Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Talking trash

I like trash talking as much as the next sports fan but with technology today, how do you know when it's gone too far? Whether it's emails, texts, twitter, facebook, or ESPN's "Conversation Section140" there are a lot more outlets today to chide your friends over rivalries or critique your own players/teams performance. Many video games, also, allow online players to talk trash to one another. Trash talk, or talking smack, is not limited to just sports as we see it in politics and other arenas as well but it's my assumption that it has become socially acceptable because of sports. It's well known that Michael Jordan did it a lot and was good at it and some fans believe there is even an art to it. Maybe Jim Rome should get the most credit (or blame) for this becoming an art form with the development and annual event of his radio show's "Smackoff" in which caller's compete for "Best Caller of the Year" honors by degrading rival teams and fans alike. But I believe trash talk is older than Jim and Michael and believe it may go back to the days when fans' “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” signaled life or death for a beaten down gladiator.

And while that's all fine and good - and sometimes quite entertaining - there is a line that gets crossed when you strike a nerve with someone by getting too personal. Moreover, there seems to be less of a filter when people post their smack through technology then what they would say face to face to another in bars or other establishments where rival fans come together. I mean, you say the wrong thing to the wrong person at a bar and you might literally get smacked. The lack of the prospect of this happening through technology allows people the "freedom" to say whatever they want to others.

Fortunately, many sites have policies to govern inappropriateness between fans. But what happens when the reader is not a fan at all, rather the athlete that made a bad play that everyone is trashing?

Recently, two such players have taken a lot of flack from their fans for their crunch time short-comings in Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman and Missouri basketball player Kim English. Brotzman missed two field goals leading to a loss to Nevada that will keep them out of a national championship game. English saved a ball going out of bounds to the other team allowing them to hit a game tying three point basket with no time left in regulation that eventually lead to Missouri's unraveling in over time. Both players received a lot of disapproval the following days and Brotzman even received death threats, including some aimed at his family members.

When you boil it down, smack talk is all about proving oneself to others over something you take (often entirely too much) pride in by degrading something or someone else. Certainly women talk smack, but it seems like they are imitating a very masculine past time and that trash talk is often linked to calling out one's manhood by degrading feminine characteristics. Scenes like the one from The Sandlot come to mind concluding with the ultimate dis in boyhood, "you play like a girl".

I have heard fans argue about how athletes at any level can turn it off by not listening or reading all the comments and, ultimately, someone always says, "sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me". But are these type of comments really the responsibility of the athlete? Do fans really have the freedom to say and do whatever they want? Are personal verbal attacks about someone's on field performance not only OK but something worth rewarding if it leads to others taking another step by leaving death threatening messages? Do boys value girls less in environments where fans and coaches regularly talk smack with put downs like "you throw like a girl" or worse? It's well documented that cyber bullying has lead to death in the forms of suicide and murder - is that what it will take for us to seriously consider when we have taken smack talk too far?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Upcoming Event: Man Up! Winter Workshop

We are very excited about the direction Man Up! is headed and want to invite you to take part in our Man Up! Winter Workshop Thursday December 16th from 6-8:30pm at Johnson County Community College in their Carlson Center in room 107. We will highlight new directions for Man Up!, preview our new program "Strength Clubs", and this will be the first step for all interested Man Up! volunteers. If you have interest in our Man Up! Program as a potential volunteer or in simply learning more about the program, especially “Strength Clubs”, this will be the perfect opportunity for you.

In case you don’t know, Man Up! is MOCSA’s program that aims to engage men and boys about how they can play a vital role by being a part of the solution to end sexual violence. There a lot of reasons to have a program that specifically addresses men but two standout: 1) men know survivors as family members, neighbors, and co-workers and care to see sexual violence end; 2) men can challenge other men to stop rape before it starts. At MOCSA, we believe all men can...

SPEAK UP!- If a brother, friend, co-worker or teammate is disrespectful to girls and women, don’t look the other way, speak up. Increase awareness of others by letting them know its not the victim’s fault.

STAND UP!- Mentor and teach young boys how to be respectful men who don’t degrade or abuse girls and women. Understand how media, attitudes, and behaviors might inadvertently demean women and perpetuate sexual violence.

MAN UP!- Be a part of the solution by being an ally to those working to end sexual violence; support organizations and events publicly and financially

You also might be interested to know that Strength Clubs are MOCSA's multi-faceted programs offering a proven model and a vital next step for engaging and reeducating young men toward the crucial goal of reducing levels of violence (against men and women) long-term. The program aims to mobilize young men to find and use their strength for creating a culture free from violence, especially men’s violence against women. Strength Clubs provide a safe, structured, and supportive space to connect with male peers through exploring masculinity and male strength. Exposing young men to healthier, nonviolent models and visions of manhood, Strength Clubs challenge members to develop their own definitions of masculinity and to translate their learning into community leadership, progressive action, and social change.

For more information about how you can participate in this event, call MOCSA at 816.931.4527 and ask for the Man Up! Program Coordinator.