New Jersey is governed by a man who is considered to be one of the most prolific trash-talkers in politics. But soon student-athletes in the Garden State will be banned from spitting certain types of smack on the playing field.
Starting this fall, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and the state attorney general’s office will implement what they are calling a “trash-talk ban” on the more than 400 schools that fall under the NJSIAA’s umbrella. Under the new guidelines, athletic teams will be held to the same anti-bullying laws that apply to the schools they represent.
According to The Associated Press, “participants could be in trouble if they make harassing statements related to gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or religion.” NBC New York also reports that "’unduly provocative language or action toward officials, opponents or spectators also won’t be tolerated," citing NJSIAA executive director Steven Timko.
Under the new rule, referees will be held responsible for reporting incidents of smack talk and discouraging unsportsmanlike language, and players found to be guilty of such behavior may be penalized immediately — and also could be suspended from future games or investigated by the attorney general’s civil rights division.
Now, banning students from being discriminatory jerks on the field seems like a reasonable enough step to take, and it’s almost hard to believe that such a rule doesn’t already exist in every school district in the country. But one can’t help but wonder where referees and administrators will draw the line with regard to other smack that could potentially be perceived as “provocative.”
Talking trash to an opponent is as much a part of sports as the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and there’s an invaluable mental edge that can be derived from getting inside an opponent’s head with a game on the line. Sports is no place for intolerance, and bigotry has no place on the ballfield, but a little boasting never hurt anyone, and the acceptance of such posturing should continue to be the status quo.
It remains to be seen how New Jersey’s new governing of smack will play out, but in the spirit of the state’s ban on trash talk, here’s a look at some of the best to have ever done it. . .
Let’s just get this one out of the way, because there’s no one who has ever talked smack better than Muhammad Ali. And rather than read me writing about it, why don’t you just listen to Ali for yourself?
There’s probably not a sport that lends itself to trash-talking better than basketball, and though many have done it well, none have ever talked on the hardwood like Larry Bird.
In baseketball, a close second behind Bird comes Michael Jordan, who, in addition to being the consensus best player to play, was also a first-rate trash talker on the floor. The man could take just about anyone off their game plan, and then he’d still backup what he was saying. And if his six rings are any indication, Jordan’s plan almost always worked:
Mr. Ochocinco never met a microphone he didn’t like, and his trash-talk repertoire knew no limits. Unfortunately, some off-the-field troubles have hurt Johnson’s legacy of late, but when he was at his best, there was no one better at spitting game:
Many hockey players prefer settling matters physically, rather than verbally. But the league still has its fair share of agitators, and perhaps no player has ever gotten under opponents’ skin more effectively than Sean Avery:
Ali talked the best game, but Iron Mike was no slouch himself. Tyson was known as much for his relentlessness with his mouth as he was for his relentlessness in the ring. However, sometimes, his trash talk crossed a line from harmless into downright crazy:
Reggie jabbered his jaws quite a bit on the court, but his most famous bit of trash-talking came in a prolonged battle with Knicks super-fan Spike Lee:
As far as active NBA trash talkers go, there is Kevin Garnett, and there is everyone else. Sports Illustrated has previously named Garnett the league’s biggest trash talker in a player poll, and this season he infamously started a ruckus when he likened Carmelo Anthony’s wife to breakfast cereal. Everyone has a favorite KG moment, and mine came when he got on all fours and barked at Jerryd Bayless like a dog:
Sharpe was a first-class tight end and a world-class agitator during his 14 years in the league, and he always backed it up, retiring in 2003 as a three-time Super Bowl champ and one of the most productive players to play his position. He was good, and wasn’t afraid to let you know it:
There have been better trash talkers in NBA lore, but ‘Sheed didn’t become the league’s all-time leader in technical fouls by playing nice, and his “Ball don’t lie” catchphrase is one the most quotable pieces of smack talk in basketball history.