Well it happened. Richard Sherman told the world that he was the best corner in the game, and he also told us just how sorry of a receiver Michael Crabtree was following the NFC Championship game. What ensued was a monsoon of media questions and comments. But in this age of 24/7 media, the fans also had a chance to chime in. Twitter exploded following Sherman’s comments, and both sides of the coin came to light. Some defended the Seattle cornerback, while others bashed him. But understanding who Richard Sherman really is as a person is critical in understanding the nature of those comments. Nonetheless, after making such sweeping declarations, we are forced to pick up the pieces and make sense of what happened. There are no winners in this war of words, only a multitude of shades of grey.
A War Of Words
“A thug”, “arrogant”, “idiot”. Those are just a few of the terms that were used to characterize Richard Sherman and his comments about Michael Crabtree. Those words and Sherman’s rant may have tainted what a truly incredible play had just occurred. With the game and a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, the All-Pro corner delivered. But on Monday morning, all everybody could talk about was what was said. Suddenly it seemed that everybody had forgotten that Richard Sherman was a Stanford graduate and that he was an infinitely generous man in communities across the country. Oh, and by the way, he’s extremely articulate and well read. All people could remember was that he was from Compton. Somehow the part where he had escaped his neighbourhood and poverty through sports and academics had slipped their mind. While some people may disagree with his comments (which are in fact backed by facts), to insinuate that he is a thug for making them, or that he is a thug simply because of where he is from, is wrong.
What Do We Really Want?
But what is most striking is the irony of the whole thing. People are always hungry for access to the players, to see what is truly happening behind the helmet. But when a player openly speaks his mind about another player, people seem to shun him like a leper. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson, people want the truth, but can they really handle the truth? An even more glaring example is Sherman’s teammate, Marshawn Lynch. Lynch, who is averse to media, spoke very sparingly to journalists during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. In doing so, he produced some excellent sound bites. But for the second time in two weeks, a Seahawks’ comments, or lack thereof, drew the ire of writers and fans everywhere. While Lynch does have a contractual obligation to speak to the media, throwing stones at him for being himself seems misguided. Especially since we all want to know the true nature of these gladiators. How much about Marhsawn Lynch would we truly have discovered had he spoken in a politically correct fashion, or if he had towed the party line when asked about the running game? His silence really said it all.
Now Sherman’s words have been tested in the Super Bowl, and Marshawn Lynch proved to us that he really was “’bout that action, Boss”. Although neither of them had flashy games, Lynch scored a touchdown and Sherman was able to shut down Eric Decker, whom he was matched up against for the majority of the rout. Many people were probably disappointed that Sherman didn’t have any antics planned come Super Sunday. But anybody who really understands who Richard Sherman is wouldn’t have expected anything. Sherman isn’t the stereotypical skill player who looks for controversy and aches to be the center of attention. Rather, he wants to be a positive participating member of the team, or in his case, the Legion of Boom.
The Best of The Best, For Now…
Although Richard Sherman’s comments may have been harsh or brash, nobody can really contest his claims until the 2014 season kicks off. But let’s not all fall into the obvious trap; three standout seasons and a Super Bowl ring don’t guarantee him future greatness. Although he is very promising, Sherman will probably be the first one to admit that he hasn’t accomplished all that he can. Precedent measures a player’s greatness, and looking back at those who came before him, he has a long way to go. Take Deion Sanders for example. “Primetime” was never afraid to boast, but it took him 14 years in the NFL, 53 interceptions and 65 total touchdowns to achieve a Hall of Fame-worthy resume. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Richard Sherman is Deion Sanders, but the similarities are quite striking between the two of them. The NFL and its fans seem to love these incredible athletes, who can talk trash and back it up.
For now, it’s far too early to tell how Richard Sherman will be remembered. But with his talent and eloquence, the possibilities are endless. What we do know, is that we learned a lot about NFL fans and journalists in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII. We learned that we don’t like it when players boast too much, and when they give their honest heartfelt opinion on someone else. On the other hand, we also don’t appreciate it when a player doesn’t let us in; we’ll mock him for being shy. But in a more general sense we, as the viewers, seem to be impossible to please. Why can’t we take the players’ personalities as they are and accept that they’re part of the spectacle that professional football really is? In a world where everybody has an opinion and can broadcast it by the flick of a finger, I understand that that may be too much to ask. But I hope that this hasn’t discouraged boisterous players from making outlandish comments or scared shy and media averse players even further. Football just isn’t football without these characters.
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