Trash talking is an integral part of sports. Getting into your opponent's head can give you an advantage at key moments of the game, but you've got to be able to back it up.
There is another consideration that must be made when thinking about trash talking your victim: how they will react. Tell a player like, say, Joe Mauer, that he is junk and that he should have played football won't do anything. He'll shrug and go about his routine as if you never existed.
Once upon a time, Rasheed Wallace would have killed anyone who talked junk about his mother as he shot free throws. Risky strategy, but usable in the right spots.
Then there are the guys who take every word said against them and systematically attempt to cram it back down the offender's throat.
Tiger Woods didn't bother responding to Stephen Ames' ill-fated comment that "Anything is possible, especially where he's hitting the ball". He just went onto the course with more than his usual fire and slaughtered Ames 9 and 8 in match play.
Michael Jordan seemed to reserve his best games for those he played against the Knicks, and later against the Jazz, when players on those teams called into question his invincibility.
Michael Phelps, and the rest of the American 4X100 relay team, silently absorbed the French smack and Jason Lezak forced it right back at the defeated French swimmer Alain Bernard.
Friday night, someone else made the critical error of stoking Michael Phelp's competitve fire.
The 100m Butterfly was, by consensus, Phelp's weakest event. He was so vulnerable, there was talk of teammate Ian Crocker perhaps needing to step out of his relay spot so that Phelps could have another chance at a record 8th gold. So, if ever there was a time for quiet resolve from Phelps' opponents, now was the time.
Sure, Milorad Cavic's bulltin board material probably made no difference in the result. But in a race decided by .01 seconds, literally in the blink of an eye, why even take the chance?
Phelps admitted to Bob Costas that he used Cavic's words as fuel and he had exactly as much as he needed in the tank. So, take the story of Milorad Cavic as a cautionary tale: Taunt Michael Phelps at your own risk!