Trash Talk: The Only Book About Destroying Your Rivals That Isn’t Total Garbage (Hardcover)
“You’re mad at me, but I am killing you.”—NBA star Gary Payton
“Find the hate.”—NFL star Warren Sapp
“Why can’t you be more like Rafi Kohan?”—your mom, probably
Whether in basketball, football, or MMA, athletes talk trash to each other—and sometimes to fans—like it’s their job. And in some ways, it is: sports only matter if we decide to care about them. And insulting your opponent, or playing the heel, is probably the fastest route to making someone care. Talking smack is as old as the bible; it’s perhaps the original sport.
But until now, there’s never been a book about it.
In this lively, often hilarious history, Rafi Kohan interviews some of the world’s top competitors—on the petty rivalries and mind games that fuel them. He talks to point guards and soccer strikers, cricketers and insult comedians, forming a theory along the way about the surprising and influential role that name-calling plays in our world.
Brilliantly original and wide-ranging, Trash Talk is a book for sports fans, culture mavens, or anyone looking to get an edge.
About the Author
Rafi Kohan is an Atlanta-based writer and editor. His first book, The Arena, was a finalist for the 2018 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing. Previously, he has served as deputy editor at the New York Observer and as executive editorial director for the Atlantic’s creative studio, Re:think. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including GQ, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, The Ringer, and the Wall Street Journal.
Rafi Kohan has done more than produce a funny, insightful, and beautifully written primer on American culture masquerading as a book about sports. He makes you want to hear the games we love rather than merely watch them.—Seth Wickersham, New York Times–bestselling author and senior writer, ESPN
The metaphor ‘trash,’ inherent to the phrase ‘trash talk,’ can be misleading. ‘Trash’ implies something disposable; easily discarded; in a word, garbage. Yet there is nothing disposable about Kohan’s new book. Quite the opposite. Trash Talk recognizes the verbal art form of psychological warfare that this misunderstood practice has always represented.—Todd Boyd, chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture, USC
There are two kinds of trash talkers: overcompensating fools and tactical geniuses. Kohan’s Trash Talk will teach you the difference between the two. It’s like a CPR course for saving face. This book is informative and very, very funny.—Anthony Jeselnik
Well, finally, a book that actually probes the single most important part of all sports: the God-given right to talk crazy shit to anyone you or your chosen proxies defeat. You suck if you don’t buy this book.—Wright Thompson, New York Times-bestselling author of Pappyland
Your mama not only wears combat boots, but she says Trash Talk is the best book on the planet. Which it may well be. A joyful, adventurous read that’ll leave you screaming, ‘Bro, you can’t guard me!’ Bravo.—Jeff Pearlman, New York Times–bestselling author
“Comprehensive…The book is informed by a great wealth of interviews, not only with athletes past and present, but also with match officials, coaches and sports psychologists… Sports fans will welcome the insider’s perspective that Mr. Kohan is able to provide." —The Wall Street Journal
“In this funny non-fiction read, Kohan interviews top sports competitors all about the psychological warfare played both on and off the field."—Men's Health, notable nonfiction book of 2023
“Kohan’s nuanced inquiry highlights trash talk’s surprisingly diverse applications, and he’s never less than entertaining (“To call it dark humor would be a disservice to Pantone charts everywhere,” Kohan writes of the withering insults at a comedy roast). This is a blast.”
“An entertaining study of the taunts and insults that pervade sports and the larger culture… A treat for students of language, as well as would-be Don Rickles heirs looking to hone their craft.”—Kirkus
“In this thoroughly reported, example-laden look at ‘trash talk,’ Kohan makes a compelling case for the power of words.”—Booklist
"In his new book, Trash Talk: The Only Book About Destroying Your Rivals That Isn’t Total Garbage, Rafi Kohan explores how talking smack can help or hinder a person in any situation—from the sports field to the workplace."—Fast Company
“This book is amazing. What a topic, and so well-executed.”—Greg Hanlon, senior news editor, People
"Kohan weaves together iconic athletes and never-before-told stories with modern scientific research and culture to explain why the GOAT trash talkers and those best at foiling it are actually ... manipulative geniuses leveraging the power of psychology, biology and chemistry to gain an edge."—The Sporting News
"Kohan charts the history of sports’ braggarts and blabbermouths to find out why they hurl insults and what it achieves."—New York Post
"I heart trash talking so much... This book is fantastic."—My Summer Lair
"Go out and get this book."—TrueHoop
“This is the entire history of trash talk and sledging in sport, which is fantastic… Top quality.” —Red Inker with Jarrod Kimber
“The quintessential book for lovers of all things sports.”—Slam Wrestling
"Readers will be floored by the variety of voices in Trash Talk...New and thought-provoking. It’s a fresh take on a very old custom."—Greg Oliver, Society for International Hockey Research