BITE YOUR TONGUE
There?s nothing tongue-in-cheek about exposing your lingual appendage
Few expressions in life connote a sense of showboating more than the guy who sticks his tongue out as he does whatever it is he gets paid to do. As we try to get a read on him, it might be hasty and ill-advised to make judgments about his intelligence, income level, or political persuasions, but from that act alone one thing you?d be lacking in is sincerity if your take on him was that of a person who is bashful. Baring one?s tongue tends not to go hand-in-hand with accepted manifestations of shyness. Quite to the contrary, let’s face it: those outside of rock-n-roll who channel their inner Gene Simmons outwardly tend to get pegged as cocky little fuckers who have it coming to them.
In sports, the cocky players have a habit of extending that fleshy red organ with aplomb as they move the ball down the field and prepare to go for the kill, with bravado aplenty coursing through their veins. It would be difficult to equate such a gesture with a deficiency in self-esteem and so we ascribe to these players the mantle of ?cocky? and probably wish in most cases that there was a frozen pole nearby that we could latch onto their oral organ.
Babe Ruth did not reportedly suffer from a shortage of confidence and yet I cannot recall any memorable shots of Ruth with his tongue rudely protruding from his mouth. Even that timeless litho of the Babe calling his shot at Wrigley Field depicts him pointing while exhibiting the good taste to keep his tongueroo firmly planted inside his yap. And the Bambino not only made his share of bombastic statements in his career, but would often back them up with his play. Still, in a sign indicative of his time, he wouldn?t show us his tongue.
While some convey swagger through the slow home run trot or through the high-stepping of their way into the end zone or MMA dudes thumping their chests after scoring a submission, other guys will stick their tongue out to let everyone know that nothing is going to stop them from getting it done. This is no slip of the tongue on their part because at that moment in time they are really feeling it and not afraid to show us either. If they were any more full of themselves, they would sleep with the night light on. Overconfidence has a way of turning mere jerks into unbearable douchebags.
Some guys will wag their fingers. Others will flap their gums. And then there are those who use their tongues while in the midst of performing their on-field craft not for making speech, but to hang it out and strut around with defiance and gusto, which understandably invites fans? contempt. And many fans will not hold back from giving this cocky athlete a richly deserved tongue lashing, especially when things suddenly turn south for him and he is knocked from his presumed aura of invincibility after fumbling a ball or making a shoddy pass. The jeers rain down in droves and the tongue usually goes back inside the mouth.
Improper behaviour can be tolerated even when it?s not approved. The Rickey Henderson glove snag was okay in the ?80s because he was a dominant player in his time who could back it up with his play. Michael Jordan?s tongue saw more air time than his sneakers in the ?90s. Alex Ovechkin is basically Gene Simmons on skates minus the face paint in the ?00s. Granted, there are times and places we allow people to let their freak flag fly, but it tends not to be on the playing field. That place is usually the bedroom where, for some people, reaching sexual nirvana involves two-way mirrors, all sorts of twisted games, and perhaps even chimps. But we?re talking about the bedroom here so that’s different because we?re taught to refrain from judging other people?s bedroom habits too harshly because private lives should remain private. Fair enough.
So back to the tongue. When we see a soccer player, for instance, who is so full of himself that he brandishes his tongue unscrupulously all over the field, we feel like he?s rubbing our noses in it. My spidey sense tells me that fans ? the opposing team’s fans, that is ? wish him something less than success at that point and would like to see him knocked down a peg.
He may not think he?s gloating, but an air of audacity or even rebelliousness does come across when you see a player performing in hostile surroundings sticking out his tongue. That takes cajones on some level. He?s saying he doesn?t care, but that?s not all ? he?s also saying ?watch me go.? Sure, he?s still being cocky, but he does need to play with some edge in his game to perform and may in fact subconsciously be channeling his self-confidence through his brash style of play. Is there something wrong with expressing individuality ? Can there be a good cockiness ? Those questions answer themselves. I’m just not sure how. The problem arises when any of this cockiness is excessive and deemed to be tasteless. That?s when fans will bristle.
Generally speaking, in our culture, unless you?re licking a double fudge brownie ice cream or are a band member of KISS, sticking your tongue out bespeaks of a certain kind of rudeness. I remember my wise old grandfather telling me to close my mouth when I was a kid because letting it hang open made me look like I was stupid.
So is there a certain coolness mystique associated with the tongue ? I don?t think so. It just happens to be one of those glib displays that can rub people the wrong way, but, in the end, unlikely to make you any friends. Since they make us look a bit like lizards, it is my contention that human tongues should remain for tasting and speaking. And the bedroom.