Smack talk is here to stay

January 9, 2013 

If talk is cheap, then trash talk is going-out-of-business, liquidation-sale cheap.

I don’t like it. In my mind, the hard foul, tackle or slide are better, more physical demonstrations of dominance than anything that comes out of someone’s mouth.

But I’m old-fashioned. I don’t like the designated hitter or a Division I college football playoff either. Times change.

Players these days woof it up pretty good. And not just during games. They do it daily on social media leading up to contests. A comment here, a tweet there. Emotions stir. Juices flow. Anticipation builds.

That’s pretty much what happened Friday when rivals Houston County and Northside met in a Region 2-AAAAA basketball game. The end result was an unfortunate player ejection and the disruption of what had the makings of a classic high school basketball game.

Just moments into pre-game warmups, Davon Akins of Houston County and Khalil Williams of Northside exchanged what they thought was good-natured banter about the impending contest. The two had been classmates before Akins transferred, and they remain good friends, according to the head coaches of both teams.

Of course, the game officials didn’t know that. One of them warned the two to stop the jawing. When they didn’t, he issued a double technical.

On the surface, it wasn’t a big deal. Neither team shot free throws. But the ruling did initiate the “seatbelt” rule, confining each head coach to his chair. For Ken Price of Northside and Stephen Walls of Houston County, that’s tough punishment.

But they managed, and the game began in fine fashion. Houston County scored seven straight points to open. The Eagles answered with eight of their own. The pace was frenetic, but the play was good.

With just under two minutes left in the first quarter, Akins hit a baseline jumper while drawing a foul. But he never went to the line to complete the three-point play.

After scoring the basket, Akins applauded his shot and cast a glance at the Northside bench in Williams’ direction. A second official -- not the one who assigned the original technicals -- considered Akins’ action taunting and blew another technical. Because he already had one, Akins -- Houston County’s leading scorer -- was ejected. By GHSA rule, he missed the Bears’ region game with Jones County on Saturday, as well.

With Akins’ departure, the joy with which both teams had been playing evaporated. The game took on a harder edge. By the time the game ended, three additional technical fouls had been issued for similar infractions.

I don’t blame the refs. In a pressure-cooker environment like that, you’re one stray elbow away from a melee. They were trying to maintain order, which is their core responsibility. But in the process, their decisions sucked some of the positive energy out of the gym.

Nor do I blame the kids. These days, players talk smack the way baseball players used to chew tobacco. It’s so engrained in the culture it has even found its way into video games. Like it or not, for today’s athletes, trash talk is just part of the fun.

Contact Chris Deighan at cdeighan@cox.net.

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