Spinning off Jets-Patriots, Page 2's tips on taunting

Mon, Jan 17

"If there's a time to celebrate, that was it." -- Phil Simms on New York Jets running back Shonn Greene's end-zone celebration following his game-clinching touchdown run against the New England Patriots.

Here at Page 2, we would never, ever endorse poor sportsmanship, such as, for instance, waving goodnight to a hostile crowd, then putting the football on the turf like a pillow to rest one's head on.

That said …

If there was ever a time to taunt, the Jets-Pats game was it. Indeed, Greene's night-night celebration was less a matter of what Patriots receiver Deion Branch dubbed "classlessness" than good ol' fashioned, spoils-to-the-victor fun. How so? Because it followed the unwritten rules -- well, our unwritten rules -- of when sports teasing is acceptable and encouraged:

When it's a really big play: Beating one's chest and jabbing a finger in the other guy's face after picking up a second-quarter first down? No. No. A thousand times no. But slathering mustard on a game-winner? Yes. Let the mockery match the magnitude of the moment.

When it's the final chapter in a war of words: Going against a hated rival? Engaged in a he-said-he-said, back 'n' forth taunt-o-rama, with Antonio Cromartie dropping [expletives] and Wes Welker making subtle references to podiatry? Treat matters like a bar brawl: Don't be the person who lands the first punch; be the person who lands the last.

When you're already the heel: If you're on the road, in hostile territory, surrounded by scorn and derision -- heck, that's practically a "Get Out of Taunting Jail Free Card." May as well play up to typecasting. See Miller, Reggie, being jeered by Spike Lee.

When it's memorably clever: Greene's pillow trick wasn't quite as, er, sharp as Terrell Owens' Sharpie, but it was far smarter than Randy Moss pretending to pull down his pants.

When you're just that good: Walking the talk is always acceptable, because the scoreboard is the ultimate arbiter. Case in point: Larry Bird's index finger at the 1988 NBA All-Star weekend 3-point shootout.