MINNEAPOLIS — Sports writers get the best seats. That’s what people say. But apparently, they are not good enough. Based on what I’ve heard at recent press conferences for Michigan’s Fab Five freshmen — including the ones for today’s Final Four showdown against Cincinnati — we media would prefer a chair smack in the middle of the court.
So we could hear the trash.
Trash talk, that is. Never in my years of covering college basketball have I heard more questions about this subject.
“Chris, what do you plan to say out there?”
“Hey, Jalen, got any insults for Cincinnati?”
“Juwan, what kind of trash do you expect to hear — and how will you respond?”
Now, I don’t know. If I were running up and down the court at the same speed as these guys, I would have trouble breathing, much less talking. My best insult would be, “Wheeeeze . . . huf-huf-huf . . .”
But that’s just me. Michigan is at a different level. Or should I say volume? The Wolverines have earned a nationwide reputation for on-court conversation (or as Jalen Rose refers to it, “Conversatin,’ ” as in “We weren’t talking trash. We were just conversatin,’ “)
Why this is, I’m not sure. But people believe it. “Trash- talking Wolverines,” they write. “Loud-mouthed Wolverines.” You’d think that every day, after lay-up drills, Steve Fisher calls his guys together and says “OK, now, repeat after me: YOUR MAMA IS SO DUMB SHE NEEDS TWO HOURS TO WATCH ’60 MINUTES’ !” OK, let’s sort out the trash
Let’s dispel a few myths about trash talking right here. First of all, the
“mama” stuff has been out for a long time.
Secondly, what passes as “trash” is often nothing more than a few words when a shot goes up, such as “Short!” or “That’s off!” Believe it or not, it is hard to run, be creative, be loquacious and get the rebound all at the same time.
“There’s not as much talk as people think,” Rose admits. “Maybe you say something when they shoot, or at the foul line. But it’s just part of the game.
“I never try to be mean out there. It’s not like I’m trying to make them cry or anything. If something I said made them cry, I would stop.”
Hmmm. I don’t know what you could say to a big-time college basketball player that would make him cry. Maybe that his condo just caught fire.
But OK, having said all this, it is true, words are sometimes exchanged in the heat of action. Chris Webber has a way of slamming a ball in the face of opponents, then adding a few syllables for extra emphasis. And Rose and Howard will drop a few lines when their opponents go for a shot. “Don’t even try it!” “No way, no way!”
Big deal. This stuff has been going on since the game was invented. There’s even a rumor that when Dr. James Naismith first took aim at that peach basket, his neighbor sneaked up behind him and yelled, “MISS!”
Of course, that’s just a rumor.
Which makes you wonder what trash talking might have been like in other historic confrontations:
GOLIATH: Hark, shrimp! What doest thou?
DAVID: I am going for thy head, big fellah.
GOLIATH: Ha! Get thy cheap stuff oust my face.
DAVID: Who ist thou calling cheap?
GOLIATH: Thou, shrimp, thy mama is–unnnnh!
DAVID: Again with the mama jokes. Not much is worth repeating anyway
To be honest, real trash talk is not that colorful. Much of it is not even heard, because of the deafening noise of the crowd. I know people are really into this idea of soliloquies- during-dribbling, thanks to 1) Those terribly loud Sinbad sneaker commercials, and 2) The new movie “White Men Can’t Jump,” both of which portray basketball as a backdrop for public debate. But next time you watch that stuff, ask yourself something: If these guys were really basketball players, they wouldn’t need to act for a living, right?
“What’s the worst thing you said out there?” Rose was asked last week, after Michigan defeated Ohio State.
“I told Byron Houston he should play guard.”
“What did he say?”
“He said, ‘Shut up.’ “
So much for soliloquies.
(By the way, let’s dispel another myth. Some people think trash talk is a black thing, or the by-product of an inner-city environment. Well. One of the worst trash talkers in the NBA is Larry Bird, and there is very little black or inner-city about French Lick, Ind.)
Perhaps we should put a microphone out there, so people could hear for themselves. True, they tried this on the football sidelines, using a censor, and the result sounded like Morse code:
“Awright men, let’s kick the BOOOP out of these BOOOP BOOOP pansies and BOOOP their BOOOP so bad they BOOOP BOOOP sideways!”
Heaven forbid they try it in baseball. Stick a microphone in the dugout, you’re liable to get:
But. Anyhow. I think this trash talk stuff is overrated. And it is definitely better left to the imagination. Therefore, as a member of the media, I would like to say stop. Enough. I like our seats right where they are.
Now, where’s the BOOOP BOOOP hot dog guy?