New York Giant field goal specialist Josh Brown revealed recently what goes on as he sets up for the kick, highlighting the game within the game that, regrettably, most fans miss.

“There are always guys across the line who know you and they start
talking about your ex-girlfriend, your ex-wife, your current wife, your kids –
Just about anything they can think of to get you out of that moment.  You’re
out there waiting to set up, and the whole time somebody is talking to you,
Somebody is yelling at you or insulting you or trying to get you to laugh.”

The fact is that in most professional sports those competing against each other are also communicating, often in ways similar to what Brown describes.  But most all of this verbal jousting is not heard, except by the players.  And that’s a pity.  What fan wouldn’t want to be let in on this talk show?

Fans are catered to in all sorts of ways in recent years.  New stadiums have popped up across the United States.  Repeated replays of game action available on huge screens above the field of play and on home screens have enabled them to dissect every move and to savor memorable moments.  There are live broadcasts in abundance, to the point that any contest of significance is covered one way or another.  In addition, there’s increased emphases on getting “up close and personal.”  Analysts in the broadcasting booth attempt to provide expert insight into what’s happening while reporters on or near the field bring viewers into pregame locker room rituals and pep talks, roam along the sidelines and question celebrities who happen to be part of the crowd.  Moreover, there have been some efforts to present “real” exhcanges among players and coaches.  While “authentic”, they fall far short of delivering much of substance or interest.  Questioning coaches as they’re leaving the field at half time yields little more than boilerplate.  “Miking” a player for a time adds a bit more spice and “reality”, but fails to capture any of the game talk that fans would find riveting.

The possibilities are downright mind boggling.  Transmitting “trash talk” would be a “must” (and should include what fans in the stands are saying to players as well).  Players especially in basketball and football are ever taunting their opponents, attempting to distract, anger or goad them into retaliating and being penalized.  Baseball catchers are well known for their propensity to engage batters in conversation.  Some of it is doubtless friendly chatter, but on other occasions it’s a deliberate effort to make batters lose concentration.

Which reminds us that baseball proceeds at a leisurely pace; there’s plenty of time and opportunity for opposing team members to converse.  And they do.  After a player hits the ball safely, and whatever base he reaches, he will likely begin talking to the opposing player nearby.  What are they chatting about – food, family, finances?  Who knows?  What are players in the dugout saying to each other, or the hitting coach to the batter due up at the plate?  More significantly, what’s the conversation about on the mound when infielders and the manager are discussing the next move?  And in the most classic of “chit-chats”, what heated words are managers and umpires exchanging as they angrily jaw, almost mouth to mouth, in what is perhaps the most dramatic of duels in all of sports.

Want to hear what’s going on in a football huddle, or along the sideline as the coach plots out the next pick and roll to the basket, or along third base where the coach is preparing the runner for a suicide squeeze play.  Well, you’ll hear none of this.  Professional sports have declared all this to be out of bounds, off limits.  Fans are not entitled to eavesdrop.

An argument can be made that doing so would change the game, interfere with the way it’s been played.  But  all of them have changed over the years.  And remember, sports are all about entertainment.  So why not make it more enjoyable and  bring fans closer to the action.

Let’s talk about it.

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