When does Trash Talking go over the line?

Submitted by StephenRKass on October 21st, 2011 at 10:21 AM

Is there such a thing as trash talking going too far? I know that Rose and Webber were really into trash talking, and Michael Jordan was also a master at it.

In the ESPN article on the Gholston suspension, there is a comment about the context for the punch to Lewan:

Gholston, a sophomore and a starter, said in a statement that he was provoked to react.

I get that Glolston was provoked. I also get that on the field, some players would do anything to gain an advantage. Does that mean anything can be said? I'm thinking about next year. Can Lewan say to Gholston, when they're on the ground after a play, just the two of them, [EDIT:  My original hypothetical example was over the line for several bloggers, so I am striking / editing it. My original question, BTW, is not about what Lewan said or didn't say. I'm not speculating on that. I'm interested in whether or not trash talking can go too far.]  "You're a ******* ****** ******, and your mother is a cranked out ****** ***** who'll do anything for her next fix. She'd even **** *** if someone paid her enough." Can Lewan do opposition research and throw out insulting but true statements about Gholston's relatives or friends or history to provoke Gholston to punch again?

Obviously, we're not talking about any public statements . . . the players know that you can't do politically incorrect things. But tactically, would players do something like that? I can easily imagine that there are some guys out there that have no personal boundaries.

Myself, I think things like that go over the line and are just wrong. But I can easily imagine some guys being big enough tools to do that kind of trash talking. More than once, I've seen Lewan described here as a "nasty" player who likes to ride donkeys, and he's not an idiot. He knows that the refs will be watching for Gholston, and all he has to do is pull Gholston's chain enough to get him ejected from the game.

I guess I'm wondering if players nowadays have an internal code tacitly agreed upon about what is ok and what is over the line, and not ok.

Comments

CompleteLunacy

October 21st, 2011 at 10:55 AM ^

Whether Lewan went over it...most likely not. The line about Gholston being provoked...like duh, no shit sherlock, of course you were provoked. Usually everyone who throws a punch like that is provoked in some way. You can't use it as a defense that somehow what Lewan did to you made it slightly more OK to punch him like that.

MSU is absolutely clueless how to handle discipline. But I bet you Dantonio thinks they're the poster child of discipline after they were forced to suspend Gholston.

bluewave720

October 21st, 2011 at 11:11 AM ^

for violence, IMO.  The only exception to this is when the words represent are a serious threat.

"I will now hurt you or your family with the weapon I am currently holding in my hand."  Well, that's provocation for violence and if someone says something like that, they should get neutralized, physically if necessary.  Other than that, you are never off the hook for assaulting someone.  Regardless of how mean they are.

CRISPed in the DIAG

October 21st, 2011 at 11:22 AM ^

Regardless of whether you think trash-talking befits Michigan Men, I'm guessing the following methods step over the line (or should):

1) Racially motiivated comments

2) Comments referencing mentally or physically handicapped family members

3) Derogatory gay references (e.g., "you're a fa**ot")

4) Terminal illness comments directed toward family members, coaches, etc.

However, Tom is likely breaking a code by simply acknowledging that he was upset by Lewan's comment(s).  In my estimation trash talk should stay on the field or in the lockerroom.  It isn't discussed with the press.  I rarely hear it publicly acknowledged as much as it probably occurs.

bronxblue

October 21st, 2011 at 11:43 AM ^

Like pornography, I think you'll know it when you hear it. Calling a guy a particular name or questioning his manhood or toughness, while dumb on an objective level, is probably safe. But when the speaker cringes even thinking about it, then it clearly is beyond the boundary. Also, when it just sounds dumb and mean-spirited without being that effective as an "inside-your-head"-type insult, that's also a sign. Like with Garnett and his whole Charlie V rant about cancer last year - it wasn't really that bright (shocking, I know, coming from that scholar) and, even if not true, was still more hurtful than effective. Yeah, it pisses off the other guy, but it is also attacking a perception that the man has/had cancer, which is such a personal attack.

