One rule of thumb about talkin' smack is that almost any line can be countered by simply turning it back on the guy's mother, his sister or his girlfriend. For instance, in the NCAA tournament last season, a DePaul player said to a guy from New Mexico State, "Gonna work you hard today, man." The Aggie's response: "Your mama worked me hard last night." Sec how easy this is?
But you need to have more than some mama lines in your bag if you're going to survive. Bret Bearup, who played forward for Kentucky in the early 1980s, remembers that one of his teammates, center Melvin Turpin, "would try to talk trash back, and he was absolutely horrible at it. The best he could ever do was to mumble, 'Your mama." It became a running joke among the other teams in the SEC. Whenever Turpin said something, the guys on the other team would say, 'Spell it, Turpin." Mel didn't know what to say. so he kept quiet after that. But we couldn't get away with that. Dirk Minniefield [a Kentucky guard of that era] tried saying 'Spell it' once to Mel in practice, and Turpin almost killed him. Got him in a headlock in the tape room."
Then there's the story about J.R. Reid when he was playing at North Carolina. Seems the girlfriend of a player on another ACC team dumped him to start going out with Reid. When the two teams played each other, Reid would dog the guy something fierce. "J.R. drove the poor kid crazy," says the player's coach. "J.R. would tell the kid all about what he and the kid's ex-girlfriend were doing, and the kid couldn't play."
It's not pretty stuff, but, hey, it happens. It's a little less offensive when we start...
Or, "He ain't gain' nowhere. The bakery ain't open yet."
That's a line from the smack-talkin' movie White Men Can't Jump. That film was filled with the yang you hear on the playgrounds, which is a little bit different from what you hear in college games, where there's no time for the elaborate, stream-of-consciousness smack that pickup players are known for. On the asphalt you might call somebody a Mr. Potato Head-lookin', K Mart-sneaker-wearin', stank-breath-smellin', crusty-shorts-wearin' chump, but do it during a college game and chances are that a ref or your coach will hear it, or the other team might fast-break while your lip is flappin'. Either way, you've got trouble, especially now that the NCAA has told refs to call a personal foul when they hear a player woofin'.
But that doesn't mean there isn't some serious ridiculing going on out there. You just have to get your message across quicker. You have to stick and move. Some guys like to call it clownin', and most of it centers on physical attributes. Take the time Travis Butler, a senior at Wyoming last year, grabbed the head of Louisville guard Everick Sullivan during a scramble and said, "Thought it was the ball, man. Couldn't tell the difference."
If you're carrying a few extra pounds, expect to be dogged the way pudgy ex-Michigan guard Antoine Joubert was by Michigan State's Scott Skiles. "Yo, 'Toine," Skiles once said, "we're comin' to Ann Arbor in a couple of weeks. Lose 10."
When Oklahoma State forward Byron Houston elbowed Michigan center Eric Riley during an NCAA tournament game last season. Jalen Rose of the Wolverines, probably the biggest smack talker in the country, told Houston, "I was gonna be nice to you, but now I have to dog your fat behind." Then Rose, a 6'8" guard, eyeballed Houston and said. "I thought you were 6'7", but you're just a little fella. You shouldn't be playin' inside. Why don't you bring your little self out here where you belong?"