Philadelphia. January 25, 2001. Representatives for ESPN held a press conference today to respond to criticism of the all-sports network's new show, "Trash-Talk Time". The show, which aired its first regular, half-hour segment on January 6th, was started after a one-hour piece on the network's "Year in Review" show that aired several times before the new year. It is a highlight-based show that focuses on the new "art" of "trash-talking" that's taken on a life of its own in modern sports.
"That hour we ran during the 'Year in Review' was one of the most popular pieces we had," Ira "Hoops" Lowenstein told a corps of gathered reporters Thursday morning. "We received all kinds of positive feedback from viewers. The network had been considering a weekly show for some time, but we weren't sure there was really a market out there," the spokesman for ESPN explained. "We already show replayes of trash-talking, flagrant fouls, and technicals in our regular Sportscenter coverage, so there was a question about need. But, after the success of the 'Year in Review' show, the decision was simple. Our viewers loved the show, and they loved Bryant," Lowenstein said, pointing to the man standing next to him.
"Yeah bitch," Bryant "The Mouth" Limpkin barked at reporters, pronouncing the word "bee-otch". "The show is da bomb, and that's for real, know what I'm sayin'. Folks be disrespecting us and say we negative and all that, but they just dissin' cause they missin', know what I'm sayin'?" Several reporters looked at each other, obviously not knowing what Limpkin was saying.
"Yes," Lowenstein said, looking confused for a moment himself. "Mr. Limpkin here was given hosting duties of the show, and we're behind him and the show one-hundred percent. We feel there's an obvious fan-base out there and that the criticism we've encountered is unfair and unfounded."
"They can't fade me. They can't fade me," Limpkin said, nodding vigorously and thumping his chest with one hand.
"Right," Lowenstein continued, "We will not be deterred by the negativity."
But criticism has come from many different sources. The NAACP released a statement that the show "...reinforces negative stereotypes about the black athlete."
Numerous smaller groups have raised concerns similar to the Chicago Sportsmanship Council, which argued that the show "...highlights and rewards behavior that should be discouraged in today's youth."
"It sets a poor example for our children," said Jerry Falwell, adding, "why don't they show replays of the athletes who pray in the end-zone after a homerun instead of the ones who taunt and curse?"
When asked his opinion on such comments, Limpkin responded, "You can't fade me. This is my house, dog!"
Confronted with the issue of children mimicking the poor sportsmanship they see on TV and the network having a responsibility to foster positive behavior, Limpkin answered, "Yo, you best step up or step off, but don't come with that weak ass shit! You can't hold my jockstrap, dog, know what I'm sayin?"
Mr. Lowenstein was asked about the NAACP's charge that the show portrayed black athletes in a negative light, but Limpkin fielded the question instead. "I told you not to come with that shit, dog. White-boys is talking trash, too, know what I'm sayin'? So all those that's cryin', they just denyin', know what I'm sayin'?" He went on to add, "The NBA and the NFL, they full of brothers, so yeah, we gonna show the brothers talkin' shit, but that ain't it. You see Bill Romanowski trash-talkin', too! We show all practitioners of the art, know what I'm sayin'?"
So far, none of the major sports leagues have commented on the show, and the few athletes to weigh in are split on the issue. "I definitely don't think it's the side of sports they need to be emphasizing," Duke basketball coach Mike Kryzchevsky said of the show.
"Behavior like that is an unfortunate part of the sports world," was all Tiger Woods would say, choosing not to comment specifically about the ESPN show.
But Shannon Sharp of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens and Gary Payton of the NBA's Seattle Supersonics have both come out in support of the show. "That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!" Sharp said when asked about the show during a pre-Superbowl press conference. Sharp is widely regarded as the best (or worst, depending on your view) trash-talker in the NFL.
Payton is one of the NBA's top point guards and trash-talkers as well. "Now maybe I'll get the press I deserve," he told a reporter last week. "I'm sick of seeing all these fake-ass wannabes on Sportscenter and what not. Don't they know this is Gary Payton over here? Damn!"
Asked if ESPN was worried about the pressure from groups angered by the show leading to sponsor boycotts, Lowenstein responded, "We're hopeful it won't come to that. We offer a broad range of shows for the sports fan, and this is just another piece of the puzzle. We are open to discussing the matter with concerned parties and would not be against airing public service announcements during commercial breaks." Pressed for further details of such messages, Lowenstein admitted none were in production yet, "...but we have discussed them with Reverend Jesse Jackson and Joe Montana." He added that the pre-taped pieces would be "...something that says, 'hey, being a nice guy is okay, too'."
"Yeah right," Limpkin scoffed, "maybe if you're a punk-ass bitch!"