In the fast-paced, adrenaline-rushing heat of the game, not all players need to depend upon their athleticism to pull through with the victory. Few are blessed with the ability to sling words at their opponents, get into their heads, destroy them mentally and outplay them on the field. Trash-talking has become a more vibrant element in sports, transforming trivial games into personal battles, elevating the standard of play and motivating players to fight for the victory. Smack-talk invigorates the die-hard fans and captures everyone’s attention, building reputations and igniting blazing rivalries. Players can now rely upon talking the talk as well as walking the walk.
Richard Sherman, a fifth-round pick corner for the Seattle Seahawks, is now all over the media because of his loud, uncouth jabs at other National Football League players. The media feeds fuel to the fire by analyzing his numerous bashes. His remarks were deemed unsportsmanlike and classless, but he truly possesses the inherent ability of stirring chaos through his words. During the draft, he was unknown and a small factor to the league; now he is the “best corner in the game.”
Some believe the art of trash-talking is a recent development due to the unrefined etiquette of sports, but its role has been a game-changing factor for decades. One of the most renowned and accomplished boxers of all time was known as the father of trash-talking. Muhammad Ali, also known as Cassius Clay, was always intimidating as well as infuriating his opponents with his talk. When it came to performing in the ring, his lightning quick reflexes did not fail to prevail. It built his reputation and made him feared by all of his competitors.
Trash-talking provides a different aspect to the lives of the players in and out of the field. It gives the fans a closer look at their tendencies. It shows how players can be physically strong, but emotionally weak. For example, Shannon Sharpe, a Hall-of-Famer tight end for the Denver Broncos from 1990 to 1999 and 2002 to 2003, analyzed his opponents weaknesses and exposed them during games, watching players melt down before his eyes. Studying the personal lives of the players gave him an edge to all of his games, as it enabled him to get inside his opponents’ heads and thus reveal their vulnerabilities. He watched determined and focused players become anguished with frustration and self-defeat. One of Sharpe’s most valued games was when he watched the legendary linebacker Derrick Thomas crumble before him. Thomas was called with three personal fouls and was suspended from the next game. His self defeat was due to Sharpe reciting the digits of Thomas’s girlfriend’s number. Every trash-talker treasures the moment when a player is obsessed with taking out his anger rather than doing his role. The biggest trash-talkers target the weakest minds, corrupt them and own them for the whole game.
For those who believe trash-talking is exclusive to Americans, reassess the 2006 World Cup finals. The superstar captain of the French national soccer team, Zinedine Zidane, succumbed to the provocation and foul language of a player from the Italian national soccer team, Marco Materazzi. Zidane retaliated to the tauntings by headbutting Materazzi in the chest, in full view of millions of boisterous television spectators. The humiliated French captain was given a red card and dismissed from the field with the whole world watching, leading to France’s unjustly defeat in the World Cup Final.
If players were always magnanimous and chivalrous, where would the excitement come from? The excitement spurs through the fans as well as the players, making each game a battle to the finish. For example, Sherman used trash-talk to enter the impenetrable mind of Broncos quarter back, Peyton Manning during the 2014 Superbowl, which affected his performance drastically. This resulted in the poor execution of the legendary Manning, leading to the demise of the American Football Conference division champions. The best trash-talking players are those who have the gift to aggravate their opponent but do not get distracted from the main goal: winning.
Trash-talk is playing an active role in sports around the world. It awakens the spirit within the fans, as well as within the competitors. Stadiums get amped off of the intensity, which makes victories more glorious and defeats more devastating. Smack-talking has made it possible for the less athletic players to compensate with their shrewd and witty strategies. Sports are ultimately competitions and players will do whatever it takes to get the upperhand.