How Did Butt-Slapping Become A Thing Among Athletes?
In heat of the moment, when words lose their power, butt-slap becomes the mode communication
The first rule is, do not squeeze it; just a quick and simple tap, and it should be done with an air of nonchalance. The second rule says your hands shouldn’t stay in contact for more than a second. So, in case it backfires, you can always pretend you were swatting a mosquito that landed there. The third and most important rule is to avoid an eye-contact. And this pretty much completes the instruction manual for the art of butt-slapping, a highly important ritual in men’s sports.
It’s easier said than done, though. There’s a reason this act hasn’t really gained widespread prominence below professional sports. Doing this to your village cricket club colleague might see your relationship strained. Better leave this to professional athletes, for your own safety and those around you. They seem to very well know the intricate technicalities of this act; the exact force, the exact point of contact, the exact duration, and most importantly the exact moment.
Look at this video from 2018. Soon after Hardik Pandya plucks a one-handed stunner, the rest of the team, including Virat Kohli, rushes to him. Kohli gives him a quick high-five, takes one more step, his glance quickly shifts downwards, slaps Pandya on his butt, and just keeps walking. Pandya, too, is busy celebrating his catch, oblivious of the spank he just received from his captain.
The act is not restricted to cricket alone. It is most common in American sports, especially in American football where players are heavily padded up everywhere except the butt. In heat of the moment, when words lose their weight, the butt-slap becomes the primary medium of communication. If you are controlling the game, the slap on your butt is a form of applause. If you’re standing in the face of adversity, then it acts as motivation. Go, hang in there, the game is not over yet dude.
It is extremely common in baseball too. The functional pleasure, here, at least is understandable, given baseball players are known for their bootylicious buttocks. Look how Sean Murphy uses his buttock to deflect the ball.
Now think from Murphy’s teammate’s perspective: why would they not slap when they have full freedom to do that. It is a touch of reassurance, triggering a dopamine release.
Beach volleyball too contributes to a fair share of butt-slapping. When George Bush visited the training session of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the multiple-time Olympic gold medallist in this sport, May-Treanor turned her back and bent slightly, presenting the former president an offer to do the traditional butt slap. Bush, however, simply brushed off his hand across May-Treanor’s back.
It’s quite strange that the advantage of having a large derriere is not well documented in sports. Those who study the biomechanics of sports should devote a bit more time studying them, or maybe they are already doing it, just that these studies for some reason haven’t become mainstream among casual viewers.
Be it cricket or baseball, a big bottom is a key to despatch that spherical balls out of the park. With power-hitting gaining traction in T20s, you’ll find some of the best hitters of the cricket ball are armed with bouncy buttocks, which help them extract extra torque and power with minimal movement. There’s a direct relation between Shimron Hetmyer’s big bun and his bigger strokes.
In football, big buttocks help a striker to screen the ball in tricky positions. In his remarkable season with Inter Milan last year, Romelu Lukaku consistently used his to guard the ball before breaking free. He could attract opposition, which often freed up his teammates, and this is when Lukaku would unleash the pass in free space. But the buttocks which obsessed the football fans the most belong to Eden Hazard. It also inspired a Twitter account, which gave the fans a regular update of Hazard’s ass.
Given the properly proportional buttocks that professional athletes possess, spanking can also be thought of as a stress booster of some sort. After Chelsa forced the quarter-final game against Real Madrid to extra time, two Chelsea support staff were seen furiously smacking Reece James’ sit-upon during the short break. The next 30 minutes were going to determine their fate in the competition, and they relaxed their most crucial player by slapping on his butt.
The Guardian’s Barney Ronay noted: “For a while, two middle-aged men in club tracksuits crouched behind Reece James and pounded furiously at his buttocks – vital work, so vital in fact that a third man briefly came and joined them.”
The absence of Sigmund Freud is sorely felt on occasions like these. His psychoanalytic approach to sports would have been very useful to understand this homoerotic act in a field dominated by a bunch of tough men who never miss an opportunity to display their masochism. It’s also strange how no Freudian has taken up this assignment. The world needs to know what function it serves, and what kind of pleasure those involved derive from it. But Marxists should avoid indulging themselves, as their simplistic class analysis will fall terribly short to explain this highly complex phenomenon.
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