Trash Talking

All my life I have been involved in sports. For the past year or so, I have had the opportunity to play in a city recreational basketball league. I have a good time getting some much-needed exercise and participating in a constructive, competitive event each week. But one thing that I do not enjoy is the incessant trash talking.

Unfortunately, I’ve increasingly come to realize that modern day sports and trash-talking are completely intertwined. From professional sports to 5th graders playing pick-up games at the park, athletes just won’t shut their traps.

What really gets to me is that the amount of trash talk is in no way correlated with actual ability. In my city rec league, I have seen guys who shoot less than 10% from the field but still talk smack. They will sit at the top of the key and taunt, “Come and get me! You can’t stop this, baby!” Then they will drive to the hoop, and throw up a total brick. You would think they would be a bit more humbled the next time down the court, but no; they actually tend to talk more.

And just about everyone does this. Personally, I think this is due to poor examples in professional sports mixed with the self-esteem movement in general — one that praises people regardless of end result.

“It doesn’t matter that you got a D- on that test, you ‘tried your best’ so you are a winner.”

“It doesn’t matter that you only make 1 out of every 10 three-pointers you shoot, you ARE Kobe Bryant if you believe you are.”

This makes me concerned for Harrison once he starts playing sports.

Fortunately, there are still some professional athletes that serve as good examples for young athletes. One of my favorites is Arizona Cardinals wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald. This guy is a total class act. Not only is he arguably one of the most talented wide receivers ever, he is also one of the most humble. The man makes spectacular catch after spectacular catch, but he doesn’t flaunt and doesn’t talk trash. He busts his rear for every yard, scores the touchdown, tosses the ball to the ref, high-fives his teammates, and books it over to the sidelines to get ready to do it again.

No stupid touchdown dance, no flexing his muscles, no taunting his defender, no pointing to his jersey number. He lets his game speak for itself, and I totally respect that.

What’s your take on talking trash? Is it all just a part of the game? Leave a comment below:

Talk is easy, but real results take time and effort. Don’t fall into the trap that says you have to have a big-time mouth to be a big-time competitor. Work hard. Play hard. Be competitive. And like Larry Fitzgerald, let your results speak for themselves.

This post is linked up at Dude Write. Manly men, dudely dudes, writing about manly and dudely things.

  • Sarah

    Coaching Varsity girls basketball and volleyball as well as boys Varsity Volleyball, I see this much more in boys sports than I do girls. As far as the boys sports, it seems to me that the ones that talk the most are generally the worst. Those that are truly top notch athletes generally allow their play to do their talking. Another part of that, at least among youth sports, is what coaches will tolerate. Those that play for me know that poor sportsmanship or taunting of other players will land their butts on the bench pretty quickly. Generally speaking, at the high school level, most coaches abide by this philosophy. I think the bad examples get more attention but on the whole most people just shut up and play. I think adult rec leagues are actually the worst when it comes to trash talking. My husband and I used to play basketball but stopped attending for this reason. He ended up playing with the Mormons for a long time, but it actually wasn’t much better there. I think middle-aged adults (although in my experience it is worse with men) live out their past successes or dreams of success in your local gym each week. Nothing worse than a bunch of has-beens running their mouths. :) I coached one of the best high school basketball players in the country (ranked 8th by ESPN) this year. She killed other teams and never once opened her mouth. She went out day after day, worked her tail off, and let her play speak for itself. I have the utmost respect for those kinds of athletes.

    • Michael Gray

      Your take on middle-aged men trying to relive the glory days is spot-on, Sarah. Truth be told, they probably stunk back then too. It always cracks me up that these guys take rec league basketball (D-league, mind you) so seriously. I imagine that these guys are probably not terribly successful in their everyday lives, and try to make the basketball game something more significant than it actually is.

      I agree with you that good coaches are a key to stopping this ridiculousness. I havent head-coached a team before, but I would definitely crack the whip on this stuff if I did. Large egos (especially in high school) are ridiculous and I would argue dangerous to a team.

  • Rodger Russell

    I am really showing my age here, but I played basketball through two years of college and it was a totally different day. Sportsmanship was the rule of the day, among both players and spectators. One good example is free throws. When a player was shooting free throws, whether from the home team or not, the crowd was whisper quiet.

    In little league however, we razzed the opposing players continually. “Chatter” we called it. “Hum batter, hum batter, hum batter, swing!” “Wow, you swing like a rusty gate.” And from the bench we were often urged to rag the rag arm. “Pitcher’s got a rubber arm.” “Whoooop (when he threw) Wheeeew” when the catcher threw it back. If we didn’t chatter while playing infield we weren’t trying hard enough. Interesting that didn’t continue into High School ball. Just an occasional “OK, easy out, this guy can’t hit.”

    I agree with Fitzgerald. I get so tired of the showboating in football. Every play the player acts like he just made the most stupendous play ever when he was just doing his job. My dad told me, “When you score, act like you’ve done it before.”

    • Michael Gray

      I long for the day when sportsmanship makes its return, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Dennis Prager, but he talks often about how he would go to baseball games as a kid and everyone was smoking but no one was cursing. Now you can’t get a single whiff of smoke at baseball game and everyone feels free to curse.

