THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Trash talk: NFL needs to wash its mouth out

Ryan should put a foot in his players' mouths.

How on earth does a sports columnist write a piece on trash talk? In this column, what examples can I give? Take infamous trash talker UFC fighter James Toney. Last summer, before his fight against Jon Jones, Toney was shooting off at the mouth like I haven't heard since Muhammad Ali. 

"Jon @%$# Jones better do his research before he talks %^&$# about me. He doesn't know anything about me. He's about to learn, though, because when I see Jon Jones, I'ma [sic] slap his *%$."

How is a sports columnist supposed to work with something like that?

Last week, the NFL came down hard (as hard as the NFL ever comes down) on several teams about all the trash talk they'd been throwing around, most of which was aimed at pretty boy Tom Brady. (Does that count as trash talk? I wanted to try it out and see.) Seriously, though, while the build up to the Jets-Patriots playoff game was pretty bleep-laden, I'm a little confused.

Wasn't it just a couple of months ago that football commentators and fans were up in arms when Cardinals' quarterback Derek Anderson yucked it up on the sidelines during his team's 21-point loss to the 49ers? Wasn't there a big controversy over that? 

Monday Night Football commentator Jon Gruden called out Anderson during the game and afterwards—oh, afterwards! The press conference, the questions, the lying, and the tweeting: what a hullabaloo. 

The NFL is not baseball. Baseball fans are accustomed to seeing rival teams get all buddy-buddy during batting practice. That's not to say it's an embraceable practice, especially when Aramis Ramirez and Albert Pujols pat each other's behinds before the game. But baseball players use bats to hit a ball, not each other, for heaven's sakes. 

Football's a different story, however– or it's supposed to be.

Football is an extremely violent sport, and most fans would argue that's the way it's meant to be. I'm a huge proponent of safety, but even I'll admit there are only so many tackles that can be penalized before the game changes altogether.

But the mean, nasty, and threatening language that's thrown around isn't so easily excused.

I never thought I'd want the Patriots to win a bingo game, much less the playoffs, but after learning Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie called Tom Brady an unprintable expletive Wednesday, January 12, my heart softened. But it was Jets linebacker Bart Scott who sealed the deal January 14, when he blatantly threatened Patriots receiver Wes Welker.

True, when speaking to the media Thursday, January 13, Welker peppered his comments with double entendres regarding Jets coach Rex Ryan's alleged foot fetish, but Scott's reply bordered on criminal. 

"I'll tell you what," Scott told Newsday. "Be very careful what you say about our coach. His [Welker's] days in a uniform will be numbered. Put it like that." 

How is it that Belichick benched Welker (for the first quarter) for his comments, but Bart Scott was free to show his behind the whole disappointing game?

As soon as Jets sealed their victory over the Patriots Sunday, January 16, the same NFL commentators– Phil Simms, Dan Marino, Shannon Sharpe and Bill Cowher– who bemoaned and criticized Ryan and his players for talking uglier and uglier all week, were applauding them for "backing up their bravado." It was as hypocritical display as I've ever seen. 

It's the same old story: win and all is forgiven, but if ever there were a time to put a stop to it, it's now. Why, during last week of all weeks, did Roger Goodell have to chastise anyone for threatening and incendiary language? 

I know they're athletes and generally allowed to recuse themselves from normal civility, but please, doesn't a good old-fashioned "You'd better bring it because we're going to wipe the floor with you" get the point across anymore? 

No one is asking football to be as friendly as baseball, but it doesn't have degenerate into the offensively aggressive UFC either.


Juanita Giles lives on a farm in Charlotte County with her husband, son and many dogs.