10 Times Poking the Bear Went Wrong in Sports
Poke a bear while he is sleeping and it will chase you down and destroy you.
Poke LeBron James on the basketball court, and he'll do the exact same thing.
Lance Stephenson learned that the hard way in this year's Eastern Conference Finals, attempting to get under LeBron's skin and instead inspiring him to turn in an utterly dominant performance.
Whether or not Stephenson's remarks provided extra motivation for LeBron and the Heat, it certainly didn't help, and the Eastern Conference Finals ended the same way they do every single year—Heat go on, Pacers go home.
Sometimes, trash talk can be great. It builds up your own confidence. It gets you revved up for competition. It gets under your opponent's skin and throws it off its game.
Sometimes, however, trash talk goes terribly wrong.
Indeed, saying the wrong thing—poking that bear just a little too hard—can backfire. This is a list of those times—the times that trash-talking has inspired opponents to rise to a new level of dominance that would have otherwise never been possible.
Needless to say, if you do end up waking a sleeping bear, you'd better run for your life.
Joe Glenn vs. Utah
You've gotta love a coach with confidence.
Joe Glenn's players at the University of Wyoming were no doubt inspired before playing Utah in 2007 after Glenn publicly guaranteed a victory in the game. It was the ultimate vote of confidence. A surefire way to get his boys fired up and instill a belief that the game was theirs to lose.
Unfortunately, this guarantee didn't sit too well with the opposing Utes, who used it as a little extra motivation for the matchup.
And, well, Wyoming didn't win.
Or score any points.
Or keep Utah under 50.
On this sad day in Wyoming sports history, Joe Glenn's guarantee was not just proved wrong, it was ripped up, stomped all over and spit right back in his face in a laughable 50-0 rout.
Utah vs. Boise State
After being on the happier end of that embarrassing 50-0 game against Wyoming, you'd think Utah would be the last team to make the exact same mistake, right?
Three years after making a mockery of Coach Glenn's guarantee, Utah put itself in the exact same position when defensive end Christian Cox made a public announcement about the Utes' upcoming matchup with the favored Boise State Broncos in the 2010 Maaco Bowl, via Joey McCullough of The Arbiter.
"I promise a victory against Boise State in Las Vegas," he said. "You better be there."
Whether it was extra motivation from Cox's statement or simply superior football talent, the Broncos responded to this guarantee by soundly destroying the Utes in the game, keeping them from the end zone and strolling along to a 26-3 victory.
Freddie Mitchell vs. New England Patriots
Freddie Mitchell apparently missed the memo that it's not always the brightest idea to give Tom Brady and the New England Patriots any more motivation than they already have.
Mitchell, an extremely average wide receiver throughout his career, decided to play tough guy in the days leading up to the Philadelphia Eagles' matchup with New England in Super Bowl XXXIX.
Prior to the game, he announced the he didn't even know the names of the Patriots secondary.
Not important enough. Not good enough. Not worth the time of day for the great Freddie Mitchell.
Unfortunately, it didn't really matter whether the Patriots secondary had any names at all. Mitchell caught one pass—less than five of his teammates—and the Patriots won 24-21.
Mike Vanderjagt vs. New England Patriots
Apparently the league didn't get the message the first time around, and five years later, desperate opponents once again tried to get under the skin of the invincible Tom Brady-led Patriots.
This time, the culprit was the historically unlikeable Indianapolis Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt.
Before a 2005 playoff game, the world-renowned jerk—sadly nicknamed "Vanderjerk"—announced that in his ever-so-humble opinion, the lowly Pats were "ripe for the picking" and "not as good as last year," per Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.
Well, that didn't work.
The Patriots picked apart the Colts 20-3, gliding with great ease to yet another playoff victory against their rivals from Indianapolis.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tom Brady
Can somebody please take some notes on what happens when you try poking the Patriots?
Yes, once again, Brady and the Pats were the subject of trash talk leading up to a postseason game. Once again, it was brutally unsuccessful.
This time, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers who tried testing fate by guaranteeing a victory over the heavily favored undefeated Patriots in their playoff matchup. Defensive back Anthony Smith made it very clear that the Steelers weren't exactly worried about New England's perfect record, via ESPN.com.
