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So why do athletes pat each other on the butt, but stockbrokers, for example, would never, ever do such a thing?

"I would say maybe the question shouldn't be why do ballplayers do it. I would say the question should be, why don't stockbrokers do it?" said former Red Sox reliever Craig Breslow, a Yale graduate.

"And my guess is that they can't, right?"

For most of America, a slap on the behind of a coworker might result in anything from a professional reprimand to a sexual harassment lawsuit. But in sports, it's different.

"Our environment is such that you can't always be heard, so you need some other way to communicate," Breslow said. "We don't have the opportunity to have long, drawn-out conversations, so just a quick pat . . . gives somebody encouragement, meaning, like, 'Hey, good job.' ''

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So why is there so much butt-slapping? Players offered a variety of views:

Malcolm Butler, Patriots cornerback: "It's team chemistry, man. It's love. All that touching is showing love. It's a brotherhood."

Matthew Slater, Patriots special teamer: "It can go both ways. I pat my teammates on the butt. I pat opponents on the butt. I think it means, 'Just keep doing what your doing.' That type of thing."

Jonathan Freeny, Patriots linebacker: "I'm not a big fan of butt patting."

Tyler Zeller, Celtics center: "I don't have a good answer for that. It's just something we do, I guess."

David Lee, Celtics forward: "It's not a question for me to answer. I'm usually a high-five guy."

Dennis Seidenberg, Bruins defenseman, says it's all about access as teammates sit on the bench: "On the way out and on the way by, it's easiest to reach them there. It's the height of the hand. It sounds a little creepy but that's just how we do it."

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Brad Marchand, Bruins forward: "I don't pat guys on the butt. No. I don't know if guys pat me on the butt. Maybe they do. We've got big pants on. We're not really concerned about that. We're loving, caring guys. We're all comfortable with our sexuality."


Stan Grossfeld can be reached at grossfeld@globe.com.