By Mary Paoletti
I'm a big fan of trash talking in sports.
I do it a lot, especially during college basketball season.
Sometimes the payoff is sweetly satisfying -- like the wake of UConn's 2011 National title -- (WOOF). Other times -- like after 2010's brief NIT "run" -- you're left feeling bitter, angry and maybe a little foolish.
The topic comes to mind because things between the Boston and Tampa Bay crowds are getting ugly. And it should heat up; these fans are rooting for a trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
Unfortunately, I'm seeing some things I don't like. "Waitaminute," you say. "I thought anything goes in the world of smack-talk!"
Wrong. Trash-talking is also a game. There are winners, there are losers, and there are standards.
1. You shouldn't spit fire only when your team is tops.
Take, for example, the faithful fans of Tampa Bay's (Devil) Rays between 1998 and 2008.
There weren't any?
Oh. Okay. Well, let's look at '08. Tampa went 97-65 that season for the best record in the AL East. Boston's 95 wins had them at second. Fenway Park averaged 37, 632 fans getting drunk, making stupid signs and doing the wretched wave a game that season. The Rays? 22, 259. Great number, gang! Big cap-tip to those who gathered up their cowbells and trudged over to the Trop.
Even if numbers slip, you've got to work with what you've got. When the Rays traveled to Boston and crushed the Sox 10-3 in September of '08, some prideful townie in red stuck around and got a substantial chorus to chant something unkind about Evan Longoria's mother.
2. Don't use history as ammo if your franchise doesn't have any.
This one's more a helpful hint than anything. It just sounds silly when somebody beats his chest and says, "RESPECT US. RESPECT OUR CLUB AS ONE OF THE FINEST TRADITIONS IN HOCKEY DESPITE THE FACT THAT EVERY PLAYER ON OUR ROSTER IS OLDER THAN THE FRANCHISE."
The other day I saw some Lightning fan waving Tampa's 2004 Stanley Cup around with words. Neat! Boston won Stanley Cup No. 1 (out of five) in its first 12 years as a hockey club, too. That was in 1928.
Might want to try a different approach.
3. Be prepared to get what you give.
Bruins marketing has used The Bear in ad campaigns for a few years now. His ads are lighthearted but pointed. Like this one:
Lightning fans could have responded in several ways.
A. Laughter and promises of a vengeful butt-kicking in Game 3.
B. Anger and promises of vengeful butt-kicking on the ice in Game 3.
C. A similar ad campaign that roasts Boston in a smart, fun way.
D. Indignation and whining.
Tampa chose 'D'. ProHockeyTalk.com It's unfortunate.
Boston's billboards were taken down due to complaints. Ringleader of the Dish-It, Don't-Take-It Crew is Tampa radio show host, Mike "Cowhead" Calta. The part I don't get? For someone supposedly offended by wit and humor, the guy's counter-attack was exponentially worse -- just hateful and disgusting. Beyond the comments NESN documented, Calta also called Bruins fans fgs and pssies via Twitter.
Hub hockey fans are going to respond in kind and it's not going to be pretty. Thing is, by setting such a disgusting and bigoted tone, he has surrendered his right to complain about anything anybody says to him in the future.
Best of luck, you jackhole.
4. If you make a bet you have to own up to it.
Tony Luke Jr. is a perfect example of this tenet.
Luke is a lover of all Philadelphia sports but I don't hate him because he's a stand-up guy. He made a bet with Bruins fan Kosta Diamontopolous during the Stanley Cup semifinals, lost it (like his Flyers lost the series and their pride) and made good on the deal.
Check it out:
An attitude like that gets you respect in this city.
Anybody who touts his or her team gets to gloat like hell after a win. The same people also have to know when they're beaten. Considering there are at least three more games to play in the Eastern Conference finals, I hope the fans figure it out fast.
We'll all have more fun that way.