"We're going to win," Smith said. "Yeah, I can guarantee a win. As long as we come out and do what we got to do. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come through for us, we've got a good chance to win."
To the surprise of nobody except Smith himself, the Patriots won 34-13.
Looks like this one didn't quite come down to special teams.
New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
Rex Ryan has become notorious for trash-talking—and other general obnoxious behavior—since becoming the head coach of the New York Jets in 2009.
Maybe all the talk gives his team a sense of swagger it would never have otherwise, but sometimes, it just backfires.
The whole team joined in the fun leading up to a game with the Miami Dolphins in 2012. Players started taking their talk to the extreme, "promising to hurt Reggie Bush and the Dolphins," according to The Inquisitr.
This obviously didn't sit too well with Miami, and the Dolphins destroyed Mark Sanchez and friends 30-9, sending the message loud and clear that Ryan and his team should probably stop talking the talk until they are able to walk the walk.
Jerramy Stevens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
When the Seattle Seahawks and the Pittsburgh Steelers played in the Super Bowl in Detroit in 2006, most of the world was really excited that legendary Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was going to have a shot at finishing his career by winning a championship in his own hometown.
The Seahawks' Jerramy Stevens wasn't quite so enthralled. According to Tim Ott of Biography.com, he told the media, "The story of Jerome Bettis returning to his hometown is heartwarming, but it’s going to be a sad day when he doesn’t walk away with that trophy."
Bettis took the high road and chose not to respond, instead taking the conflict to the football field. Though he only rushed for 43 yards on 14 carries, the Steelers didn't need any more than that, as they used Stevens' comments as inspiration and triumphed 21-10.
Bettis was crowned a champion in the city where his story began, walked away with that trophy and lived happily ever after.
Hollywood Henderson vs. Terry Bradshaw
Never insult Terry Bradshaw's intelligence—unless you're willing to pay the price.
Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson learned that the hard way in Super Bowl XIII.
Before the game, Henderson took a shot at Bradshaw, saying, according to Tim Ott of Biography.com, "[Bradshaw] is so dumb, he couldn't spell 'cat' if you gave him a 'c' and an 'a.'"
The jury is still out on whether or not Bradshaw can, in fact, spell cat—but if nothing else, he used Henderson's remarks as motivation to play a pretty remarkable game of football. Bradshaw threw four touchdown passes, and his Steelers won the game 35-31.
Hey, at the end of the day, you make a lot more money winning Super Bowls than you do by winning spelling bees.
Lance Stephenson vs. LeBron James
Lance Stephenson likes trash talk. He thrives at getting under people's skin and loves having the spotlight when he does it—and it works.
After this year's Eastern Conference Finals, trash-talking wasn't quite so fun for Stephenson anymore. This time around, it didn't work, and the Pacers paid the price—a steep, steep price.
Before the game, Stephenson had entered a small war of words with Miami Heat superstar LeBron James in an attempt to throw him off his game. After James decided to join the verbal faceoff and make some comments of his own about Stephenson, the latter decided to tell the world that he saw this as a "sign of weakness" in LeBron.
32 points, 10 rebounds and five assists en route to leading the Heat to a 102-90 drubbing of the Pacers.
DeShawn Stevenson vs. LeBron James
Ohhhhh, so that's where he got the idea!
Rewind a few years, and it becomes clear where our friend Lance Stephenson got the idea that it was wise for a mediocre player with the last name "Stevenson" to make pointed remarks at LeBron James.
DeShawn Stevenson conducted a similar experiment during the 2008 NBA playoffs, and he got similar results.
Stevenson's Washington Wizards were playing James' Cleveland Cavaliers—a team that had eliminated them from the past two postseasons. Stevenson decided to take it upon himself to call LeBron overrated.
LeBron rolled his eyes, cranked his game up a notch and destroyed his enemy, averaging 29.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists in the series and sending the Wizards home early for the third consecutive year.
I said it once, and I'll say it again: Poke a sleeping bear and it will destroy you.
Until next time, lesson learned.