The most uproarious NBA replay in ages — a 10-second clip that forced YouTube to curb comments — showed no wicked elbow thrown, no impossibly deep three nailed, no dunkadelic rim rattler.
What triggered all the typed and tweeted tantrums? This on-screen action: Toronto Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa gently clasping the palm of his teammate, Reggie Evans, during their victory stroll to the locker room earlier this month after defeating the Orlando Magic.
We’ve accepted the man hug — that brief shoulder bump between dudes, and we’re OK the handshake-hug combo. But when it comes to physical affection between two straight dudes, hand-holding seems to be more than America is ready for.
Why? Simple. The hand-holding was a clear violation of our current interpretation of “The Bro Code” — which supersedes NBA rules, NASCAR rules, NATO rules and the Geneva Convention.
Check “The Bro Code” Facebook page, modeled after rules decreed by “How I Met Your Mother’s” Barney Stinson. The page lists 150 “articles” or rules to guide the lives of fellas, thugs and dawgs from Bieber to Bruce Lee — and every guy on the vast testosterone spectrum in between.
Scan down to Article 42 of The Code: “a Bro may engage in a high five, fist bump, or a Bro hug.” Next, read Article 143: “a Bro is forbidden from intertwining fingers of … his Bro's hand.”
Case closed. Guiltier than any dude who’s ever belted out a Taylor Swift tune on karaoke night.
And don’t bother looking to Europe for roughneck role models. Soccer teammates over there are known to occasionally kiss one another smack on the mouth after goals. (There’s even been evidence of post-goal cuddling.)
And according to a study released last fall by Bath University in England, “same-sex lip-locks among straight men are the norm in British universities and high schools.”
In the States, however, any physical gesture beyond the bro hug — well, it’s enough to shut down YouTube comments, apparently. Here, “homophobia is still alive and well,” said Dr. Dale Archer, a psychiatrist who practices in Lake Charles, La. “This is partly due to a variety of religious and cultural attitudes, but it’s mainly based on fear. Fear that somewhere deep inside us lurks a homosexual side and if we’re not very careful this will break free and take control of our world, and of us.”
Unlike those in Europe, many in the U.S. can’t seem to imagine that sometimes a hug is just a hug.
“Athletes go to war all season long — but under the microsope of the American eye, [if they show] anything more than the man hug or bro hug, America spends its time judging or questioning,” said Phil Dembo, a St. Louis relationship coach. (It's worth noting here that Barbosa -- he of the hand-holding -- isn't American; he's Brazilian.)
In fact, for some American guys, even the man hug is crossing a line.
“I'm not a big fan of the bro hug, but only because that's just something new to me,” said Cyrus Webb, a 35-year-old radio show host and blogger from Brandon, Miss. “Growing up, guys gave handshakes, ladies got the hugs.
“I didn't personally have a problem with the gesture on the (hand-holding) video,” Webb added. “But I can understand why some who are sensitive about what is seen to be a manly or masculine event would see it as something that wasn't cool.”
At least for now, hand-holding is certainly not up to bro code.
But as Chris Hall, administrator of The Bro Code Facebook page, points out, “(G)iven the above-average height of NBA players, I’m not sure who else they are supposed to hold hands with — if not each other.”
Bill Briggs is a contributor to Today.com and author of the nonfiction book “The Third Miracle.”