Proponents of trash talking in professional sports claim that the psychological effect of brash talk may be very effective against opponents, a way to get into their minds and upset their concentration on the game. Other players who use this approach say trashing talking can actually make them play better.
These pro-trash people also see trash talking as a sometimes humorous, even attractive form of entertainment, particularly when done in so-called "novel" ways. Of, course, trash talk can run the gamut from harmless offhand remarks to extremely intimidating behaviors. Is the psych-out of trash talk acceptable considering the fading rules of sportsmanship?
Jeff Haney of the Las Vegas Sun (April 29, 2009) reported that according to a doctoral dissertation by Ben Conmy, son of a professional footballer in England, trash talking often tends to backfire. “A lot of times people talk trash with a certain intent, perhaps to motivate themselves, but it often has what we call a ‘paradox effect’ in that it inspires the other person to go to performance levels they never dreamed of,” Conmy said. “It lights a fire in the opponent.”
Enter the flamboyant escapades of Chad Ochocinco, NFL Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver.Chad has made a career not only of being one of the game's premier receivers but also of being one of sports' most vocal trash talkers. He is loved by many for his silly antics and hated by opponents for making a mockery of the game.
For example, after the Bengals defeated the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006 to begin the season at 3-0, Buster Gunning did a post game interview in the locker room with a glum Chad (before his name change) Johnson. When Gunning asked him why he was so dejected after his team's win, the conversation continued.
Chad - (Holding back his tears) "Buster, I was being folksy toward Joey (Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter) and he decided to get nasty. Those “yo mama” comments really hurt! And the things he said about being my daddy, well that just wasn’t very nice."
Buster – "Did you tell Joey your feelings Chad?"
Chad – "I did. I told him to knock it off and that I just wanted to be friends, that is when he started threatening to destroy me out on the field. I just want to play football Buster."
Buster – "I see, did you tell anybody else about this?"
Chad – "Yes, I immediately went over to Bill Cowher to tell him about the mean things Joey was saying. Cowher told me to “get the (expletive deleted) out of his face. His words! He was very frightening. What is this League coming to?" (Buster Gunning realgmfootball.com, September 28 2006)
These comments seem especially ironic given Chad's history of trash talking. For Ochocinco to become upset about backtalk from an opponent seems childish and very emotionally immature. He thrives on being the center of attention so much that many believe Chad to be a megalomaniac.
Let me fast forward to this last weekend's game against the Green Bay Packers.
Ochocinco told the world that he would do the Lambeau Leap, a Packer tradition, into the stands at Lambeau Field when he scored a touchdown in the game. And, Ochocinco said if he did do a Lambeau Leap, it wouldn't be a sign of disrepect. Sports.yahoo.com reported, “I’m not sure,” Ochocinco said. “If they’re going to accept one individual out of all the NFL teams to embrace if he got into the stands, I think I should be that one.”
Chad continued, “I’m no harm.It’s all fun, it’s all entertainment. It’s really a challenge from myself for that defense and that secondary to stop me from doing what I’m coming in there to do, and that’s to do everything I can to give us a ‘W.' And let the Packer Nation know that we’re coming to town, and I’m looking forward to entertaining and bringing a little fun to the city and with no disrespect.”
Rich Chandler of sportsbybrooks.com said this entertainment concept is the normal Ochocinco treatment. Chad said, “It doesn’t matter who I see, they all will get the same treatment, which is a blessing. That’s the reason games are played on Sunday. You know, they miss church, so I will gladly bless them throughout the entire four quarters.”
And, what does Bengals' coach Marvin Lewis think about Chad's trash talking? Joe Reedy (email@example.com, September 16 2009) said Marvin Lewis was asked about Ochocinco’s plans during a conference call with Packers’ reporters and had a different outlook. “There’s no reason for him to worry about doing a Lambeau Leap because unfortunately every time he talks about what he’s going to do, he gets no opportunity to do it,” Lewis said. “It’s better, as they say, to underpromise and overproduce.” Marvin has had to put up with many of Chad's past episodes of trash talking and has constantly tried to subdue Ochocinco and his loud, boisterous behavior.
