Forever Trash Talk

By DJ Byrnes on January 22, 2014 at 3:30p

On Sunday night, Richard Sherman made the biggest play in the biggest game of his career. The post-game interview that followed a few minutes later almost melted down the internet. This piece isn't on Richard Sherman — there's definitely been enough words on him published in the last 72 hours for us to subsist on for the next three decades — but his post-game interview does serve as a good launching point to discuss one of my favorite things about sports: trash talk.

Before people attack my class — Spencer Hall already lampooned that ridiculous line of argument — I'd like to point out 98% of us here laud a coach that once answered a question about why, in a game his team was already winning, he went for two against Michigan with the iconic one-liner "because I couldn't go for three." (The other 2% are fans of other teams.)

And that's fine, because Woody Hayes was dat dude and spiking the ball on your enemy's broken sternum is what sports is really about.

People say they look to sports to "build character" and learn "life lessons." Personally, I think that's a load of coach-speak.

Outside of natural selection, I'm unsure of what life lessons can be ginned from a children's game where grown men are mangling each other. I don't watch sports for a sermon or life lessons. (I'll take the trash-talking team of heart-eaters over the team of quiet "life lesson" types any day of the week.)

Sports is about competition. It's about the strong dominating the weak. It's about seeing where your best lines up against the best of some other bastard. Anything else is just window-dressing. Trash talk is but a more humorous and less violent extension of the true ethos of sport.

That's why, despite loathing everything about Boston and its sports teams, I have nothing but infinite respect for Larry Bird. Sure, ol' Bird was a helluva basketball player, but he also knew the score:

[Larry Bird] once told Chuck Person that he had a gift for him during a Christmas Day game. Bird then hit a three in front of the Rifleman while he was sitting on the Pacers' bench and told him, "Merry Fucking Christmas." He also asked a locker room full of the best shooters, "Which one of you motherfuckers is coming in second?," before the 1986 Three-Point Shootout. Bird won the contest by a landslide and when he received his winnings Larry said, "My name's been on this check for a week now."

Compare this to Michigan Man Tom Brady, who in light of Richard Sherman's rant said, "We win with graciousness."  Isn't that a bit of trash talk in of itself?

But, nitpicking aside, it's comical to see Tom Brady take this route. Brady won three Super Bowls while his coach stole opponent's defensive signals. Is that winning with graciousness?

This is all without pointing out it's pretty damn easy to win with graciousness. Try losing with gracio— *scene cuts to Tom Brady cussing out an undrafted rookie for a dropped ball during the third quarter of a regular season game in which the Patriots trail*

Sports are simply more entertaining when filled with outlandish characters and not blood-and-bones factories that produce nothing but the same empty clichés that we've had spewed at us since Muhammad Ali hung up his fighting mittens. Judging by the traffic driven by Richard Sherman's post-game column — over four million unique visitors as of yesterday — I'm not alone in that sentiment. 

Arrogance and trash talk are crutches athletes need to survive at the highest level of sport. Whether folks like to admit it or not, it's as ingrained into our sports culture as alcohol.

So why are people shocked when trash-talk bubbles over into the public sphere? We should welcome it. Death to clichés and empty platitudes masquerading under some archaic banner of "sportsmanship." In the words of the immortal Dan Hawkins, "This ain't intramurals, brother." 

Give me honesty, bravado and yes, trash talk. Yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever.


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toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

These are pros who get millions and half-millions to play pro football. They can trash talk each other all they want. It doesn't bother me. Dan Hawkins is right.

mb5599's picture

feel free talk all the shit you want, but you better be able to back it up.  if sherman gets lit up by a bronco's receiver, he needs to sit back, shut up and take the shitstorm he has coming.

Big B

VestedInterest's picture


Game changers welcomed, love to hate 'em.

Killer nuts's picture

For my money Muhammad Ali is the best trash talker of all time. Who do you all think is number 2?

