On Sunday, Ravens special teams ace and defender of gay marriage, Brendon Ayanbadejo, fired off a couple tweets ranting about how he perceives some of the things the Patriots do on offense to be less than completely sporting. You might even say he’s calling them cheaters, since he also went to the trouble of referencing Spygate. Chief among his complaints is the Patriots’ practice of using the hurry-up offense to snap the ball before the defense is fully prepared. To some, this would simply be canny strategy, but to Ayanbadejo, it constitutes bush league tactics.
Naturally, some outlets ran with these comments. That make sense. It’s a player saying incendiary things about his team’s upcoming opponent in the AFC Championship Game. That’s of interest to readers.
Of course, it wasn’t long until writers starting invoking the hackneyed cliche that is bulletin board material.
Sportswriters and some fans love to believe in the idea that a player would see an opponent’s trash talk and suddenly become more focused and fired up about winning a game to show to player up. I’m sure a few players and coaches might see Ayanbadejo’s comments and be annoyed by them. But does anyone honestly think any player on the Patriots roster wants to win the AFC Championship Game more because of some stupid tweets? Absolutely not. I could possibly buy an opponent’s provocative remarks serving as a motivating factor in a regular season, especially a meaningless one, where a player might struggle to find his focus. But now? In playoffs? Get the f*ck out of here. Moreover, the critical comments in question don’t even come from a player who will face the Patriots offense next week.
It’s a writer’s fantasy that by publicizing provocative comments, they can affect what happens in a game. At best, it’s a cheap tactic to make a piece of writing appear more consequential than it is. It’s a desperate grasp for relevance. Athletes occasionally play into this myth by citing an opponent’s quote as a benefit to a team after the fact, but that’s a lie. Bulletin board material doesn’t improve schemes. It doesn’t anyone play harder. It’s just trash talk to throw in someone’s face to gloat about a victory.
Trash talk can be fun to engage in and fun to read about, but let’s stop kidding ourselves that it has any sort of impact on what plays out on the field.