The topic today will most likely appeal to those over 45 years old. I do fear that I will grow old in my thinking, but today I feel the need to discuss trash talk in the sports world.
As I channel-surfed between the NBA playoffs featuring the Heat and Pacers and the Royals vs. Blue Jays game, smack talk was alive and well in both. It seems to be a way of life in competition these days. It appears that you are the man when you talk the trash.
I realize that Michael Jordan and Larry Bird were masters at getting into the heads of the opponent. I loved to watch Joe Montana throw his arms up and smile when he threw a TD pass. By the way, Jerry Rice caught a lot of those TD passes, and he would simply hand the ball to the official after he crossed the goal line. And when I was a kid I loved to watch Mantle, Musial, Williams, Aaron and Mays round the bases with gliding home run trots and then ever-so-slightly tip their cap as they crossed home plate.
Yes, smack and trash talk have been around since the beginning of time. It just used to be a lot more subtle. Currently anyone who gets a single, scores a basket or gains a yard puts on a show. Come on man! Lance Stephenson blowing in LeBron’s ear, and the Royals players getting five singles with guys going to first making gestures like they just won the batting title – it’s just too much.
The old philosophy I was taught and tried to pass along to teams I coached was that if you did something really good you acted like you had been there before. Would it hurt to show a little class on the field? No one in the world likes to have fun more than I do (and I think most of the male and female athletes alike that I coached will attest to that). There is a big difference between having a good time and turning a routine play into a vote-getter for the MVP Award.
One of the greatest rewards I have ever had in my coaching career was to have the opportunity to coach Ladell Betts. He became a star at the University of Iowa and then went on to the NFL and became a 1,000-yard rusher with the Washington Redskins. When Ladell graduated I asked him to do one thing for me: for the rest of his career to simply hand the ball to the official after he scored a TD; wait to celebrate with his teammates.
I was able to attend a couple of his games – one against the University of Michigan and one against the Tennessee Titans. He scored a touchdown in each game and followed through with his promise to me. I will always love and respect him as a class athlete.
I don’t object to a show. It just needs to be for something great, not over an average play that should be made. A line needs to be drawn between having fun and acting like an idiot. A professional athlete should celebrate team success but not with chest thumping.
The great thing about sports is the opportunity to learn life’s lessons. The lesson of competing while having class should be one of those life lessons. If you are a little league coach, high school coach or even a college coach, it is never too late to talk to your team about the importance of presenting yourself as an experienced athlete; someone who can handle success with class and grace.
• Congratulations to Joe Cusack, the head boys track coach at Blue Springs, and Ben Baier, the head baseball coach at Blue Springs South. Both had a great season, and both coaches and their teams are winners in every sense of the word. Good stuff!
• The World Cup in Brazil may be a real bad move. The locals are understandably upset about all that money being spent on sports. People probably do need to eat first.
• The Royals have bragged about their young pitchers in the minors. Aaron Brooks got lit up like a Christmas tree against the Blue Jays. Young arms are our future.
• Really, can you imagine Michael Jordan and Larry Bird blowing in each other’s ear during a game? Give me a BREAK!
• My quote of the week comes from Dan Gable, the gold medal Olympian and wrestling coach: “There is no mat space for malcontents or dissenters. One must neither celebrate insanely when he wins nor sulk when he loses. He accepts victory professionally, humbly; he hates defeat, but makes no poor display of it.”
I am grateful every day that I grew up with the coaches and players that I played with and the wonderful athletes that I had the honor to coach. They truly do define the word “class.”
Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 5-6 p.m. every Thursday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org