DJ Byrnes's picture

2. Michael Jordan

3. Larry Bird

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Killer nuts's picture

Nice choices. Gary Payton might get honorable mention on that list. There's something about being able to back it up that makes it so much more stinging

Jdadams01's picture

I like DJ's choices.
About Payton:
During a game when Payton was new in the league he tried to trash talk Jordan saying something like, "I'm making my millions and buying Ferraris and Lamborghinis, too."
Jordan - "That's okay, I get mine for free."

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I love MJ. XD

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

vitaminB's picture

I'll go with the guy who said this:

I'm the best ever. I'm the most brutal and vicious, and most ruthless champion there's ever been.
There's no one can stop me. Lennox is a conqueror? No, I'm Alexander, he's no Alexander. I'm the best ever!
There's never been anybody as ruthless! I'm Sonny Liston,I'm Jack Dempsey.
There's no one like me. I'm from their cloth.
There's no one that can match me. My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious.
I want your heart! I want to eat his children!

mb5599's picture

I thought this was Mike Tyson until I read:
"There's no one that can match me. My style is impetuous, my defense is impregnable, and I'm just ferocious.  I want your heart! I want to eat his children!"
Now I think it could be Brady Hoke.

Big B

RedsBuckeyeBoy's picture

What Hoke actually said:
"There's no one that can match me on a teeter-toter. My style is sloppy, my defense is...what defense, and I'm just fat-ocious.  I want your potato chips! I want to eat his chimichangas!"

Alpo's picture

Deon Sanders has got to be up there, he's still talking trash!

Shangheyed's picture

Hard to tell if Football guys are talking trash during the games... but if you get a chance to listen to older NFL Films of Dick Butkis or Lawrence Taylor... there are some great moments there too. 
For me I prefer the trash talk ON the Field not after the game... seems a little pointless the score and your game should speak volumes rather than jumping around in the camera talking smack about one play. 
Its still a team sport.... or it is until SOME INDIVIDUAL HOGS the mic.

VestedInterest's picture

Sapp might get honorable mention.

kmp10's picture

Hollywood Henderson... look him up, youngsters.

thirtytrap's picture

Ali didn't talk trash...he just told you that he was gonna beat your ass...then did it.

TBDBITLinWIScantSON's picture

Bar none, best trash-talker of all time.
I would embed some quotes, but, well, nsfw, and so on and forth....


sharks's picture

Kevin Garnett has to be top 5...

A man got to have a code...

Mix's picture

Calling Charlie Villanueva a cancer patient was very memorable.


BierStube's picture

For my money .. nothing beat the trash talking between Spike Lee and Reggie Miller .. first time I ever remember the trash being thrown outside of the normal athlete vs athlete scenario.

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

Jack Fu's picture

Give me tact, humility, and respect. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever.

dubjayfootball90's picture

I am with you on this one.

You can feed a bobcat all the chili it wants. That don't mean it's going to crap out diamonds.

BuckeyeCrew's picture

I agree. But in this culture? I don't see it happening.  Rather, I agree with DJ; sportsmanship is a (thin hypocritical) veil, in major sports.  And to counter Dan Hawkins, I say that it even trickles down to "intramurals", brother.

nm_buck's picture

agreed.  talk is cheap.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

IGotAWoody's picture

"Which one of you motherfuckers is coming in second?!"
That's awesome. I now like Bird even more.

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

vitaminB's picture

DJ once again shows why he is the voice of his generation. 

Crumb's picture

I still think the best form of trash talk is winning and then silence. Because when you talk trash they can talk trash back and believe me when you lose you want an excuse to tear into someone verbally but if the other guy or team just smiles and says 'good game' when they just kicked your tail it makes it hurt that much more. That's why that team up north in my opinion hates the Vest more than Woody.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

BenW's picture

To me, trash talk is on the field/court/whatever playing surface. It gets inside your opponent's head, rattles them, makes you feel confident, whatever. That's fine. It's usually funny. I don't see how yelling at a reporter and camera is trash talking. An expression of emotion, sure. But I don't think he was emotional about the game. He didn't seem happy, he seemed pissed off. He admitted it in his SI article that he was upset about something, but people are still trying to say stuff like "Oh, he's so smart he uses trash talk to manipulate the opponent, he's just creating a character."
Call it what it is, an emotional outburst about something other than the game. Applaud that, treat it with disdain, whatever.

