The next five weeks will be filled with pundits and talking heads discussing which teams will make up the four to participate in the college playoffs.

This playoff setup is established by a committee in a room reviewing computer facts to determine the top four teams in the country. Other NCAA college divisions do it the right way. National champions are determined by games played.

A more important topic, which involves all levels of sports, is “smack talking.” It has become almost an art form. A player hits a home run in the World Series and back in the dugout decides it is cool to make a racial gesture?

Touchdowns at all levels seem to come with a dance or other big production. In basketball, if you make a power dunk you need to go down the floor and act like you just found the cure for cancer by beating your chest for everyone to see. This trend in sports has been getting worse and worse for the past 20 years.

It is important to change with the times, but sports used to be a place to show respect to an opponent and let play speak for itself. When I coached, protocol was to hand the ball to the official following a touchdown. After the ball was handed to the official it was OK to celebrate as a team with high-fives, etc. It was never OK to try to show up the other team with a ridiculous dance or stupid gesture.

Smack talk starts at an early age. At one of my grandson’s baseball games (a team made up of 5-year olds) children on the bench smack talked other players! Of course, the stage had been set by a parent coach kicked out of the game for acting the part of a fool.

Just a few years ago, players like Terrell Owens were thought to be an exception to the rule when they were disrespectful of the other team. It is no longer an exception, but an expectation that it will go on during the entire contest. Disrespect of an opponent is the norm.

Sports reflects our society. People use their mouths and gestures to show superiority instead of letting actions speak louder than words. People now refer to opponents with terms like hate, war and weak. It may have become a new normal, but it does not make it right.

Some of my best friends through the years have been former opponents. I wanted to beat them, but I also respected them. During the contest you would get their best, and when the dust settled, it would be mutual respect and a common bond.

We all love to compete and win. I would not give you a nickel for someone who will not compete with civility. Again, how can a premier player in the World Series use a racial gesture against another player whose only sin is to be an opposing pitcher?

We need to reassess our conduct in competitive situations. It is good to be emotionally involved with our favorite team, but never cross the line between civil and disrespectful. Race, religion or anything else do not factor in – play hard and be a part of the team.

Sports has always been a positive force in our society. We should not allow it to become a cesspool. Respect your opponents and allow them to return that respect.

• It looks like computers will soon start managing poor teams. Old school baseball guys like Dusty Baker and Joe Girardi are fired to be replaced by experts in cybermetrics – number and stats. I miss arguments between umpires and managers because of instant replay. Robots will soon manage teams. The human factor is still the most important factor. A game could be in trouble with an electrical failure!

• My quote of the week comes from American writer Samuel Smiles: “Example teaches better than precept. It is the best modeler of the character of men and women. To set a lofty example is the richest bequest a man can leave behind him.”

– 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) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.