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Give hugs, not concussions

It didn’t used to be this way. The Super Bowl is only the latest reminder. Did you notice members of the opposing teams hugging one another after the game? These guys had just spent 60 minutes head butting and trying to beat one another into the ground. A grudging handshake was once sufficient as a gesture of good sportsmanship. When did this hugging business get started?    

It’s not just the Super Bowl. Last week I saw a high school boys basketball game. The losers were not just beaten, they were humiliated. Then after the game, the teams lined up for the traditional ritual handshakes and there were handshakes and hugs. The girls do it too. As the old timers like to say, “we didn’t do it that way in the old days.”

Don’t get me wrong, I think the hugs are a very positive development in and out of sports. With the increasing awareness of the risk of concussions in football and hockey, it is encouraging that athletes can have physical contact that can’t possibly result in a concussion.

My dad came from a culture where men didn’t hug men. His dad, a German immigrant from Russia in 1903 was a big, strong, soft spoken, loving man, but you didn’t get a hug from Grandpa Hummel. His son, my dad, loved his children as much as a father could. We always had bikes and great baseball gloves. He, along with my mom, were always at our games and concerts, were always supporting and encouraging. Mom gave hugs to her kids, but dad was part of the old culture and he didn’t. The last time I saw him, we parted with a handshake.

I started out the same way — hugs for my daughters and handshakes for my son. When Buckwheat left for college, he got a firm, fatherly handshake. Then a few years later, he was traveling many miles away around Christmastime and a train full of students and tourists was blown up in a tunnel. For a few days we didn’t know if he had been on that train or not. It turned out he wasn’t. The next time I saw him, I hugged him. It was time to break out of the old culture. It’s been that way ever since — hugs for my son, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters and anybody else who needs one or offers one.

What is our American civil culture in 2014? We read about domestic abuse, child abuse, “knockout” assaults against strangers on the street, road rage, bullying, political badgering and hatred, cable channels dedicated to slanted, one-sided views, and general public rudeness and obscene gestures. Isn’t it about time for another culture change to turn the corner toward more random acts of kindness, passing it on, public courtesy and hugging?