Over the past decade civil discourse has degenerated in all forms of public life and most notably in sport. Gone are days of friendly handshakes and congratulations for a move, play or race well done. Today we are accustom to seeing 300 pound behemoths on the football field butting their chests against one another while screaming epitaphs face to face. The jumping and gesturing over a fallen or vanquished opponent assaults our sensibilities.
This behavior has nefariously migrated from the pampered pro ranks to the collegiate and high school levels and to local Pee Wee, Little League or soccer fields near you. It has also arrived at the door of the last bastion of domestic civility and harmony to disturb martial bliss. You may say, “No way”. But it’s true and it is not over doing the dishes or vacuuming the house. Trash Talking has reared its ugly head with sporting couples as partners become more competitive and especially as women out pace their husbands.
I first heard of Trash Talking between a married couple a year ago from a fellow TUNA member. This couple, who will remain anonymous, were both competing in the Snowbird Hill Climb bike race. Before the race I saw him and asked if he was going to do the race and how he thought he might do. He replied that he thought he would do pretty well but that the Trash Talking at his house had been pretty bad that week. I, at this point didn’t know what Trash Talking was in this sense, so I asked him what he meant. He replied, “My wife has been telling me all week that she is going to kick my butt”. “Oh”, I replied. After the race I asked him how he did. He said with a chagrined look on his face, “Pretty well, but she kicked my butt”. Ouch.
Now readers of previous columns know that my wife is the hyper-competitive type. However, we have managed to maintain civil discourse between us about matters of sport. This has probably been assisted by the fact that there is generally no question about who is going to finish first. This faÃ§ade of civility was recently shattered with the introduction of Trash Talking into our martial discourse.
In early August, several weeks before the most recent TUNA duatholon, a run and bike event held at Soldier Hollow, my wife and I were discussing the upcoming race. Although we had both done the race individually in the past, we independently decided that this year was the year to do the race on a team. As we discussed this, I proposed that we do it together as a mixed team. There was a pause in the conversation. Dead silence. After a long moment, my wife replied, ” I want to win and you are too slow”. “Oh”, I replied. She said, “I am going to get a women’s team together and find a fast biker”. Ouch. She recruited Anita Merbach, a former pro mountain bike racer.
Stranded without a team and without a partner at this point I thought about doing the race solo but this sounded painful. I went for a run with John Aalberg over the weekend and whined about being deserted by my wife for another woman. He said that he was looking for a teammate and that he was willing to do the run. I, all of a sudden, had a very fast runner on my team. When I brought this news home to my wife and told her whom I had found as a runner, there was a pause in the conversation. Dead silence. I could almost see her calculating the times in her head. She replied, ” John is fast, really fast, but you are still too slow”. Ouch. She went on to exclaim that it was unlikely that we would beat her team”. “Oh”, I replied.
Friends learned of this situation and as race day approached the pressure grew. I began wishing that I had been out on my bike more than a half dozen times this year. My wife’s teammate was spotted out doing intervals on her bike and spent hours tuning it up. I blew the dust off my bike seat.
Warming up for the race I received a lot of encouragement but felt pretty nervous. The runners sprinted off and John took his place at the front. As he came around the second lap he had a substantial lead on the rest of the field including my wife. I needed all the lead he could muster. Taking the tag from the fastest runner is great but also has a large down side. It also means that there are a lot of people who are going to pass you especially if you are a mediocre biker.
I pedaled out hard and seemed to be doing OK. There were a number of hot bikers passing me but I felt like I was holding my own. This continued through the second lap. I was struggling up the hills on the third lap and was figuratively looking over my shoulder as sweat pored down my face. As I came round the start to begin my last lap my wife told me that I had a more than a two-minute lead on Anita. I suddenly felt like there was hope and this added renewed vigor to my dead legs. About three minutes later Anita stormed past me. Either I was really slowing down or I had been deceived. Maybe I was just too slow. That realization sunk in as I rode in making my way to the finish.
My wife and Anita were gracious in their win even through they kicked my butt in spite of John’s blistering run. As we talked about the race afterwards, the subject of next year came up and a challenge was issued for a rematch next year. On the upside, it will give me another whole year to get in shape. I have vowed to spend more time on my bike next year. On the downside, I have a full year of Trash Talking to look forward to. This could be much harder to endure than the training.