Trash talk not all good

By Jeffery Armstrong

One thing I've noticed as I've watched sports over the years is that not many athletes get away with talking trash through the media. The "sports gods" almost always strike down athletes who talk crap about how well they will perform, how much better they are than others and how many games, matches or events they will win.

The latest athlete to get the smackdown from the "sports gods" is one of my favorites, tennis player Serena Williams. After capturing several major and non-major tennis titles in 2002, including several big wins over her older sister Venus, Serena started feeling really good about herself. So much so that she told the media at the end of 2002 she planned to go undefeated in every tennis event in 2003. Alas, Serena only went undefeated until April, where she recently lost in the title match of the Family Circle Cup to Justine Henin-Hardenne.

I couldn't believe Williams had the "stones" to boldly go where no tennis player had gone before. Sure, the female tennis players today may not be on par with Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Zina Garrison, Chris Evert, Gabriella Sabatini and others, but there are several who can upset the top players and win a title.

How could Williams believe she would go undefeated in tennis, where players compete for almost 12 months a year, mostly in the heat?

Another athlete who let his mouth rob him of a championship is former NBA player Charles Barkley. I've always liked Sir Charles, but he's said a few outrageous things over the years.

One of my favorite Barkley trash talk moments was in 1995, when his Phoenix Suns team faced the Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Western Conference playoffs. I was living in Houston at the time, so I was rooting for the Rockets to repeat as NBA champs. The Suns took a 3-1 series lead with a win at Houston and looked to put the Rockets away in Phoenix a few days later. After their win in Houston, Barkley told the media that he was the founder of "Butt-Kicking Incorporated," or BKI, and that "business was good."

In one of the sweetest comebacks ever, the Rockets managed to buy out BKI, winning three straight games over the Suns (including two at Phoenix) to eliminate them and advance to the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets then dumped the San Antonio Spurs and swept the Orlando Magic to repeat as NBA champs. Thanks, Chuck!

Other great trash talk blunders included Damon Stoudamire of the NBA's Portland Trailblazers predicting that Avery Johnson (who I saw play in college) wouldn't lead the Spurs to the 1999 NBA title (he did); and John Elway's boast that he wanted to win five Super Bowls (he lost three).

Despite these great slip-ups, there have been a few instances where athletes have been boastful and been successful. Joe Namath's prediction in 1969 that the Jets would win the Super Bowl over the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Pat Riley guaranteeing that they would repeat as NBA champs in 1988 come to mind. I'm sure there have been other slip-ups and successes, but I can't think of any more at the moment.

So my advice to athletes: let your play do the talking.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily. He can be e-mailed at jarmstrong@news-daily.com