Sunday, December 27, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Don't Touch Me!

Like magic it appeared above the fold of the front page:

"Can high-fives and fist-bumps help teams win?" by Stan Grossfeld Globe Staff  December 26, 2015

Touching among athletes permeates sports from youth leagues to the pros, among men and women athletes. Long considered a way to build team spirit, these interactions may hold even greater benefits: One season-long study of NBA behavior suggests it just might help a team win.

“Touch predicts performance through fostering cooperation between teammates,” says Dacher Keltner, a professor of social psychology at University of California Berkeley. “You can communicate really important emotions like gratitude, compassion, love, and anger just through brief touches.”

From personal experience I can only say it doesn't seem to matter. I try to stay positive on the court and am take too much blame upon myself (although the guy always seems to score a lot). Most of my touches consist of slaps to the shoulders and back.

Keltner’s students charted touches in the NBA during the 2008-09 season. Michael Kraus, a psychologist who conducted the NBA study and now teaches at Yale University, said, “In part, it’s a changing culture where the brotherhood that extends to physical contact has expanded and you don’t have to feel weird about it.’’

I don't. The fact is, human beings need social and physical contact.

Celtics forward Jared Sullinger believes that touching helps you win, because it’s an indication of being unselfish and it helps develop trust.

“I think there’s a correlation, definitely,’’ he says. “That means you’re outside yourself. You’re all about team, and you are just constantly celebrating the little things.”

I try to do it -- and I've seen the high school kids do it, they are my role models -- when bad plays or errors are made. That's when the teammate needs bucking up.

The Celtics don’t officially encourage touching, says Danny Ainge, president of basketball operations, nor do they discourage it, but touching certainly seems to have increased in the NBA since Ainge’s playing days. First of all, there’s the ritual of a handshake, high-five, or fist-bump after a free throw — even a miss. No one knows who started this tedious tradition, but former Celtic Cedric Maxwell called whoever he was “an idiot.”

The great Celtics teams of the 1980s were not touchy when they went to the charity stripe, but current Celtics center Tyler Zeller defends the practice....


I suppose it does matter where you touch me:

"One question rears up: Why the pat on the butt?" by Stan Grossfeld Globe Staff  December 26, 2015

So why do athletes pat each other on the butt, but stockbrokers, for example, would never, ever do such a thing?

“I would say maybe the question shouldn’t be why do ballplayers do it. I would say the question should be, why don’t stockbrokers do it?” said former Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow, a Yale graduate.

“And my guess is that they can’t, right?”

For most of America, a slap on the behind of a coworker might result in anything from a professional reprimand to a sexual harassment lawsuit. But in sports, it’s different.

So why is there so much butt-slapping? Players offered a variety of views:

Malcolm Butler, Patriots cornerback: “It’s love.”

That could be taken several ways.

Jonathan Freeny, Patriots linebacker: “I’m not a big fan.”

Nor am I. I think I may have used the back of my hand twice in 21 years to slap a guy on the butt. I would consider the front of the hand to be inappropriate, although I'm sure I've received a couple of those over the years. Didn't really think much of it.

Tyler Zeller, Celtics center: “I don’t have a good answer. It’s just something we do.”

David Lee, Celtics forward: “I’m a high-five guy.”

Brad Marchand, Bruins forward: “We’re not really concerned. We’re loving, caring guys. We’re all comfortable with our sexuality.”

As am I.


Did that whole topic feld Gross to you like it did me?

I will be losing touch with you for the rest of the day, readers. 


"John ‘Hot Rod’ Williams, 53; versatile NBA player" by Daniel E. Slotnik New York Times  December 21, 2015

NEW YORK — John Williams, a versatile sixth man for the Cleveland Cavaliers who briefly earned more than Michael Jordan after renegotiating a contract during the summer of 1990, helping to establish the modern era of free agency and huge salaries, died Dec. 11 in Baton Rouge, La. He was 53.

His agent, Mark Bartelstein, said the cause was colon cancer.

Something a lot more serious than butt-slapping, but....

Mr. Williams, better known by the nickname Hot Rod, was a solid shooter and a dogged defender during his 13 seasons in the NBA. Listed at 6 feet 11 inches, he played power forward and center for Cleveland.

Lenny Wilkens, the Cavaliers’ coach, used Mr. Williams as a reliable substitute, and Mr. Williams did not mind the arrangement.

“All that means is that they have a player on the bench that they can count on,” he told the Columbus Dispatch in 1992.

Mr. Williams had a respectable career. He averaged 11 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.6 blocks per game, and his percentages were impressive: a .480 career field-goal average and a .726 free-throw average.

“Hot Rod was one of those freak-of-nature guys who was 6-10, who could shoot the basketball, could put the basketball down on the floor, a very good defensive guy,” Ron Harper, a Cavaliers teammate, told ESPN.

Mr. Williams made it to the NBA playoffs nine times but never won the title, in part because of the dominance of Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. But in the summer of 1990, Mr. Williams outdid the rest of the league in compensation.

His pursuit of a big payday began when, as a restricted free agent, he rejected Cleveland’s offer of a five-year, $11.8 million deal. The Miami Heat offered him a seven-year, $26.5 million contract (more than $48 million in 2015 dollars). Cleveland agreed to match it.

In the 1990-91 season, he made $5 million with Cleveland, reportedly more than Jordan or Larry Bird of the Celtics.

The deal’s impact was felt throughout the league, and it led to ever more lucrative contracts and increased free agency, which enables players to change teams and gives them leverage during negotiations.

It was not the first time that Cleveland had taken a chance on Mr. Williams. The team had drafted him when he was embroiled in a point-shaving scandal that shut down Tulane University’s basketball program for several years.

Mr. Williams was born in rural Sorrento, La., near Baton Rouge. His mother died when he was 9 months old, and his father abandoned the family afterward. His nickname came from the engine noises he made while playing with toy cars as a boy, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported this year.

Mr. Williams grew up impoverished in the care of a neighbor, Barbara Colar. At Tulane, he averaged 16 points and was expected to be selected in the first round of the 1985 NBA draft. But that March, he and two teammates were indicted on five counts of sports bribery, accused of holding down the score in two games in return for $13,500 and cocaine.

Mr. Williams denied shaving points but testified that he had received $100 a week from his coaches and $10,000 to enroll at the university. The indictments prompted Tulane’s president to disband the basketball team and the athletic director to resign. (The program was restored for the 1989 season.)

After a mistrial, he was acquitted in a trial in 1986 and started playing for the Cavaliers that season.


I guess he didn't live a healthy life (that's what came next when I flipped over my Globe).