Trash talking in sports is a time-honoured tradition, like growing a beard or like thinking growing a beard will get you women. Trash talking makes you a great player. But, it also makes you a goat. It makes you the guy they point to when you lose, or it makes you the guy they hold up and spray all over an Adidas ad and write, “Passion.” Or, something like that.
The public trash talking is a dangerous one. It should only be reserved for alpha dogs and past champions. Rookies and sophomores need not apply. Act like you’ve been there before, said Barry Sanders, on why he never celebrated after touchdowns. The only thing is: you have to have been there before.
There’s a reason why the NBA cut-off player intros to a (still excessive) 90 seconds this week. It was to save the players from themselves.
For example, take Scottie Pippen. His Chicago Bulls had just beaten the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals and Karl Malone — that year’s MVP and a guy who carried around the nickname, “The Mailman” — missed two free throws with nine seconds remaining. Those free throws would have sealed the win for Utah. Instead, Michael drained a buzzer beater and Chicago won Game 1 — on a Sunday — and won the series in six games.
After the game, Pippen released this gem on the world: “The mailman doesn’t deliver on Sunday.”
That’s how you trash talk.
Now, take the 2011 Vancouver Canucks. After the blue-and-green had just won — as in, like, moments before — Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals to take a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series against Boston, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo was asked about the goal that Canucks forward Maxim Lapierre scored on Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. The goal wasn’t particularly pretty, but Thomas had just finished a Vezina Trophy-worthy year and Luongo had struggled mightily in Games 3 and 4 of that series.
“I’ve been pumping (Tim’s) tires ever since the series started, and I haven’t heard on nice thing he had to say about me.”
That’s it. Go all Harvard on him. Boston loves those Cambridge types who think everyone in Charlestown should look up to Mark Zuckerberg.
Of course, Luongo is an NHL goaltender. He should be confident. He is confident. You have to give him credit, and that line isn’t as embarrassing as others. (For example, Tom Brady telling Plaxico Burress “good luck” before the Giants beat Tom’s Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl.)
But, when Thomas responds like this, you know it’s going to hurt you:
“I didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires. I guess I have to apologize for that.”
That’s right. Make a Libertarian who stands up for Chick-fil-A and doesn’t understand the ins-and-out of the privacy of Facebook angry.