With regards to Gholston, the whole "Tom" thing carries with it an unfortunate racial component that, while clearly not the genesis of the taunt, tinges the entire conversation and makes it bigger than it really was. If everyone had called Gholston "Bob", then Lewan's trash talk about have been equally effective and Gholston would have looked like the loose cannon he appears to be. But when you have a white player calling a black player "Tom", it makes the entire situation uncomfortable and gives Gholston an undeserved moral high-ground.

ChiBlueBoy

October 21st, 2011 at 12:15 PM ^

In the end, the most effective trash talk is not based on anything that would be over the line (e.g., race, orientation) but is rather something based in intelligence. The best trash talkers are highly intelligent. That's what's most frustrating. Anyone can blow off a racial epithet--it shows the ignorance of the speaker. To receive an insult and not be able to respond shows the ignorance of the listener. That's how you get under someone's skin.

FWIW, the name Tom seems to have been a reference to a very particular episode that both players knew. From what I've heard, I don't think it would have a racial tinge when said--that was added by poorly-sourced reporting later, but I wasn't there, I can't know. It could well be that Lewan never even considered that it could be seen as a racial epithet rather than what it was.

ChiBlueBoy

October 21st, 2011 at 12:16 PM ^

In the end, the most effective trash talk is not based on anything that would be over the line (e.g., race, orientation) but is rather something based in intelligence. The best trash talkers are highly intelligent. That's what's most frustrating. Anyone can blow off a racial epithet--it shows the ignorance of the speaker. To receive an insult and not be able to respond shows the ignorance of the listener. That's how you get under someone's skin.

FWIW, the name Tom seems to have been a reference to a very particular episode that both players knew. From what I've heard, I don't think it would have a racial tinge when said--that was added by poorly-sourced reporting later, but I wasn't there, I can't know. It could well be that Lewan never even considered that it could be seen as a racial epithet rather than what it was.

WolvinLA2

October 21st, 2011 at 1:26 PM ^

Honestly, this is the most correct post. No trash talking is over the line. It's a football field. If you don't have thick enough skin to take someone's insults, then get off. The only time insults hurt on a football field is when you're also getting beat physically. If I'm a DE getting trash talked to and I keep blowing past my blocker, I don't care. If he keeps pushing my face into the grass I might care, but it's really not the talk that's pissing me off.

If someone threatens your honor with words, either bark back or defend yourself with your play. If you can't do either, well, then the guy probably won't bother talking much longer anyway.

FrankMurphy

October 21st, 2011 at 2:41 PM ^

Probably references to race, religion, or sexual orientation. A player who makes a derogatory remark about an opposing player's race, religion, or sexual orientation is likely to have a teammate of that same race, religion, or sexual orientation. 

StephenRKass

October 21st, 2011 at 4:26 PM ^

And on the board, I assume everyone would also agree with you. And in public, I assume the team. I hope on the field of play too.

Unfortunately, people are ugly sometimes. The race and religion and sexual preference slurs of years ago, you would hope no longer happen. But I'm sure they do, unless there is clear disapproval from both teammates and coaches.

The point has been made often that Dantonio is way too lenient about dirty play, on and off the field. My hope is that Michigan players and coaches are NOT lenient of verbal taunting and provocation that crosses the line in the ways you outlined.

LSAClassOf2000

October 21st, 2011 at 4:41 PM ^

I would say that denegrating someone's ascribed characteristics would be "crossing the line" (i.e., race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, etc...), not to mention a few prescribed ones which are essentially personal (e.g., religion or politics). They should be discouraged, even disallowed, for the same reasons they are on this board basically. 

Blue22

October 21st, 2011 at 5:31 PM ^

once something gets personal (ie. your mom type deal), it's cause for going "over the line". Trying to say something about someone else's family doesn't end well at almost any time.