But true to his word this time, the arrogant receiver got a chance to do a Lambeau Leap after catching a 13-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter of Cincinnati's 31-24 win over the Packers on Sunday, even if he did jump into a group of Bengals fans.
According to ESPN.com's James Walker, Blog network NFL Nation, Chad found a soft spot among three Bengals fans sitting together, one wearing a tiger-striped cheesehead in the first row of the northeast corner of the end zone. He was coy with reporters afterward on whether the Leap was coordinated before the game with those fans on Twitter.
The Associated Press, ESPN, reported after the game Ochocinco said, "It was pretty cool. I just wanted to really get the W. The W is the most important because if I leaped and we lost, it's all nullified, it all makes no sense. To be able to do what I do best, which is I'm always running my mouth and making the game fun." Fun for whom?
This comment came from a player who said on October 9, 2008, in the middle of a terrible season for the Bengals and for himself, "I have my own little philosophy on what's going on. And I broke it down like this: Never, ever, ever, ever go against the monster, because the monster always wins. Get it? So y'all put that in your own perspective and you'll understand where I'm coming from and why things are going the way it's going right now." Sportz Assassin, nfl.fanhouse.com)
Most people believe the "monster" he was referring to was Bengals' owner Mike Brown, according to blogger and Bengals beat writer C. Trent Rosecrans. To be fair, Brown has received considerable criticism from fans, but this comment from a player already a handful for any organization to control is distressing.
Will the so-called "success" of Chad's Green Bay touchdown breed further trash talking? According to Geoff Hobson, www.bengals.com, Ochocinco was already thinking of the Bengals' next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Certainly knowing that injured safety Troy Polamalu might not play, Chad asked "Who do we play next week?" Told the Steelers, he said, "Is Troy going to play? I want to pull his hair." And, the trash-cycle continues.
Where Does Trash Talk Lead?
Just to look at the prevalence of trash talking, I want to include this report of the 81st annual Scripps National Spelling Bee by www.sportsmansdaily.com (May 30 2008). Thanks for this very interesting and telling report. Many thanks to The Sportsman's Daily, Huffington Post, report of May 29, 2009).
"Controversy clouded the victory of thirteen year-old Sameer Mishra of West Lafayette, Indiana, who won the national spelling bee when he spelled "guerdon," which means reward.
Nancy Tretter, the Bee’s security coordinator, described the ugly scene that unfolded just before the remaining contestants were to enter the Grand Hyatt’s Independence Ballroom for the final round.
“With fifteen minutes to go, the finalists were milling around a conference room opposite the main ballroom. The atmosphere is very tense, the kids are jumpy, their parents are on edge. Per standard operating procedure we had security at each point of egress (n, an exit).
"In years past it’s usually the parents you need to keep an eye on. Occasionally you’ll get a couple of kids who lose it as the clock winds down. But this was the first time we had to physically pry kids apart as the trash talking just got completely out of control.”
"After the Bee, Rick Toms, 14, of Tempe, Ariz., who stumbled on "girolle" (a kind of mushroom), lambasted the trash talkers he claimed threw him off his “game.” “It was unconscionable. I was sitting in the corner speaking with my parents, when suddenly one of the contestants – who will go nameless – got up in my grill and called me a dickhead. What prompted this I don’t know, but when someone applies an agnomen to my given name – like dickhead, four-eyes, stink-breath – I just lose it.” (Agnomen, n, an additional name or epithet.)
"Samantha Robinson, 12, of Spokane, Washington, competing for the fourth time, misspelled "zacate" (a grassy plant). After the event, Samantha lashed out at unsportsmanlike behavior of the trash talkers. “Suddenly it felt like the room was teeming with the verbal equivalent of mind-altering aeroplankton. I don’t want to make excuses, but it was hard to hear oneself cerebrate, let alone think.” (Aeroplankton, n, .small airborne organisms.)
"The usually quiet and reserved 13-year-old Samir Kohli of Oceanside, NY, a finalist who stumbled on the word “assface,” became uncharacteristically “idiomatic” when confronted by a trash talking contestant just moments before they were to take the stage for the final round. “I said, ‘get out my face, mo-fo, ‘fore I shove a brand spanking new fauchard up yo butt. I was pissed.” (Fauchard, n, a long handled weapon.)