JERSEY CITY, N.J. — A few blocks from the Westin, the Seattle Seahawks' hotel, is Jersey City's department of sanitation. Twenty-three miles from East Rutherford's MetLife Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, Tony Soprano waged a fictional garbage war in Essex County.
Trash talk is everywhere you look in this Super Bowl buildup.
Tuesday it will be on center stage — or on the 17 daises at the Prudential Center in Newark — during media day. Every member of the Broncos and Seahawks will be available to the media, leaving countless opportunities for the teams to slight each other.
Noise was once considered the classic defense against fear. It's now fuel for a society that measures outrage by retweets. As such, all-pro Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, known for his 18-second rant against San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree after the NFC championship game, will have reporters 50 deep at his podium.
“I am looking forward to it,” Sherman said. “It will be fun.”
But truth is, this Super Bowl is more about recycled clichés than trash talk. Sherman arrived Sunday and promptly went acoustic, leaving New York tabloids crying ink tears. “The Mouth That Bored” screamed the headline in the Daily News. Sherman admitted that he's not going to try to get into “Peyton Manning's head.” And the Broncos won't instigate or bite, even if Sherman does pop off.
“I am not saying I am going to 'shut him up,' but I am going to go out and try to make some plays so I don't have anybody coming up to me saying I got shut down by Sherman,” said Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
Trash talk is a polarizing topic. It's viewed with disgust by critics, the ultimate me-first over team-first attitude. Others see it as confidence gone wild, which can motivate a player to perform at his highest level. Jets quarterback Joe Namath represents the origin of Super Bowl trash talk. Sitting poolside in Miami in January 1969, he guaranteed that the Jets, huge underdogs, would beat the Baltimore Colts, a prediction that remains a defining marker in the sport's history.
The last time the Broncos were in the Super Bowl, 15 years go, Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe played to the press. With a nudge, a wink and maybe a little tongue- in-cheek, Sharpe traded oral jabs with Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Buchanan.
“Shannon is the loudest smack talker in the history of football, but Shannon is not a run-the-streets, cost-his-football team kind of guy,” said former Broncos teammate Mark Schlereth, a longtime NFL guard. “I mean, for crying out loud, Shannon doesn't eat ice cream and he eats whole-wheat pancakes with no syrup. You didn't have to worry about Shannon running the streets. Shannon was just running his mouth.”
Sharpe hasn't stopped talking, parlaying his verbiage into a career as an NFL analyst for CBS. He said there was always an easy solution available for those who wanted to zip his lip. “I always said, 'If you can keep me out of the end zone, then you can shut me up,' ” Sharpe said. “But nobody could.”
Sherman has been cast as this Super Bowl's loudmouth. He talks trash, but it is more organic than contrived. “You have hands like feet,” is one of his popular jabs to receivers.
“It's an alter ego,” Seattle defensive back Walter Thurmond said. “He just reacts.”
Sherman saves his best work for game day, jawing at receivers, a skill he refined while playing the Madden video football game.
“Maybe my game is 20 years too late. I studied Muhammad Ali, Deion Sanders, Jerry Rice. I am more old school,” Sherman said. “My passion shows (on the field).”
Michael Irvin, a Hall of Famer who trash talked while starring as a Dallas Cowboys receiver, came to Sherman's defense.
“He's only doing what makes him the best player,” Irvin said. “If you don't have some Shermans on your team, you never win Super Bowls, I promise you. The game is too hard. You have to have people push people farther than they are willing to go. And the only way to push others is be willing to go farther than they are. Then back it up.”
Staff writer Patrick Saunders contributed to this report.