HIGH FIVE DAY – A REFLECTION
National High Five Day is Thursday, April 17th.
You know what I like about it? We one-handed gimpy guys can participate. It was never “How about some skin, give me Ten!”
Sport gets substantial credit for the origination of the high five. That’s why we’re writing about it. You saw it at the Final Four. You see athletes doing it all the time. Lamont Sleets, a basketball player at Murray State, gets credit for its start. Lamont, in turn, credits his dad’s army buddies who were all members of the 5th Infantry in Vietnam and called themselves The Five. Lamont says, as a young kid, he remembers his dad’s friends busting through the door, arms up and slapping hands. Do you believe that? Turns out that entire story was made up by the same Jimmy Kimmel staff writer, who started High Five Day.
So now what? Magic Johnson claims he created it at Michigan State in 1978. But, also, we saw pictures of Los Angeles Dodger outfielder, Glenn Burke, greeting Dusty Baker with a high five on October 2, 1977. That predates the Louisville Cardinals basketball team who claim they invented it in 1978, same year as Johnson. Well then, what about the women’s volleyball circuit of the 1960s? They were high-fiving after every great spike! They just didn’t know what to call it.
Confused, aren’t we? Even though no one gets a patent, no one will make a dime off this greeting, Silliman on Sports will get to the bottom of this. Is there historical precedence, maybe something that predates sports figures doing this? Well, yes, it was seen in the 1960 French movie Breathless, but they didn’t know what to call it. After a late 1958 Dave Brubeck jazz show, you see guys high slapping each other but they still didn’t know to call it. So when a band member said to Dave “Give me five!” Dave responded by saying “I’ll be happy to Take Five,” he missed out on coining a now popular phrase.
How far back need we go? The Andrew Sisters singing “Gimme Some Skin” in an Abbott and Costello movie where they’re slapping hands or to Sesame Street where they’re celebrating the Number Five with a Do-Wap version of “Give Me Five.”? The tradition of slapping hands has been around African-American culture for a long time and even though some of the proponents could have been, or obviously were, they forgot to add the word “high.”
When the fragrance chemist came to Coco Chanel and asked “What do you want to call this fragrance?” she responded by slapping her head with a “Duh, who knows?” and then he palm slapped his forehead with a “Ummm, maybe…” and then they both looked at each other’s hand, smacked them together and exclaimed “How about FIVE!” That could have been the start of this thing.
I’m sure high fiving happened when the local news channel decided they wanted to tell their potential viewing audience they weren’t dead. “How can we come up with a slogan that symbolizes we’re a news crew that breathes? Wait a moment! What if we rhyme with our station number – Five… Alive?”
So we may never know the true origins. Glenn Burke is probably closest. No matter. It’s still fun. It still symbolizes achievement, worthy of its own third Thursday in April, special day. It’s placed right. You filed your taxes, high five. You’re not caught in a drug bust on April 20, high five. You’re alive, high five.