Trash talking is simply mindless garbage picking
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-09-28

Would you ever contemplate picking up somebody else’s garbage and keeping it? I’ll bet you’ll exclaim — “Absolutely not!”

And you’re right to immediately recoil at such a suggestion that you’ll pick somebody else’s garbage. Not even a moron or an imbecile would contemplate picking up somebody else’s garbage and keeping it.

Just about the only act of picking somebody’s garbage that can be rationalized as understandable is when it is done as a last resort in order to source a livelihood (as in the case of Smokey Mountain garbage scavengers) or in the case of those who are hungry and left with no other option but to pick food from restaurant garbage bins.

Other than these examples, it would be simply demeaning for an individual to be associated with picking another person’s garbage.

And yet that is what our young athletes are doing when they practice this repugnant act of trash talking — oral as well as non-verbal garbage that American athletes originated.

Jason Silverman calls trash talking “the practice of boasting and insulting one’s foes on court or afield.” Silverman further said that trash talking “may be one of our culture’s most beloved, and most reviled, phenomena. Commercials from athletic companies such as Nike often glorify trash talking, suggesting that bad manners are essential to good basketball. But critics see in trash talk the decline of sportsmanship and consider it yet another sign of society’s general loss of civility.”

“Professional sports leagues discourage trash talking with no-taunting rules. But does it work? Jonathan Katz, a New York City-based clinical sports psychologist, is doubtful. He believes that thinking up put-downs can actually impair an athlete’s performance,” Silverman added.

“Some players feel they can intimidate other players by getting into their heads. But many athletes are putting time and energy into something that distracts them from playing their best. Playing well is the most intimidating factor,” Katz was further quoted by Silverman.

My friend and Ateneo batch mate Ricky Palou (who represents Ateneo now in the UAAP and was a supreme shot blocker of the Ateneo 1969 NCAA Champion Team) told me that the UAAP has banned trash talking many years ago and penalizes those who still practice it.

The UAAP trash talking rule has since been modified to include non-verbal taunting or provocative behavior. And yet we still saw a lot of trash talking, a lot of it non-verbal, in the recent UAAP finals between arch rivals Ateneo and La Salle.

In that first finals game between Ateneo and La Salle last Sunday, Blue Eagle power forward Nonoy Baclao was lucky that he was not slapped a technical foul for unsportsmanlike and provocative behavior when he displayed a taunting face over Rico Maierhofer (after blocking the Green Archer’s shot and bringing him down to the floor). Had the refs called that a technical foul, it could have been a game turning development favoring La Salle.

In the second finals game, Rico Maierhofer was ejected during the third quarter — in the process dooming La Salle’s chances to force a game three — for being slapped a second technical foul over what the ref saw as a dirty finger Maierhofer gave a Blue Eagle.

La Salle coach Franz Pumaren showed unsportsmanlike behavior for his post-game utterances, claiming one-sided officiating and that it was the worst officiating he has seen in the UAAP finals.

I saw the game live on television and reviewed it again on the Channel 33 replay. La Salle, especially Rico Maierhofer failed to adjust to the calls of the refs which have been consistently tight all throughout and very severe on trash talking. Already called a technical foul for trash talking, Maierhofer should have known better than to poke that finger. It also worked against him that he was a known trash talker.

La Salle has been getting away with their game of borderline fouls, personal contacts that are not flagrantly committed. The tight officiating stopped all that. Officiating was tight but it was consistent and applied to both teams. La Salle was slapped more fouls simply because they committed more fouls.

I believe it is legendary boxer Muhammad Ali who first popularized trash talking. When Ali (at the time still using his given Christian name Cassius Clay) faced then world heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, he called Liston the “big ugly bear.” Former heavyweight champs Joe Frazier (who gave Ali his first boxing defeat) and George Foreman (then deemed ‘invincible’ until he fought Ali in Zaire in what was dubbed “The rumble in the jungle”) also became big recipients of these irritating Ali pre-fight remarks.

Other Ali opponents got the lip treatment in lesser degrees. It would seem that the bigger threat that you then posed to Ali, the more severe the trash talk that he will dish you.

Ali did his trash talking for two reasons. One is to generate controversy that in turn generates a bigger gate. The second reason is to psychologically unsettle his opponent.

However, some of those who personally witnessed Ali trash talk aver that he did it with a wink of the eye. In other words, Ali did it tongue-in-cheek and primarily for business that benefited him, his opponent and the fight promoter.

Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post quoted Ali biographer Thomas Hauser telling Ali that “All that dancing and celebrating and showing off started with you.”

Ali replied to Hauser: “I started the big salaries, too. Big salaries started when me and Joe Frazier got $2.5 million each the first time we fought.”

Author of the best seller Muhammad Ali, His Life and Times, Hauser said that, “for the most part, Ali’s lip service was all in good fun.” Hauser added: “First, the biggest difference between Ali and all of the other talkers that came after him is that Ali did it with a wink.”

There were exceptions though. There were opponents who really received Ali taunts because Ali did not like them for what they said. These were former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson and then Ali challenger Ernie Terrell.

Terrell insisted to call Ali by his Christian name, something that incensed Ali. Ali could have knocked out the slow Terrell midway through the 15-round title fight but he refused to end it early. Ali peppered Terrell’s face with stinging punches for 15 rounds and while his lightning-fast left jabs and right straights easily found Terrell’s face, Ali would ask Terrell “What’s my name? What’s my name?”

I’ve always deplored the tendency of many Filipinos to ape anything that Americans find fashionable — without thinking if this enriches our culture or expands our knowledge. Trash talking is one of these counter-productive American inventions that Filipinos have again decided to adopt. It is as if they like picking another person’s garbage.

There is the great American tradition of democracy ‑ why don’t we adopt that instead? We think we have adopted it but we refuse to undertake the hard tasks that Americans are willing to undertake in order to safeguard and preserve their democracy. Why don’t we react to official wrongdoing the way the American public would react to official wrongdoing?

There is the American admirable sense of fair play — why don’t we adopt that instead? Why is it that predation has become a favorite Filipino past time — something that cannot be reconciled with the Filipino’s proud boast of being the only Christian nation in Asia?

There is the reputed American bounty for benevolence — why don’t we adopt that instead? How can the few Filipinos who are filthy rich live with their Christian conscience in the midst of the de-humanizing poverty around them?

Why oh why do we opt to pick up American garbage instead of the great values that Americans are known for?

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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