Today is National High Five Day. (No, I didn't make that up just to get @ANONCX to tweet us.) This set me to thinking about fist bumps, which are the modern carbon fiber versions of the old school steel high fives. I saw a lot of fist bumps on Saturday, when I watched my son's lacrosse game. In lacrosse, you get to fist bump every time you score a goal apparently. The other team was awesome at fist bumping.
Baseball is another fist bump sport, where the gesture is employed not just for when someone hits a home run, but also for when someone scores a run or even hits a sacrifice fly and advances a runner from 2nd to 3rd. Curiously, fist bumps appear to be reserved for offense. Nobody fist bumps the pitcher after a strikeout, and even if he Ks the entire inning he doesn't get the fist bump - just a pat on the ass with someone's glove.
You'd think volleyball would be a fist bump sport too, but it may be that the occasions for congratulations are too frequent. High fives are the gesture of choice here, possibly used because most points are scored by someone leaping and then high fiving the crap out of the ball. The gesture is used at every point and side out, and distributed among the entire team, not just the person who made the last touch.
Sports with less frequent scores - like soccer, football and hockey - transcend fist bumps and high fives and go all the way to hugs. Scoring in these sports is a big deal. If a hockey goal were greeted with a mere fist bump, it would probably offend the competition (and most likely only happen if it were the 9th or 10th goal in the game).
In almost all of these sports though, scores that win games receive a special treatment - the victory salute, which of course we cyclists are famiar with. We throw hands, while soccer players slide onto their knees and rip off their jerseys, hockey players pile on top of the unfortunate hero, and football players embarass themselves and their sponsors with a preconceived dance.
What's unique about cycling is that despite being a team sport, we have no occasion for the high fives or fist bumps that show (and create) camaraderie during the event. These little victories - the wins within each game - are what build team spirit. Even if your kid's lacross team gets spanked 8-2, at that 2 points they feel like a winning team. There is really no equivalent in cycling. Sure you can win a preme, but who on your team has ever given you a fist bump for that? It doesn't bring the team any closer to the overall win, in the same way scoring a goal or hitting a sac fly does. It just puts an XL pair of dayglow yellow socks in your pocket. Victory celebrations are reserved for victories, and a lot of teams can go a whole season without cause for one.
My wife remarked to me the other day that there's something about bike racers that has to be very similar. Despite all the ways we're different, we all selected a sport defined by its suffering, and have a self-sacrifical approach to team objectives that's unique from anything she's ever seen. "I could pick any two of you and send you on vacation together and you'd probably have a great time," she said. Well yeah, if we could bring our bikes.
I got a little nostalgic for the traditional team sports I played in high school when I watched my son play lacrosse. But then I realized that it wasn't the team spirit I was missing. It was the celebrations. And it wasn't nostalgia I was feeling, but hunger. My wife was right. We racers are all similar. It's not that we want to suffer - what we all want is to win. It's just that the only way to get there is through the (peaks and) valleys of the shadow of death. Unlike most other sports' athletes, we'd probably be on that road anyway.
Race Smart. Hell, race stupid. Just race.