Behind the lines…. Trash talking (it’s not a Bee Gees song)

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    The Lady Chiefs were on a roll, they had visiting Rocky Mountain down 17-2 in the first three minutes of the game on the big floor in the “House that Al Built” (aka Alfred P. Redman Gym)

    The bewildered Lady Grizzlies coach was at wit’s end, nothing he tried worked, it was just a layup drill for Wyoming Indian head coach Aleta Moss’ girls, with the home side of the scoreboard resembling a runaway pinball machine.


    The coach harangued, begged, argued, and was reduced to theatrics trying to get the officials to call something, anything, that would help his girls.

    On an inbound play in front of his bench, former Riverton official Eric Heiser turned to him and said, “Coach, take a seat and relax. I couldn’t call enough to keep this game close.”

    The Rocky coach eventually calmed down, accepted his fate and the Lady Chiefs rolled in a running clock win via the Mercy Rule with over a 40-point lead.

    Trash talking? Not in the exact meaning of the word, no, more of an exchange between coach and official that has become part of the sport. Usually, both sides take it in stride as part of the game with some overzealous coaches crossing the line and getting benched with a technical foul, but it’s all part of the action.


    Veteran official Brandon (BJ) Kidgell, one of the big dogs of the 307 Officials Association has a statement that often gets whining coaches to reevaluate their comments.

    I’ve heard BJ say this many times, and the guys that work with him use the phrase as well.

    When a coach argues an obvious call, claiming it didn’t happen that way, BJ says clearly to them as he runs by, “Don’t lie to me, you know it happened.”


    That usually ends some of the arguments.

    A coach and official will chip at each other sometimes, with most of it going from coach to official, but it pales in comparison to the trash-talking taking place between players.

    A memorable exchange came a long time ago when Shannon Wells was playing nose-guard for the 1985 state champion football team from Shoshoni.


    Shannon was unstoppable and a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. The “Magician,” the late Myron Chavez, arguably the best basketball player to ever come out of Wyoming was playing quarterback for Wyoming Indian head coach Fred Groenke.

    Shannon had a habit of kneeling on backs he had just drilled as he got up, sometimes “accidentally” stepping on them in the process.

    As he hammered Myron he said, “Ain’t basketball Chavez.”

    Jump ahead three months and we’re playing the Chiefs in Shoshoni. Myron was having his usual out-of-this-world game with steals, wild acrobatic layups, and easy jump shots. On a fast break, he took the ball right at Shannon, wrapped the ball around himself in mid-arm, did a double-pump, and hit a reverse layup.

    As he turned around he ran by Shannon and said, “Ain’t football Wells.” The score was even.

    It’s not allways an eloquent athletic ballet as basketball is sometimes described.

    As a baseline photographer, I’m often privy to comments the kids make to each other while trying to get a little advantage through intimidation. Some of these are so good I write them down.

    My friend Steve commented to me once about how he loved to watch Easton Paxton and the Fullerton brothers, Brandon and Brady, play basketball because they never trash-talked their opponents.

    I laughed out loud.

    I’d known all three boys since they were babies and their trash-talking skills were equally as impressive as their prodigious athletic talent.

    They worked in negative comments like some artists work in clay or oils. Masters of the jump shot, the 3-pointer, and the driving layup, they could deliver sarcasm in equal dosages.

    These comments were always directed towards other players, they often disagreed with an official’s call, but aside from an expression or a raised eyebrow they rarely if ever commented to the guys in stripes.

    But the comments they made to other kids were often heard by officials. A few of the officials made comments to me after hearing what the boys had said. It often went like this, “Did you hear Fullerton?”

    I would reply, “Yep, great wasn’t it? I just wrote it down.”

    It was all in fun and all part of the game.

    One night I was covering the Riverton Lady Wolverines and the late Ron Porter was in rare form. Ron often had a running dialogue with officials for the full 32 minutes of a game.

    One night he was at the top of his game, working one guy on a three-man crew mercilessly. He was rarely hit with a technical foul, and that night he was unloading gem after gem to this poor official.

    Ron knew what he was doing because after one comment, he started laughing at what he had said. He reached up to adjust his glasses and hid his laughter briefly with his hand then turned around and made eye contact with me.

    I was sitting on press row, taking notes on the lower bench, the one in front of the radio broadcast area. “Hey, Tucker, did you hear that one?” Ron said.

    “Yeah,” I yelled back. “It was classic.”

    “Write it down, and give it to me after the game,” Ron said. “I’ll use that one again.”
    As I interviewed him post-game, he asked me for the note and I tore off a page from my notebook for him with it written on it.

    The best exchanges are spontaneous ones, and the best comments just happen without planning.

    Riverside senior Beckett Hinckley was an incredible athlete and had just signed to play football at Stanford earlier in the day when we arrived to play the Rebels in the old Quonset hut gym in Basin.

    As Troy Stone stepped into the center circle for the jump with Beckett he reached up and made a twisting motion on his neck.

    At the quarter break, I asked Troy why he did that.

    “I told Beckett his head was so inflated he should have a valve put in his neck to relieve the pressure,” Troy said.

    A perfect comment for the occasion and we beat the talented Rebels on their home floor that night.

    Communication, negative and positive are all part of the game, a fun part if you keep it within limits.


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