OXNARD, Calif. — If clutching pearls was an Olympic sport, there are a lot of people who'd have a gold medal in their possession after watching one of the basic tenets of competitive sports play out in Dallas Cowboys training camp this week.
Trash talking is, in and of itself, a rite of passage in football (and every sport, really), but a snapshot of an exchange between Trevon Diggs and Dak Prescott has gone viral in early August for content creators who lack more attractive content to create.
It's a … shady … business at times, leaving many wondering who's the real McCoy?
What's being left out of the discussion, and willfully, to avoid interference with clicks, views and social media engagement, is the fact Diggs and Prescott are like brothers (just ask Aaiden Diggs) and, as such, have those types of exchanges in literally every practice before going on to hang out once they get back into street clothes.
And, quiet as it's kept, Prescott is most often the one baiting Diggs and the entire defense into his web — for those who'd presume the franchise quarterback is some sort of Care Bear.
"I start a lot of it — in the locker room pre-practice," said Prescott with a sly grin. "That's a form of my leadership. I open the door and make people feel comfortable to talk trash to me, and that's why I start it. I'm encouraging these guys because I know some of these guys need that to play their best."
I can confirm this, and while I will not be sharing here the things I've heard Prescott fire off at his defensive counterparts that can, at times, provoke a response in kind, just know it's never a Care Bear stare.
There's a method to it all for the two-time Pro Bowler.
In other words, to quote the great Denzel Washington, this is chess.
It ain't checkers.
"It goes back to [me wanting] to know my guys and who they are, and not just their jersey number," he added. "I understand that some guys you've gotta talk trash to in order to get them to play their best, and I want their best at practice. That's why I spark it a lot of the time.
But but but … no one talks to the QB that way? Right?! - You, probably
Well, if the quarterback is thin-skinned and can't take what he dishes out, then probably not.
"People aren't going to paint me into a box just because of my position," Prescott said. "I am who I am and I'm gonna stand on that."
The reality is trash talking is the spice of life when it comes to sports and it doesn't simply exist exclusively in the setting of fandom vs. fandom or fandom vs. opposing player(s). It's ingrained into the very nature and DNA of competition and, more often than not, it does actually bring the highest level of play out of everyone involved.
As long as there is the underlying mutual respect and love that allows it to all reset afterwards, what exactly is the problem?
Spoiler: There isn't one.
So let go of those pearls before you sprain your pinky.
Whether you're playing football, baseball, basketball, running track, firing up a rousing game of Uno or trying to mentally unravel a family member or close friend in spades, dominoes or … hell… playing Madden or Call of Duty or betting money on Frogger, etc., etc.; there's going to be plenty of back-and-forth and the type of verbal assault will always be relative to who's involved.
I've never had anyone use that language against me and I've never used it before, either! - You, again probably
Congratulations. Want a cookie?
They are over by the door. Grab one on your way out of this industry.
"Stay out of [our] business," said Trevon Diggs of the matter. "Stay out of it. People don't need to worry about what we've got going on — our relationship, my relationship with my brother, or how we operate. At the end of the day, it's our team and Dak is the leader of our team. We're going to have a great year and I have the utmost respect for Dak.
"Whatever narrative people wanna run with, that just is what it is, but we know how we are and it's nothing. That stuff can never come in-between us. We don't even talk about it."
That's because once practice is done, the reset button kicks in and all is well again.
Sibling rivalries are another example of this.
You and your brother/sister could be at each other's throats at any given moment, but if a stranger walked up and threatened either one of you at that exact moment, you'd instantly forget whatever trash you were talking to each other and form like Voltron to end the threat.
When the Cowboys take the field in 2023, that's precisely what's going to occur.
"I feel really bad for the people who haven't competed, or are hurt by the words, or do take things the wrong way," Prescott said. " … I might talk the most. I bring it on, honestly, when it comes to that. I start it, usually, in the locker room before practice.
"So when it's thrown back at me at practice, I expect it."
Diggs, who has been vocal in every practice since his pre-Alabama days, agrees wholeheartedly.
"I feel like it makes practice fun, just coming out here and competing," said the First-Team All-Pro. "At the end of the day, that's my brother. I love Dak to death. There's nothing behind it, it's just competitiveness.
"It's football. It's just how we play. It's just practice. That's just what we do. We just talk trash here and there and keep it pushing."
When asked about it directly, head coach Mike McCarthy nearly scoffed before replying.
"Trash talking is a part of our environment. I don't referee that. It's not like it's something new, for as long as I've been in this league. It's a part of [football] culture."
That's true, because I've yet to see a football practice turn into a rendition of "Kumbaya, My Lord" midway through, though it seems that's what the world is suddenly demanding: for an elite defense full of alpha personalities to back down when an offense full of alpha personalities (and an alpha QB) challenge them, or vice versa.
Nope, because while tempers flare, bonds aren't breaking.
I mean, seriously, the number of times I have rolled my eyes since this "incident" occurred has nearly required treatment from my local optometrist.
"It's honestly one of those things where you realize not a lot of people have competed in heated competitions — whether it's with their family, brother, friend or teammate," said Prescott.
If there were no chippiness, the narrative would be that the Cowboys aren't up to the task of competing and will simply roll over when challenged. But when chippiness is displayed, the narrative is there's no respect for each other in the locker room and the team will implode.
Pick a struggle, folks.
For my part, my family and I trash talk each other into oblivion over card games or when we can get out to the nearest field or court to prove who's superior athletically, or on video game consoles, or any time we're competing because, trust me on this, things typically get heated and the things we say to each other wouldn't be allowed in church on Sunday.
To be frank, some of it will likely be replayed on heaven's version of the Summerjam screen by the Archangel Gabriel when I leave this world.
To an outsider, it might appear as disrespect but, in reality, it's a love language of sorts.
And therein lies the truth of it all: the ones who are offended are … outsiders … pretending to be insiders and/or twisting the content being provided by the insiders to avoid looking like an outsider.
Peek-a-boo, I see you.
The bottom line is this: If you've never competed at anything and/or if you're not from a background/upbringing wherein you're challenged in such ways, just admit you don't understand it, skip the judgment and move along.
If you do empathize with it, and yet you pretend you can't at all for the sake of growing your social media following, you're really just a part of the bigger problem of clickbaiters and engagement captives that can't figure out how to exist and bring credible value to the world of sports coverage without offering up your soul for a like and a retwe- ….er … um… repost.
But for everyone else, including Prescott, Diggs and a Cowboys team that has one of the best rosters in the NFL and one of the most unbreakable locker room bonds in all of sports?
Man, it's just another day in the neighborhood.
"The trash talking [is my favorite], just being honest with you," Prescott said with a smile. "I enjoy it. I really do."
Ever seen a knife sharpened by a pillow?
I didn't think so.
So stop pretending you have.