I’m sure everyone has been to at least one football or soccer game where the fans in the stands cheer for their team by shouting boos and insults at the opposing team. Maybe you’ve played in one and hurled insults yourself. Regardless, I think it is pretty much agreed that trash-talk is a part of sports. Whether you trash-talk or merely listen to it, have you ever considered the point at which trash-talk crosses the line?
Let me back up a little and explain where I am coming from. I play tennis, a sport not widely known for its vicious trash talk. It is considered rude to question a call, let alone shout derogatory comments. I guess this is why my experiences this year have had such an impact on me.
The second game of the season, I had my first crushing victory as second singles. I was up five to zero in the second set, and it was my opponent’s turn to serve the ball. As we switched sides, I innocently handed her the tennis balls and said, “Here you go.” Her reply? “F— off, b—–.”
Maybe this is common behavior in other sports, but it caught me a little off guard. I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so I said nothing and proceeded to win the second set six to zero. She stomped off the court, and I didn’t think much more of it.
The season went by without further incident until the last match, when I was once again playing second singles. I was up a set and on the first point when my opponent hit the ball out. When I called it, however, she stopped, walked up to the net, looked me straight in the eye and said in a condescending tone: “You know that the grey area is out, and the white line is in, right?”
Now I am not one to be easily provoked, but after she had spent the entire first set slamming tennis balls at my back when I couldn’t see where she was aiming and not apologizing after hitting me in the face, I was fed up.
“I am aware, actually,” I replied, mimicking her tone, “And oddly enough, it was in the grey area, which means that it was out.” Not the most brilliant display of trash talk, but it shut her up. The experience stuck with me, though, especially after I learned that players can be benched for the kind of behavior that those two girls exhibited.
To my knowledge, I was not emotionally scarred for life by either of these incidents, but they did raise the same question I posed earlier: When does trash talking go to far?
My answer to that question is that trash talking goes too far when you are intentionally trying to hurt the people involved. Sure, trash talking can be fun when you are in a giant student section and the players on the field can barely make out what you are saying, but when you hurl insults to someone’s face without provocation you are simply being mean.
What I am really saying is this: When faced with trash-talk, do your best to keep calm and carry on, and when you find yourself trash-talking, make sure to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Written by Sarah Fornshell’15