Following New Mexico’s home win against San Diego State this past Saturday, there are appeared to be a scuffle while both teams snaked through the traditional post-game handshake line. While both the Lobos are the Mountain West Conference are still investigating whether an actionable incident occurred, UNM coach Craig Neal offered his advice on what he sees an antique custom: “Handshake lines aren’t good; I still don’t understand them. When two competitive people go to war, two competitive teams go to war — they’re not nice.”
It seems that every conference team, upon entering the Pit (UNM’s arena), becomes an instantaneous rival the moment the game ends. The court has always been tagged as one of the most intimidating college basketball venues, but following this past weekend’s contest, perhaps Neal’s words ring true: when a MWC game is played at the Pit, there might not be a need for a handshake line. The Lobos play a physical, grinding brand of basketball — there is a reason why UNM has the conference’s second-best defensive efficiency rating — and tensions are frequently high in a conference where even the top teams can be quickly humbled.
Why continue to perpetuate this ritual? Rather than force the teams to shake hands after a crushing loss, or a game whose outcome was long decided, why not have New Mexico and the opponent retire to their locker rooms, stew and cool down, and then have some sort of post-game event in the tunnel?
Critics will raise cries about sportsmanship, but if there is still a handshake line, just one that doesn’t happen immediately after the game, doesn’t that still count as sportsmanship?