Denny's picture

About Me: very worried about vague things like 'class' from men who I demand play a game that viciously destroys their bodies and minds. Also, I demand they play ruthlessly and without hesitation. Also also, I demand they win.


kcbrez's picture

I have found Richard Sherman to be a thoughtful and intelligent person, both in the past and in the wake of his post-game interview with Erin Andrews. Additionally, I appreciate quality trash-talking not only as a part of the game but also as an almost essential part of any great player or team. That said, for me personally he crossed a line in the aforementioned interview with EA. There was something about the way he delivered his comments. Perhaps it was the high volume, the angry tone, the vulgarity, or the seeming lack of control which was such a departure from his usual normal levels of volume, tone, tact, and control.

I think if he had said something in his MMQB article to the affect of, "It was a heated moment, and I acted like a jerk in that moment," I'd back off and respect his ownership of the mistake. Whatever has taken place between him and Crabtree in the past is irrelevant. Maybe Crabtree has been a jerk too. I don't know. But I know that Sherman acted like a jerk in that moment. In calling Crabtree a "sorry-ass receiver," Sherman demeaned not only Crabtree but himself and his teammates as well. After all, to make a great play when matched up against a great player is certainly more difficult than it is to make a great play when matched up against a "sorry-ass" one.

Jack Fu's picture

For me, there's a difference between in-game trash talk - which I honestly don't have that much of a problem with - and dancing on the grave of a recently-defeated foe. Sherman's actions were clearly the latter. This was my favorite take on the "controversy."

45has2's picture

I take that as an "I told you so." from Dick. May I call him Dick? Evidently, Crabtree was doing a little yammering during the game. Dick just got in the coup de grace. I bet all of Sherman's friends call him Dick.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

BenW's picture

That article is terrific. Thanks for sharing.

kcbrez's picture

Amen. It is now my favorite take as well.

roamingbuckeye's picture

The reactions to Sherman's rant sound a lot like the clutch-your-pearls horror that erupted over Hall's exiting salute from the Michigan game. The spectators and media demand class and composure but the game demands passion and confidence and at least a bit of anger and you're not always going to keep that perfectly boxed into actions of the field. The emotion is part of why we love the game but its not always going to be pretty.

"I just cant wait to play football." -UFM

Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I'm good with trash talk on the field, court, etc. I'd prefer not to hear it in a post-game interview. Just my personal opinion. 

Denny's picture

The interview occurred on the field of play seconds after the game ended. What is your official statute of limitations about when a field is a field of play vs when it is just a field of turf


Buckeye_in_SEC_country's picture

I believe you understood what I was originally saying.  Players can trash talk each other on the field/court, but don't trash talk another player through the media.  I've never heard an interview like that from Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, etc.  Those guys are the ultimate professionals and are the elite in the NFL.  

45has2's picture

Around the early 90's I met a NBA ref through a friend of mine. I asked him who the biggest trash talker in the Association was. He replied that it was Bird, hands down. He also added that bitch was Bird's favorite name to call other players. "I'm coming down here and shooting the same shot next possession and there's nothing you can do about it, BITCH." It just made me like Bird all that much more.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

Buckeye5000's picture

I saw an interview with both Magic and MJ back in the day and when asked who was the biggest trash talker in the NBA they both immediately said Bird.

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

SeattleBuckeye20614's picture

If he would've made the same statement without screaming into the microphone people wouldn't be making such a big deal about it. It's the way he went about saying it and not as much about what he said. He's always been a player that is going to let the media and fans know what's on his mind. The only difference is that it went viral and everybody including my great grandma Phyllis saw that "football player screaming at the television." 

fear_the_nut70's picture

Trash talk all you want.  I draw the line at gangster shit like simulating you are slitting someone's neck.  No place for that in sports IMHO.

