Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Richard Sherman and the Rhetoric of Talking Trash

Ok, so I imagine everyone with a Facebook account has watched or at least heard about Richard Sherman's epic post game trash talking session, hosted by Erin Andrews. There is an awful lot of noise surrounding this issue, and absolutely no shortage of articles, videos, and other internet goodies. Just Google Richard Sherman, and be ready to sacrifice a few hours to the internet.

I love Richard Sherman. I grew up in Tacoma, WA, and am a devoted 12th Man. I am absolutely thrilled to watch the Seahawks take on the Broncos in what has been termed "The Ganja Bowl" because both Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana earlier this year. I have enjoyed every second of Richard Sherman locking down receivers and freeing up his mouth. An absolute internet genius put together a video of all the best Sherman moments over the years.

But, what I want to concentrate on here is what I will call the Rhetoric of Talking Trash. Here is the basic formula, as far as I can tell:

1. Denigrate the abilities of your competitor
2. Extol your own virtues and abilities, as well as the struggle you went through to reach the pinnacle of your profession.
NOTE: The order of Steps 1 and 2 are negotiable.
3. Denigrate anyone you consider to be a "naysayer" or potential ally to your enemy.
4. Repeat.
5. S/he who loses his/her temper, loses the game.

Every rhetorical strategy should have a purpose. I think this is where a lot of people base their dislike of trash talk; they see it as a useless device. However, I would argue that talking trash serves a very important goal; it is about self-confidence, about the type of brazen, head-held-high, no-one-can-stop-me, it's-not-arrogance-if-it's-the-truth belief in oneself that I love to see.

Humility has its place. But so does some swagger. Go Hawks.


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  2. It's the belligerence that made me turn the volume down. Sean, I love some good trash talking (just as much as any red-blooded American who went to public school) but there's a way to do it. His high-pitched screams and total lack of cool made it embarrassing. He needs to take a few lessons from Deion Sanders.

  3. I'm not a fan of trash talking, but I know how it can get inside some players' heads. So, if I'm for it, I'm for seeing it happen during the game (in moderation), not after the game. The purpose would be to mess with opponents' minds--not to gloat.

    Regardless, Sherman is a great corner, and I hope the Seahawks win purely because James Carpenter and Jesse Williams (former Alabama players) are on the team. I've also never been a fan of Peyton Manning.

  4. Fair point on the purpose, Dr. Taylor. What about the type of gloating that occurs before/after matches that also serves to get into competitor's minds, perhaps future competitors? Are we upset with Richard because he was talking smack after the game about an already defeated opponent? That would make some sense to me.

  5. He was also interviewed right after the game when he's likely to be amped up. So I think locker-room exuberance came out at an unexpected time.

  6. Trash talking is the best. Also, let someone get excited about something for once. I like that he's all fired up. It's good TV.

    That said. Go Broncos.