When Trash Talk Backfires

We don’t have a problem with football players guaranteeing victory or besmirching an opponent. But when that blows up, it’s our duty as citizens of SportsNation (cough, cough!) to call them on it.

Tiki Barber
After leaving the NFL for a career of light banter on the Today show, Barber zinged Giants coach Tom Coughlin in his book, saying he “robbed me of…the joy I felt playing football.” After an affirming hug from Ann Curry, Tiki set his sights on Eli Manning, calling his leadership skills “laughable.” Yet, somehow he professes to be “happy” and “elated” that the Jints pulled off the greatest upset in Super Bowl history without him. We’d ask Tiki how he likes those apples, but he already cored them for a lovely cobbler segment with Rachael Ray.
Ranking on karmic retribution scale: 9.98 out of 10

Matt Hasselbeck
Upon winning the overtime coin toss on the not-so-frozen non-tundra of Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, Hasselbeck enthusiastically intoned, “We want the ball, and we’re going to score!” A drive later, Hasselbeck hit Al Harris right in the numbers—which would’ve been great if Harris played for the Seahawks. As a final insult, Hasselbeck face-planted while trying in vain to halt Harris’ sprint toward the end zone. Hasselbeck’s too nice a guy to have his photo inserted in the dictionary next to the word “comeuppance,” but it sure seems appropriate.
Ranking on karmic retribution scale: 9.25 out of 10

Freddie Mitchell
Before Super Bowl XXXIX, the Eagles WR—who alternately referred to himself as “the People’s Champ,” “FredEx,” and “First-Down Freddie”—mocked Rodney Harrison and stated that he couldn’t remember the other members of the New England secondary. The Pats won, with Mitchell’s single reception for 11 yards becoming his last NFL catch. After the game, even the terminally unquotable Bill Belichick piled on, calling Mitchell “terrible… We loved when he was in the game.”
Ranking on karmic retribution scale: 8.5 out of 10

Anthony Smith
When Smith boasted last December that, “We’re going to [beat the Patriots]. Yeah, I can guarantee a win,” we were confused. We thought Anthony Smith was a running back with the Pats. Turns out we’d confused the Steelers’ safety with Antowain Smith. Toe-MAY-toe, ta-MAH-toe. Anyway, New England targeted him all game. Most confidence-shattering was a flea-flicker in which Smith lagged some 20 yards behind a wide-open Jabar Gaffney. The moral of the story? It’s usually not wise to mess with the Pats.
Ranking on karmic retribution scale: 8 out of 10

Jerramy Stevens
Stevens, a tight end who manages to come across dumber than Jeremy Shockey, made a prediction in the days prior to Super Bowl XL about the smiley and huggable Jerome Bettis: “The story of Jerome Bettis returning to his hometown is heartwarming, but it’s going to be a sad day when he doesn’t walk away with that trophy.” Erp. Stevens caught a TD, but dropped three other passes in the Seahawks’ 21–10 loss to the Steelers.
Ranking on karmic retribution scale: 6.5 out of 10

Mike Vanderjagt
Right before playing the Pats—the Colts’ playoff tormentors before 2007—Indy kicker Vanderjagt couldn’t resist poking the sleeping tiger with a stick: “I think they’re ripe for the picking.” You know how this ends. Surprisingly, the final word on Vander-jagoff came from his quarterback at the time, Peyton Manning. Renowned for charismatic pronouncements like, “We gave it our all out there today,” Manning responded by describing him as an “idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off… He’s a good kicker, but he’s an idiot.”
Ranking on karmic retribution scale:
6 out of 10

Joey Porter
You know how they sometimes give honorary Oscars to actors who never snared one over the years? Porter deserves similar recognition for his unrelenting trash talk, which he usually backed up with ball-jarring blitzes. Alas, Porter forgot the cardinal rule of NFL yapping: Players on eventual 1–15 teams oughta keep quiet. In 2007, he guaranteed that his winless Dolphins would beat the Raiders; they lost by 18, and Oakland gashed the Porter-led defense for 299 rushing yards. And so another legendary mouth is silenced.
Ranking on karmic retribution scale: 5.5 out of 10

Chad Johnson
We love Chad Johnson, if only because he’s the only yippy NFL receiver who actually seems to like playing football.  We’re even fans of  Johnson’s Web site, which allows visitors to send customizable, audio-enabled trash talk e-mails. But here’s the thing: The Chad-era Bengals have made the playoffs once during his tenure, pooping out at home as the AFC’s third seed. That gives him a lifetime achievement award for lack of follow-up, no matter how many eight-catch, 162-yard games he notches.
Ranking on karmic retribution scale: 5 out of 10