Passan: Take Out the Trash

This week, the NFL is expected to crack down on player misconduct on and off the field. When did trash-talking get so prevalent, and so serious, that it can't even confine itself to the field of play? Here's Rich's latest Rant...

It was bound to happen. 

When Miami Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter's right cross crashed above the left eye of Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Levi Jones in the Palms Casino in Las Vegas last week, they took trash talking off the playing field and dropped it into society's lap. 

A videotape of the incident revealed that Porter approached Jones at a blackjack table – and how did that happen given their apparent dislike for one another? – when the incident caught fire. 

It was more than obvious their twice-a-year war on the field, when he was a Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker and faced Jones twice a year for the last five years, was not just professional in nature. It spilled over into the personal arena. 

The good folks at the Palms asked Jones, who lives in Las Vegas, and Porter, one of professional football's most prolific trash talkers, to leave and escorted them to the valet parking area outside the casino. 

What started out as an off-the-field extension of a feud during the National Football League season wound up in violent fashion for the entire sports world to read about. 

No helmets. No shoulder pads. No cut blocks. No holding. Nothing closely resembling football.  

Just two big guys – Porter is 6-3, 250 pounds and Jones stands 6-5 and weighs 307 – left to their own devices. Jones reportedly needed medical attention for a laceration above the eye after the altercation. Porter was cited for misdemeanor battery. 

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the NFL's personal conduct policy. It's obvious these guys don't realize they represent the NFL wherever they go and whatever they do in their personal lives.  

The latest brouhaha stemmed from words. Just words. Mean-spirited words. Words designed to elicit a reaction, an emotion.  

And testosterone. Plenty of testosterone. 

It feeds and fuels the male ego. Make a terrific play on the field, then belittle the person who was supposed to stop you. Yeah, that really helps. 

Like if you kept our mouth shut and did it all over again, that wouldn't be just as effective? Silent self motivation doesn't work? 

And all along, most fans probably thought players left their emotions on the field. Off the field, they all rowed in the same boat. They belonged to the same fraternity, albeit with different chapters. 

Before we move on, a confession. I don't like trash talking. Or smack. Or whatever you want to call it. Never did. Never will. It serves no purpose. 

To the best of my knowledge, we don't engage in trash talking in the work place. How often do you go to work and talk smack with your co-corkers? Or your boss? The guess here is crap like that is not tolerated. 

One has to really scratch to find out when and why talking trash was born. Some suggest its roots date back to professional wrestling when it became more entertainment than sport.  

Whatever happened to the days when they played the game and let actions spoke louder than words? Whatever happened to the days when what you did on the field was good enough to get inside our opponent's head? 

Why is it necessary to use words to crawl into someone's head? Isn't being better good enough to intimidate someone? We're not talking laws of the jungle here. 

Whatever happened to the old childhood defense mechanism "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? 

In the last year, the NFL cracked down on taunting, assessing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for such behavior. Maybe it's time to crack down even harder on the trash talking. 

Aw, they're taking all the fun out of football, some fans will cry. You're being a stick in the mud. Lighten up. Boys will be boys. What's wrong with having a little fun?  

Nothing as long as it doesn't get personal. But isn't that what talking trash is all about? 

The Porter-Jones incident a blip on the screen? A spit in the ocean? Just an aberration? Or a portent of more to come? 

Browns fans remember all too well an incident in November 2004 when Porter and Browns running back William Green were ejected for fighting BEFORE the game at Cleveland Browns Stadium. It was an outgrowth of trash talking as the two teams warmed up for their game. 

The danger signs are there. They shouldn't be ignored. It's always better to catch something before it gets worse rather than waiting and being too late. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his Lords of Discipline have looked seriously into this disturbing pattern of misbehavior and are on the precipice of putting out a small fire before it becomes a blaze, before someone is seriously hurt. 

Obviously convinced his league now has an image problem, Goodell is expected to unveil a new personal conduct policy in the next day or two. Word is it will be a lot tougher given the alarming number of off-the-field incidents involving NFL players in the least year. And it will carry the endorsement of the NFL Players Association. 

Hopefully, the trash is about to be taken out. Too bad it took so long.  

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