After reading Eddie's fantastic article on Richard Sherman's interview with Erin Andrews this morning (if you haven't already read it, check it out, it's really good.) I thought it would be fun to provide a counterpoint to his argument. Here's the interview on the off chance that you still need to see it.
Now I completely agree with Eddie, calling Richard Sherman a "thug" is foolish and only serves to highlight the bigotry that's become acceptable amongst fans of professional sports. That said, I think Sherman's comments were out of line and unnecessary. Here are five reasons why I have a problem with Sherman's comments. I felt compelled to use videos to prove my point.
Reason 1: You haven't done anything yet.
In no way am I suggesting that winning the NFC Championship against the 49ers isn't a big deal... Oh wait, that's exactly what I'm saying. The fact of the matter is that winning an NFC or AFC championship doesn't matter. You don't play the game to win a Conference Championship, just ask the 2007, or 2011 New England Patriots. The Conference Championship is only important for being a step on the way to the Superbowl. Sherman made a huge play true, but no one will remember that play if he and the Seahawks can't beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in a couple weeks, which brings me to my second point.
Reason 2- Michael Crabtree is no Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas...
Or four if you're playing the Denver Broncos. It's no secret that the Broncos own the leagues highest scoring offense, anchored by Peyton Manning and featuring one of the best receiving corps in recent memory. In this case Richard Sherman was right, Crabtree is a "mediocre receiver" compared to the likes of the Demaryius and Julius Thomas, Decker and Welker. The 49ers passing game was 30th in the league this year compared to a Denver team that ranks first in yards per game. Yes, Crabtree was injured for all but 5 games this season, but in those games he did play he averaged under 4 receptions a game. Both Thomases, Decker and Welker all averaged well over 4 a game. If you want to look at receptions during Crabtree's last full season in 2012 he pulled in an impressive 85 passes. Unfortunately for Sherman, Demaryius Thomas, Welker and Decker all hauled in at least 85 passes last year and Julius Thomas wasn't playing yet. If you are one of the best cornerbacks in the league, as Sherman undoubtedly is, you don't get that fired up for containing a good wide receiver, you get fired up when you shut down one of the best guys in the league. If Sherman can keep the Broncos receiving corp in check he can say whatever he wants in the post game interview.
Reason 3- You're part of a team, act like it.
Oh Wow Sherman, I didn't realize that you covering Crabtree for the majority of the game was the sole component in your team winning the game. Frank Gore must not have touched the ball at all... Oh wait he did but didn't rush for more than 20 yards? This is my second biggest problem with Sherman's interview, it's a selfish move in one of the most team oriented sports there is. Football is one of the only sports where you're accountable for only half of the outcome. Take the 49ers for example. Their defense played a fantastic game, giving their offense countless opportunities to score, but the offense, led by Colin Kaepernick, couldn't do anything.
Sherman made a great play, there's no denying that, but what about Jermaine Kearse grabbing Russell Wilson's 35 yard touchdown pass in traffic on a 4th and 7? What about safety Kam Chancellor's overlooked 11 tackles and interception on the defensive side of the ball? What about Marshawn Lynch going beast mode with over 100 yards on the ground? Point is if any of these things hadn't happened the game could and probably would have had a very different outcome. I think the biggest testament to this fact is that Sherman himself has come out and apologized for his rant which he said resulted in, "taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates." You can read more on Sherman's comments here.
Reason 4. It makes Sherman SEEM ignorant.
Yes those defending Sherman's intelligence based on his education and background are right. Sherman went to Stanford and worked incredibly hard while there, obtaining a degree in Communications and beginning work on a Masters. This is very impressive and could (keyword being could) make Sherman a tremendous role model for young athletes. However, with a background in Communications, Sherman of all people should know that how you represent yourself in public is incredibly important in dictating your public image as a whole. People are not going to do their research and to find out about Sherman's educational background. Instead they are going to make bigoted assumptions and come to conclusions such as this one.
Yes that's harsh, perhaps overly so, but as a professional athlete you need to know you're under a microscope and that your comments are going to garner a response. I know Richard Sherman is an intelligent human being, I know he is not a thug, I know he does fantastic charity work, but people who were watching the Seahawks for the first time all year on Sunday do not. Sadly, the reality is that we live in a society where people draw conclusions based on minimal amounts of information. As a result of this people who know nothing of Richard Sherman are making assumptions about him and his character based solely on that one interview. And, the fact of the matter is, that Sherman does not come across as intelligent, well spoken or mature in his brief exchange with Andrews. If you are a public figure you need to understand that your comments are going to come under more scrutiny than the average individual's. Consequently, you need to be more guarded, more responsible and more well spoken than the average person because America loves gossip, controversy and drama, and Richard Sherman just gave us all three.
Reason 5. You're a Role Model
This is my biggest problem with Sherman's comments. It's a shame that there are hundreds of thousands of adults who are now making ignorant, biased assumptions about Sherman's character because of his comments. What's more unfortunate is that there are now hundreds of thousands of kids who think that Sherman's conduct was an acceptable way to represent yourself. Like it or not professional athletes are role models. Growing up you want to be the athletes you see taking the field every game. When I played baseball in my backyard, I was Ken Griffey Jr. I'd turn my hat backwards, stand really tall, keep my hands low and start rocking back and forth before trying to mimic that beautiful swing. When we played pick up football I was Keyshawn Johnson, which was incredibly painful for a family that loved the Patriots. When we played basketball I was Michael Jordan because heck we shared the same name.
There are kids out there now who are playing football and pretending to be Richard Sherman. What do those kids now think? That its okay to go off half cocked and bark about a big play that you made? And if that is okay what does that mean about sports? Yes, professional sports are competitive and you play to win, but what about peewee football? What about little league? Those kids aren't playing to make it to the majors, they're playing to have fun, they're playing to learn about competition and teamwork. They're playing because its something that allows them to spend time with their mom and dad. They're playing because they learn to be humble and gracious in defeat. They're playing because they learn to push themselves and maximize their potential.
Sports are about more than just wins and losses and when we make it okay for Richard Sherman and others to represent themselves poorly on the field we indirectly make it acceptable for young athletes to represent themselves poorly on the field. We indirectly make it acceptable to forget about being a good teammate. We indirectly make it acceptable to forget about sportsmanship. We indirectly make it acceptable to forget about why kids fighting for their lives, like Sam Berns was, love the game. We indirectly make it acceptable to forget about how the Red Sox, and Bruins helped Boston heal in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon. We indirectly make sports a trivial pissing contest to put it bluntly.
No, Richard Sherman isn't a "thug", but he was given the opportunity to be so much more than that, and in that regard he failed totally and completely. Sherman was put in a position to be a role model, to show kids who won't make it to the NFL that it's okay because playing sports is also about the lessons you learn along the way rather than the outcome. Instead he showed kids that sports are about selfishness, ego and narcissism and for that i can't forgive him.