FLAMikey's picture

Sherman made himself look like a hood rat, and made the NFL look like it's going the direction of the WWF. That's his prerogative, but I don't have to like it. If college sports devolve into this, I'll like it much less than I do now. Talk all the trash you want to your opponent, but when you are addressing the public, act like a professional who has some respect for the game and your opponent (even if you don't like them).

buckskin's picture

hey Sherman here comes Manning.

German Buckeye's picture

One old guy perspective: I think it really is a generational thing.  Older folks (over 40 I suppose) grew up playing primarily baseball (a gentlemanly sport with unwritten "rules") and coaching that drilled into our heads sportmanship (Tom Landry), playing fair but hard (Cal Ripken), etc.  With the younger folks, they've grown up with PED/steroids, rap, and a "it's all about me" (end zone antics) perspective.  Societally, the former is a better position.    

skid21's picture

I still think there is room for sportsmanship. However, if someone wants to trash talk and can back it up then it can be entertaining. The thing that irritates me is when a team is down by 30 and still trash talking their opponents (i.e. my Bengals). Or when a guy makes a mediocre play and thumps his chest. I'm not watching a game to see who can talk the best trash, I'm watching to see who can make the best play. They are seldom the same guy.

nm_buck's picture

I can't believe Shannon Sharpe isn't on that list.  Short career, very big mouth.
I don't care how good a d-back Sherman is... he looked like a low-class fool after the game. He has a right to talk shit if he wants... but I have a right to consider him a douchenozzle.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

Ericgobucks's picture

I can't stop laughing at telling the lockerroom full of the best NBA shooters "which one of you motherfuckers is coming in second." Might be laughing about that quote for the rest of the night. 

Indy_Buck87's picture

The difference between what Bird did and Sherman is that Bird talked the shit directly to the people in the game.  He did not get on the TV afterwards and talk shit about someone to some reporter.  Before you tell me Sherman is a massive in game shit talker he is on record as saying that he does not talk much at all in the game because he is much too smart to do that.  It fires the other player up.  The last thing you want to do to the Payton Mannings of the world is flap your gums off.  So I give the kid some props for not being a complete dip shit.  His two tackles and one pass defense did not leave him much room to talk shit during the game anyway.  He made one play and then got on TV and acted like he created the game of football.  Which is way to douchey for me to comprehend. By the way, my colts served him up some humble pie earlier in the year as luck and Ty Hilton lit his ass up on a 77 yard touchdown. 

I know of only two things that are infinite, space and human stupidity.....and I'm not sure about space". Albert Einstein.

skid21's picture

Let's all just trash talk and have no class. What I'm reading into this is class is out and trash talking is in. So we have to be classless, call out other players and have no humility to be a winner these days? If you're not acting like Sherman and others then you're a loser, or at least a lesser player, who can't win? I think glorifying trash talking is not a step in the right direction.

gwalther's picture

Excellent excerpt on Bird. Looks like you too read Simmons' opus, The Book of Basketball (awesome book).

Class of 2008

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I didn't have a problem with Sherman talking trash before, or during the game. It was belittling his opponent after the game that made him look like a jerk.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Edincostarica's picture

I agree! Do we want the NFL to become the WWF? I personally do not care for it and respect players who have some class. IMO leave it on the field if one feels the need to "trash talk". I also believe what LB did was "trash talk" to his own team, rather getting them pumped up. "Action speaks louder than words."  Again, it is just my opinion.


razrback16's picture

Definitely couldn't disagree more with the premise of this article. As a few others have already said, give me winners who simply let their measurable results do the talking. Shake hands after a game even when you dominate an opponent and say good game.

Joe Beale's picture

At this moment, my Wednesday post has more facebook likes and twice as many tweets as this post. TAKE THAT DJ YOU LOSER!!!

SoDakBuckeyeFan's picture



osubuckeye4life's picture

An entire article on trash talk and not one mention of Sidney Deane?