“U MAD BRO?”
On any other given day, if you heard these words you could be excused for thinking that a fight was about to erupt outside a local pub between two men arguing over spilt pints of ale. Surprisingly, this taunt actually was sent from Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman in the direction of New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady on Twitter after the Seahawks came from behind late in the game to defeat the Patriots. Richard Sherman then made it his duty to extend the trash-talking further telling reporters after the game “We’re better than you (Brady), you’re just a man and we’re a team”.
Athletes’ trash-talking is nothing new and in some ways integral to certain sports; after all the great Muhammad Ali famously said “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see”. But what is the difference between Ali’s lyrical lash-out, which is now one of the most well-known sayings on the planet, and Sherman’s taunting tweet? The answer simply comes down to ‘taste’, and in the name of ‘taste’ and sportsmanship Sherman had to later remove his tweet.
…tasteless comments before a contest…
Some readers might be pulling their hair out right now thinking how unfair the forced tweet removal was, considering David Haye still remains unapologetic about his ‘gang-rape’ boast made about his fight with Audley Harrison two years ago. This question of ‘taste’ ultimately concerns at what point does ‘banter’ between athletes go too far? Is it too far to issue tasteless comments before a contest as Haye did, or is it in fact too far when athletes see no other option but to reply to in-game taunting with physical actions as was the case of the altercation between Materazzi and Zidane during the 2006 FIFA World Cup final.
With the trending popularity of Twitter amongst professional athletes, it would be safe to assume that pre- and post-game trash-talking will only increase in the future. Opinions are split on this; with some people seeing it is as a great way to intensify rivalries, whereas others believe it robs sport of its integrity. Personally, I find it hard to imagine where any sort of definitive line could be drawn, as it very much seems to be a case of only knowing where the line is once it has been crossed.
Ouch, too far…
One thing is for certain though, once journalists are targeted as the subject of abuse, trash-talking definitely goes too far; “What’s the difference between a 3-week-old puppy and a sportswriter?” legendary NFL coach Mike Ditka once rhetorically asked in an interview, “In six weeks, the puppy stops whining”. Ouch, too far, Mike, too far.