TALLAHASSEE, January 21, 2014 — We are Richard Sherman. Some fans just refuse to admit it.
No, most fans do not have his money, power or fame. They do, however, possess his passion and volatility, and are forced to keep it in check by societal constraints.
Most of the non-football world, by now, knows that after the Seattle Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers in a brutal NFC Title Game, star cornerback Sherman sounded off about 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
The late Art Modell once told his 2000 Ravens on their way to a Super Bowl season that “Losers should say very little…winners, even less.” Sherman violated the unwritten maxim about winning graciously. This caused much of the civilized world to condemn Sherman as a dumb jock who was ghetto.
Many people even took to Twitter to call him horrible racial slurs that should have died half a century ago when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was taken from this world.
While Sherman did apologize on Monday, he had nothing for which to apologize. He deserves a defense in the public arena as tough as the Legion of Boom that got the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
Sherman and Crabtree have a personal history. Adding fuel to the fire is that coaches John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll are long-time rivals who detest each other.
On the last major play of the game, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick went to the end zone to Crabtree for what they hoped would be the winning touchdown. Sherman made a phenomenal play, deflected the ball, and defender Malcolm Smith intercepted it to lock up the Seattle victory. Had Crabtree caught that ball, he may have spiked it in Sherman’s face. Again, these two have a history off the field.
After the play, the two men had a minor skirmish. Maybe sixty seconds after the biggest play of Sherman’s football life, reporter Erin Andrews thrust a microphone in Sherman’s face. She was just doing her job, but it was not like Sherman had time to take a shower, put on a suit, and unwind before talking to the media. Andrews caught Sherman when he was on overload. What he offered was brutal honesty.
Richard Sherman did not offer a diplomatic phony answer that could have been crafted from a politician’s teleprompter. He was not reading from a Hollywood actor’s script. He said to the world about Crabtree, “I don’t like him.” Yes, a person took something personally. He did not use foul or crude language. While he was yelling, he was not yelling at Andrews herself. He was angry, as we all sometimes are in the heat of the moment.
Think about how many times every day a human being is treated shabbily and forced to swallow hard. It hurts. Our society has taught us to put all of our comments in a blander.
Think about every single useless halftime interview of coaches. They all say the same nonsense. “Well, we need to cut down on the mistakes, fix a few things and play fundamental football in the second half.” Then the sports reporter offers the obligatory “Thanks, coach.”
This is why the NFL has become the No Fun League. Everything is politically correct, homogenized, pasteurized and sanitized.
Real football fans love characters. Real fans loved Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, the father of the end zone dance. Kids today still do his “funky chicken” after a touchdown. We love it when Steve Smith goes to the end zone camera and says “If you see me, I just scored!” Fans loved it when Ray Lewis started a game by yelling, “Any dogs in the House,” and ending with his electric slide sugar dance.
In football, the cliché is that offense is entertainment and defense is just football. Well the Seattle Seahawks defense called themselves the Legion of Boom and then did what all the great NFL characters do. They backed it up when it mattered most. They talked it, and they walked it.
Richard Sherman could have taken the high road and just accepted insults from a bitter rival. Instead, he hit back. That does not make him ghetto, villainous or classless. It makes him what we all are. It makes him human.
To quote former ESPN NFL Primetime announcer Robin Roberts, there is only one thing to say to Richard Sherman.
“Go on with your bad self.”
The Super Bowl cannot come soon enough. Richard Sherman is not a distraction from the game. He is one of the reasons we watch football.
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