A Kentucky Pastor’s Guide to Trash-Talk During March Madness

march madness

There’s a reason why they call it March Madness, and it goes beyond things like the Mercer Bears, Dayton’s Cinderella run, overtime, buzzer-beaters, and vacation-days spent binge-watching nineteen year-olds you wish you could be.

The Madness goes beyond that because every year, during March, I actually watch people go mad. The AMA should look into this. In fact, anyone who knows me knows I speak from personal experience: March Madness makes you mad. (Don’t patronize me!!! My depression after John Wall and company lost to West Virginia in 2010 was real… and sad. At least I lost like five pounds.)

I have to be honest (this will make many of you close this blog), I grew up a Kentucky fan. #BBN A rabid Kentucky fan. Still am! But at the age of five, my dad’s job took us from Cynthiana, KY (home of the Harrison County Thoroughbreds) to the Central Piedmont of North Carolina. And when you’re the lone blue-blood in a sea of Tar-Holes and Dook fans, you either put-up or shut-up because everyone worships their hoops teams in that part of the country. March Madness is a state holiday. I remember every year during tourney time TVs were on in the corner of our school classrooms because teachers had their priorities right.

And keeping with the trend of worst places for Cats fans to live, for the past two years, I’ve landed back in the Bluegrass State and am employed by a church in Louisville. A town 50%-blue, 50%-red, 100% passion. And man did I pick an exciting two years to come. This state is even more fanatic about their teams than I remember North Carolina being. And surprisingly, over the past two years I’ve become a big Cards fan, without becoming a lesser Cats fan (which most of you believe is impossible). Sorry Cats fans. It just happens when you live in a town and minister to some of the players, coaches, administrators, and their families.

Anyways, all that to say, in my short-time on earth I’ve experienced some March Madness. And I’ve definitely participated too. Some will see this blog as relevant, most will see it as trivial, curmudgeonly, and taking-things-just-a-little-too-serious, but all who know me will see it as hypocritical. And they’re right. Most of this blog comes from personal failure.

But with the Kentucky vs. Louisville rematch looming, several passionate fan-bases still cheering their teams, (UNC and Duke taking a week off before spring individuals), and two more weeks of great college hoops, here are my Five Rules of Civility for Christians Diagnosed with March Madness… call it A Kentucky Pastor’s Guide to Trash-Talk.

1. Talk your trash wisely.

Hear me out – I’m not saying “No trash-talk allowed!” I’m no prude. I ain’t stealing the fun out of March Madness. I’m just saying there’s a line you shouldn’t cross. And you know where it is. And it probably changes depending on who you’re trash-talking. So be wise.

This goes for all tweets, retweets, likes, statuses, comments, pins, instagrams, e-mails, texts, snapchats, phone-calls, bumper-stickers, t-shirts, and actual real-life conversations.

Just think before you post, please. Social media gives soapboxes to cowards who otherwise wouldn’t have the guts to say half of what they do in public. So when in doubt, don’t post it. …E-mail it to a fellow fan instead.

2. Express your love as love.

You love your team. Yes, I know. Hence the presumptuous tattoo.


Good for you. So do I, minus the tattoo. So express that love as love. Cheer more. Jeer less.

Far too often people go too far and let their love turn into hate. It’s a symptom of March Madness. They allow their love to manifest itself in hate. And we’re not talking about a passing comment, friendly banter, victory chant, or harmless joke. We’re talking pure unadulterated hate.

When your love expresses itself primarily in hate it tarnishes your love. In fact, when love manifests into hate, it’s not love any more. Notice, your motives change. When you start hating in the name of love, your motive isn’t actually to show team spirit. It’s to steal joy from others. It’s to shame and embarrass another group of people over a petty personal disposition.

Now let me ask, in what other arena in life would this be okay?

So make love, not hate this year. Don’t be the one who lets harmless trash-talk slide into hate. For those of you who this will be especially tough for, think of it this way, nothing makes you want to round-house someone more than class. Even if it’s smug self-righteousness disguised as class. When I was an athlete, I was never more vulnerable to throwing down with the other team than when I was going through the hand-shake line after a loss. “Good game. Congratz on a good year. You played so hard! And tried your very best!” Barf. Please let me body-slam you now.

So even if you don’t have it in you to let go of all the hate, yet, at least disguise it. (I can’t believe I just typed that sentence, I’m a preacher. …It must be March Madness.)

3. Remember the people on TV are people.

It’s so easy to forget that the people playing, coaching, and administrating for these teams are actual people. Real-life-human-people-who-you-were-called-to-love-when-Jesus-said-“Love your neighbor”-kind-of-people. I know some of them. And trust me when I say, they read Twitter and Facebook, even if they say they don’t. They have self-esteems. They do care about public-opinion. And in the rare cases they don’t, their families do. Their wives, sons, fathers (and preachers) care.

Somehow television and fame seems to dehumanize people. And quickly it becomes easy to forget these people are people and, instead, cast them as monsters or scrutinize, chide, and demean their every move. It’s not okay. And heaven help you if they ever showed up on the front-row of one of your church-league games to heckle…

4. It doesn’t matter if they started it…

(You know what comes next right?)…You finish it! And the best way to finish it is to not dignify it with a response. Ignore them.

Sorry to dig up one of Granny’s old clichés. But that’s the #1 way people tend to go a little too far in their Madness trash-talk. They respond. Someone else goes a little too far in their trash-talk, so you go a little farther. You can’t just get even, you have to get ahead! And before you know it, you’re breaking all the rules.

So who cares if they deserve it. Who cares if their fan-base is the worst. Who cares if they started it. Ignore it.

5. Keep it all in perspective.

Having been born in Lexington, raised in North Carolina, and now currently residing in Louisville, I know firsthand the joy people get from their teams. So I’m not going to say “It’s just a game.”

It’s important to you. It’s especially important for those directly involved and whose careers depend on their success. I mean, nothing speaks to the significance of this time of year more than the outpouring of emotion you see on the court, after games, and in press-conferences.

I love this quote from the Mercer Coach.


I cried during this press-conference by the North Dakota State Coach. Start at 10:35.

But even if it isn’t “just a game,” it also isn’t life or death. In the grand scheme of things, only the Gospel is life or death.

So this March, by all means, talk a little trash. But keep it clean, show some love, enjoy the show, and do Jesus. He can cure March Madness if you’ll let him. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “A Kentucky Pastor’s Guide to Trash-Talk During March Madness

  1. I love my Louisville Cardinals, but I have never been a trash talker, it is totally uncalled for. Once you say something hurtful, it can never be taken back. Keep God in the middle of all of this and you will be amazed at how you can curtail the trash talk. God Bless all the schools and their athletes during March Madness.

  2. Great post. I am not much of a basketball fan but a very big SEC Georgia Bulldawg football fan. I can relate to all five points! We had a very humbling season last fall and I ate a lot of crow and lost many friendly bets. (Had to wear Clemson orange to church after we lost to Clemson on opening day.) This coming fall I will remember what it is like to be on the losing side, and I will be kinder.

    • The only thing worse than having to wear Clemson Orange to church is… ummmmm… well, that’s pretty bad for a Georgia fan. Perhaps Gator Orange? Or a Yellow Jacket T-shirt? Or an Auburn Jersey? Or heaven forbid, stand in front of the church and sing Rocky Top? The horror. 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement.

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