Posted Jan. 18 at 06:12 AM
Talking trash is a time-honored tradition in fantasy football. I know guys who will tear your team to shreds before a game ... and still won't concede the argument after you just beat them by 30. Win or lose, they're always ready with a good quip or memory of a time when you weren't at your best. You can't complain, really. It's part of the game. All you can do is endure the verbal abuse and prepare to dish out plenty of your own. In the best leagues it's done with great affection in the spirit of friendship. If you can't tear your buddy's team to shreds and mock their ineptitude, what's the point of playing?
It's an integral part of the game ... when the game is fantasy football. But in real football it takes on a totally-different meaning. The Jets and Patriots aren't buddies. They don't work in the same office, they weren't roommates in college, and Bill Belichick isn't married to Rex Ryan's sister. They aren't in a league for fun or to win beer money. This is their career and they take things very seriously. As a result, the trash talk is on a different level than you'll find in your league.
Ryan started things off by saying it was "personal," likely exacerbated by the fact that the Jets were dismantled on national television during their last trip to New England. The pre-game hype went downhill from there. Antonio Cromartie made his feelings clear regarding Tom Brady by using some choice curse words and claiming he hates the quarterback. Receiver Wes Welker got in some clever digs by making subtle references to Ryan's alleged fetish videos starring his wife. New York's center Nick Mangold responded on Twitter with a reference to SpyGate.
But it didn't end there. Linebacker Bart Scott made a not-so-veiled threat toward Welker, stating that his days in uniform would be numbered. Scott wasn't waxing philosophically about the short careers of NFL athletes. He was upping the ante one more time, and taking the war of words to a new level. The league issued warnings and the battle became about more than a football game.
Oh, yeah. The game. The Jets went into Foxborough and out-played, out-coached and out-scored the top-seeded Patriots. They'll return to the conference championship game with a young quarterback and a stingy defense. For all their perceived flaws (and every team has them), only two squads are left standing in the AFC and the Jets are one of them.
In the NFL, that kind of trash talk is unnecessary. If you're really spending energy sending that many bad thoughts and that much anger toward your opponent, you're not putting everything you have into preparing for the game. Trash talk is part of what makes fantasy football fun, but it's not what makes the NFL fun. Making a few comments before a big match up is just human nature, but when it overshadows the game something is wrong.
A day earlier, two other division rivals faced off with the same trip to the conference championship game on the line. As expected, the Ravens and Steelers played a hard-hitting game where turnovers made a big difference and just one score separated the two teams at the end. That rivalry doesn't need clever wordplay in press conferences or tirades on Twitter. They make their statements on the field. I'm not saying they never make comments to the press, but that game was about the actual game. The personality clash was about aggressive defenses clashing with quarterbacks who wanted to limit mistakes. You didn't see references to run-ins with the police (both sides have their share). Nobody wanted to waste energy on things that didn't matter Saturday. That rivalry didn't need any hype. You don't need sizzle when the steak is Grade A quality.
The NFL gets a lot of criticism-- much of it well-founded -- about trying to take the fun out of the game. But trash-talking isn't really about the game. It's about everything else, and it's a distraction from the actual game. That's great when you’re playing fantasy football, since you’re having fun with friends. But in the real playoffs, it shouldn't be a big part of the build-up. The Jets and Patriots have a rivalry. The Steelers and Ravens have a football rivalry. As a football fan, I appreciate the difference.
How do you feel about the war of words before the game, and trash talking in the NFL? Share your thoughts below.
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