The "Unlikely Sporting Poets": Floating Like Butterflies and Stinging Like Bees

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Sports stars sometimes gain an unfair reputation for not being the brightest of sparks. In fact, it’s fair to say that they are seldom discussed in the same breath as any of history’s most famous poets (the likes of William Wordsworth, William Shakespeare, or Ted Hughes). However, if you dig a little deeper, when it comes to using poetry, or poetic words and phrases, to help defeat opponents or inspire themselves or teammates, some sports stars are actually pretty formidable!

Indeed, in a world where psychology is now seen as being a key part of preparation in sports, the use of so-called "trash talking" and using language as a weapon can have a huge impact upon a game, allowing individuals to get a decisive hold over opponents without any physical exertion.

Showing You’re Smug

Showing You’re Smug

It is all very well pouring Gatorade over your coach when you have just won a divisional title, but what can you do when you pull off a win that really leaves your opponents furious and knowing that they were well and truly played?

For an answer to this, we need to look at the World Series of Poker event held in Las Vegas. After bluffing his way to a big win, Will Kassouf, ominously known in the poker circle as The King of Speech Play, turned to the cameras and revealed that he was "nine high like a boss", leaving his opponents utterly furious that they had been bluffed out of a hand that any of his rivals could have beaten him on.

The decision by Kassouf to do this not only made him an instant superstar in the world of poker but also showed that it's not just about winning, but using your language to capitalize upon that win to make it a valid entry for the history books. In fact, 888poker has published an infographic starring top trash-talkers from sports and beyond, including Kassouf but also Connor McGregor, Scottie Pippen and more. In all the examples presented, these unusual, larger-than-life and sometimes outright silly (if they weren't so scary) cases trash-talking paid off as they actively displayed confidence.

Floating and Weaving

While Kassouf and poker can perhaps lay claim to some of the smuggest trash talking around, the original (and perhaps the best ever) poetic trash talker had to be Muhammad Ali. Ali was just 22 when he took on the heavyweight champion of the world, Sonny Liston, in Miami and was derided before the match as being too lightweight for the tie. Instead of trying to claim he could be the bigger hitter (something he knew he couldn't achieve) Ali announced that he would "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee".

This poetic and now famous line proved essentially to be Ali revealing his exact plan to win as he went on to knock out Liston in the 7th round, claiming his first heavyweight title. With many more follow up lines intended to deride opponents and promote brand Ali, it is undeniable that his ability to run his mouth off was a key factor in him becoming the greatest, and staying the greatest.

With sports continuing to become more and more documented, the art of good one liners and trash talking "poetry" is likely to see an increase in the amount of unlikely poets coming from the sporting world. The greats might not appreciate some of the verses they spout, but there’s no denying the wit and ability needed to produce a devastating verbal response.