of respect for what the others gave on the field.

In hockey, one of my favorite sports, the post-game handshake is a production after playoff series.

In professional football, the handshake has been reduced to the coaches meeting at mid-field — a tradition that was even called into question this year when two NFL coaches almost came to blows after the handshake went awry.

One of the proudest moments for the Chucks soccer team after winning the District IX title last Wednesday was the players' chance to walk down the line and receive the handshake from their worthy opponents, the Bradford Owls.

Whether you're playing "just for fun," playing for charity or laying it all on the line on every night like our Chucks and Lady Chucks did in every sport this fall, it always ends with lining up eye-to-eye with your opponents, thanking them for giving their all and wishing them well.

A simple handshake can say so much.

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