Why Dan Shaughnessy Is Like the Wallet Inspector

And why Houston Texans running back Arian Foster fell for it.

arian fosterScreen shot via @ArianFoster

Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy did something predictable on Sunday, delivering a column that openly mocked the Texans. Houston running back Arian Foster did something unpredictable in response on Monday, taking an excerpt of the piece, and making it his Twitter avatar. Good on Foster for finding a creative way to fight back. But why bother?

The exchange was like the wallet inspector bit on The Simpsons. In “Homer Goes to College,” Snake, the show’s loveable criminal, approaches some nerds, and says, “Uh, wallet inspector.” The nerds give him their wallets, and Snake says, “Whoa, I can’t believe that worked!”

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Foster took the bait. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from following sports is that athletes can find motivation in anything, no matter how innocuous. Last decade’s great Patriots teams lived off perceived slights. Look what happened before the AFC Championship game in January 2002. “When Steelers coach Bill Cowher revealed he told his players to spend one day making the sometimes distracting plans to go to the Super Bowl,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports writer Ed Bouchette recalled in September 2002, “the Patriots regarded it as a slap in the face.”

That makes sense, of course. But for the aggrieved party, bulletin-board material doesn’t always achieve the desired effect. Before Super Bowl XLII, Plaxico Burress said that the Giants would beat the Patriots. And, well, the Giants won.

If Houston upsets New England on Sunday, the outcome will have absolutely nothing to do with Shaughnessy’s column. But whatever the outcome, the column will be brought up. It's time to stop taking the bait. Next time a writer or radio host or rival athlete trolls our favorite favorite team, we need to be like Homer Simpson and say, “Hey, that’s not the wallet inspector!”