By Jason Keidel
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Many consider Muhammad Ali the Godfather of trash talking, the “Greatest” as the lead provocateur who spawned a generation of chest-thumping poets.
But Ali got his shtick from wrestler Gorgeous George. Ali just happened to be, as he would say, prettier at poetry. Bravado is as old as sports, if not mankind. It just feels more pronounced, if not more prolific, today; and, ultimately, more diluted because we celebrate the mundane.
There is a generational schism over the notion of talk inside the chalk, which includes a cornucopia of forms, from end zone dances to pre-game predictions.
Many are rightly fatigued from watching a receiver flex his arm forward to indicate a first-down when his team is down three touchdowns. There is the accurate assertion that we don’t need to celebrate a task we’re paid to perform.
I worked for FedEx years ago. When I successfully delivered a package I didn’t scream from my truck, “That’s right, son! All my damn deliveries is gonna be like that! Nobody thought I could make it as a courier, but I overcame adversity! I’d like to thank 5-Hour Energy for making this possible.”
They didn’t put my name on the back of my uniform. I didn’t even get a number. I made about $15 an hour to lift boxes in blizzards just like we’ve had the last month. That’s the way the world generally works.
So when you see millionaires (like Mark Gastineau) prancing like zoo creatures for doing what they’re supposed to do, you are often irked. Fair enough.
But if you were to score a touchdown in the NFL playoffs, wouldn’t you be a bit giddy? I would.
Much debate swirls around Shonn Greene’s use of a football as a prop: a pillow on which he slept after his touchdown. Some say it was exorbitant. I found it rather funny, but it’s probably proper to discourage such displays as a way of blunting the expected rancorous responses from the opposing team.
The ultimate payback, however, comes from the scoreboard. Terrell Owens, the father of the nouveaux wide receiver, muscular and mouthy, has no rings. Same for Ochocinco. Same for Randy Moss.
But before the recent spate of self-serving, rehearsed routines, the Washington Redskins had a trio of wideouts during the ‘80s known as the Smurfs, who made the end zone their personal ballroom. Perhaps the difference is that they celebrated together, thus there wasn’t the sense of wretched narcissism that comes with a riverdance for a 2-5 team.
And perhaps there’s a difference between selfish, singular expression and the cacophonous call from the Jets, who use Rex Ryan’s bombast as fuel on the field. In either case, the only way to stop them is to stop them. Until then, expect back flips and flight simulations. And, as Darrelle Revis suggests, Deion Branch needs to clam up and lose like a man.
And perhaps this brings us back to the notion of moderation. You can’t be moderately fabulous. You can’t fly around a football field crashing into people, and go from savage to civilized in seconds. We aren’t wired that way. Obscenely successful people don’t exist by dint of their low-key regularity.
“Jim Brown did it the right way!” is the normal retort. Find us another Jim Brown. Until then, we’re left with the funny, the offensive, and the human way.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com