The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for Fanhouse.com

Walking the walk

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A quarter century ago, I was in New Orleans at my second Super Bowl for the Associated Press, the Bears and the Patriots, and my boss was looking for an early story that reflected the brashness of Chicago's defense.

So our columnist, Hal Bock sought out a Bear who would say something inflammatory and quickly found one, Otis Wilson, a skilled linebacker with a big mouth. "We're gonna shut them out,'' Otis told Hal. It caused a minor stir, one that was quickly dwarfed when the Bears' quarterback, Jim McMahon, mooned a helicopter and then was reported by a local radio station to have cast slurs upon the women of New Orleans, becoming the story for the entire week.

But I remember Wilson, a member of one of the best defenses ever. Not because the Bears nearly backed up his boast -- they won 46-10 -- but because the defensive coordinator of that team was Buddy Ryan, father of Rex Ryan, trash talker supreme.

So yes, trash talking is genetic. The difference? Buddy was a head coach for seven seasons -- five with Philadelphia and two with Arizona -- and never won a playoff game. Rex is 3-1 in two seasons.

And it's not only Rex and his Jets, although they woof at everyone. Other teams woof at the familiar and in a season when there are all kinds of rematches, often division rivalries, it's more prevalent -- note the Steelers and Ravens and Hines Ward and Ed Reed, two of the NFL's best players, in each other's faces on almost the first play of their game.

Does it really matter that one team gives another "bulletin board material?

I think the Jets proved that it doesn't by beating the Patriots.

In fact, New York's mouthing off seemed to do the opposite to New England, which played lethargically for most of Sunday's game. And Tom Brady, who a few years ago threw three touchdown passes against the Steelers' Anthony Smith after Smith predicted a Pittsburgh win, never got a chance to take his revenge on the Jets' Antonio Cromartie, who went after him in less than polite language before the game.

Frankly, I prefer trash talking only because it's my job to prefer it. Who wants to spend a week writing cliches, which is what we most often get from most teams, especially those with coaches like Belichick, who transmit the party line at the start of the week and then make sure their players adhere to it?

Heck, it might have cost New England this time -- Belichick benched Wes Welker for straying from it for the first series and Tom Brady ended up throwing an interception that changed the game's momentum. Maybe if Welker had been in the game, there would have been a different call, the Pats would have scored and taken a 7-0 lead and....

Here's where I reverse my original thought.

Yes, trash talking has always been around, but the media explosion and our "anything goes'' mentality makes it more prevalent than it was in 1986.

One night during that pre-Super Bowl week, several of us walked into a restaurant and saw Craig James, New England's starting running back, having dinner. A couple of writers who knew him said hello and then we went to our own table. No one tweeted that Craig was eating at "xxx'' or noted his companions or tried to get him to say something quotable. It wasn't part of the culture then.

Now we write not only about athletes but about ourselves.

Including Craig James, now a media member, about whom a lot was written a year or so ago.

The more things change....

Whatever.

By Dave Goldberg  |  January 18, 2011; 11:59 AM ET  | Category:  Baltimore Ravens , Dave Goldberg , NFL , New England Patriots , New York Jets , Pittsburgh Steelers , Playoffs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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