      Now, I’m no fan of smoking, but I agree with Prager that our society no longer fights against the real problems with society. Modern-day sports is a perfect example.

      And — just for the record — you’re not old if you can bike half way across the country. :)

  • Michael Walker

    Michael, I couldn’t agree more. It pains me to watch professional athletes act like total morons. I mean, you sort of expect that kind of behavior to some degree in the amateur ranks and amongst friends in the backyard, but I really feel it sets a bad example to our kids who idolize these professional athletes.

    I’m a Cowboys fan (I know… Booo!), and for the same reasons you respect Fitzgerald (I like him too) is the same reason I’ve always been a big fan of guys like Troy Aikman, Bill Bates, Moose Johnston, Walter Payton, Jason Witten, just to name a few. These guys just plain get it done and are class acts doing it.

    We need more positive roll models like Aikman, Payton, and Fitzgerald, and less guys like T.O. and Ochocinco (which isn’t even the proper way to say/spell 85) in the world.

    Michael A. Walker
    Defying Procrastination

    • Michael Gray

      Michael, I completely agree about the backyard trash talking. Things you might do with you buddies while drinking beer and playing H-O-R-S-E on an 8-foot hoop are much more acceptable than doing the same thing in public with total strangers.

      And I’ll even forgive you for being a Cowboys fan. First, is because they just can’t seem to play a decent game against my Cardinals, and second, because I grew up loving them. Herschel Walker, Tony Dorsett, and Danny White are three more class-acts you could add to your list.

      As for T.O. – I really think he could have been something amazing if his pride and arrogance had been put in check.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • WilyGuy

    Some say that the mental game is a part of the overall game. The mentality Is if I can get inside your head, you make mistakes. It is true even if we loathe it. I for one feel like you need to back it up. Whenever I compete, I’m much more likely to talk about why I don’t deserve it or how I fouled it up.

    Oh how I love to stop the trash talker. The more you chatter, the more I want to make you look foolish.

    Fitzgerald is a guy I really respect. I like what Walter Peyton said, “when you score hand the ball to the ref like you’ve done it before and you’re going to do it again.”

    Another great post, Michael.


    • Michael Gray

      Mr. Mynd,

      Out-playing trash talkers is SOOOOO one of my favorite past times (though it’s become increasingly more difficult the more out of shape I get). I had one opponent in high school that just kept jawing at me, and at one point I head-faked him, drove to the hoop, and threw it down on him. He kept his mouth shut the rest of the game.

      And that Walter Peyton quote you mentioned should be posted over the door of EVERY high school locker room. My son will learn that one early and be reminded of it often.

      Thanks, WG!

  • Lady in Red

    The sort of trash-talk that you describe sounds completely immature and ridiculous. I’m surprised they’re not embarrassed. But I have the solution! *blows on nails* Everyone should just play cricket lol…. Nice white suits and a break for tea and sandwiches on the field. It’s the real gentleman’s sport :)

    • Michael Gray

      Hahaha. There’s an idea! I wonder if I could boost the classiness of our city rec leagues by bringing some Twinings Earl Grey and finger sandwiches for halftime.

      On second thought, that might just make my own teammates begin trash-talking me too. I’ll leave the tea to the cricket players. :)
      Thanks for commenting!

  • Daniel Nest

    Fully agree! I’ve noticed the “trash talking” phenomenon especially in the boxing world – seems that some boxers are almost required to talk a big game well before ever even facing their opponent in the ring. Thankfully Harrison has you to guide him and you have your head on straight. Great post!

    • Michael Gray

      Thanks, Daniel. While I’m not a huge boxing fan, I did see bits and pieces of the Pacquiao/Bradley match and I noticed that Bradley couldn’t keep his trap shut before the match. It’s too bad he got the decision because I was looking forward to someone shutting his trap. Now he’s just going to keep yapping. Bleh.

  • Joseph Cereola

    I was never a fan of all the trash-talking; it adds nothing to the game. It might be harmless if our children didn’t imitate the professionals. The trash-talk then migrates from our children’s sporting activities to other interactions with their peers.

    • Michael Gray

      Good point, Joe. Playful ribbing is one thing, but the way trash-talking is done now, it can’t help but seep into other areas of life. All in all, it’s not a positive development for our society.

  • daniel jordan

    As a huge fan of the NFL, I hate all the trash talk that is increasingly becoming a problem. I have never been a trash talker myself. I let my actions speak for themselves, the way it should be!

    Sadly, as in most professional sports, money and fame have stepped in and interferes with the integrity of the game. All the athletes want to be in the spotlight. Talking trash brings attention to ones self, in a negative way!

    I hate trash talkers!

  • YoungmanBrown

    I deal poker, so every day I am surrounded by guys who are constantly talking trash to one another, though it usually comes from the person who just lost. He berates the guy who won for “getting lucky” and “playing like an idiot.”

    The funniest part about this is the fact that if he was smart, and really thought that the guy was an idiot, he shouldn’t be telling him that he played the hand poorly so that the guy doesn’t correct his mistakes. Instead, he should just shut up, be patient, and win his money back.

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