Days after a thrilling NFC Championship Game, I'm still bothered by the way a lot of the country sees Seattle's Richard Sherman.
|Photo by: Tony Overman|
During the interview with Erin Andrews, Sherman proclaimed that he was the best corner in the league, and that Michael Crabtree was a "sorry" receiver. Within a matter of minutes, Twitter and the rest of the internet exploded as if Sherman was public enemy No. 1, and the worst thing to ever happen to sports. It was almost alarming the reactions that people had to a football player, playing a game.
Some of the issues between the two started last year, when reportedly Sherman tried to shake Crabtree's hand at a charity event hosted by Larry Fitzgerald and the wideout refused to reciprocate. Much of the animosity has nothing to do with football, so I wasn't all that shocked when Sherman reacted the way he did after getting the best of his rival to clinch a berth to the Super Bowl.
Sherman was a 5th round pick out of Stanford in 2011, and part of the reason that he plays with such a chip on his shoulder is because he felt that he fell entirely too far in the draft and was better than many of the guys that were taken ahead of him.
Last year, after Seattle's win over New England, Sherman got in Tom Brady's grill, presumably to tell him how great he thinks he is, and that moment was captured in a photo that blew up on Twitter after the cornerback added the caption, "U Mad Bro?" For all intents and purposes, that was the moment Richard Sherman became a household name in NFL circles.
For people who like their sports without a racial discussion, avert your eyes. If say, Brady or Peyton Manning had the same reaction as Sherman in one of their postgame interviews, would there been this type of reaction? Absolutely not. An example; after New England lost to Carolina on Monday Night Football earlier this season, Brady followed the officiating crew up the tunnel off the field, and he sure as hell wasn't congratulating them for a well officiated game. The media didn't blow that up into a huge story.
San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh constantly flails his arms around like he's trying to get out of a damn straight jacket and screams at the top of his lungs throughout the course of a game. But when he does that, he's labeled "passionate" or "intense." When Sherman exhibited some of that same intensity minutes after he made the most important play of his career, he was deemed a "thug," among other things.
Ah yes, that word; thug. I told a friend of mine the other day that the word thug has replaced other racial slurs in many people's vocabulary when describing an African-American athlete that they don't like. Sherman has never been arrested, and by all accounts, is a decent person off the field. But some folks see the dreadlocks and the loud talk and immediately brand him a hooligan who can't control himself. That's comical, because I was unaware that thugs finish second in their high school class and graduate from a college like Stanford in 3 years.
In sports, you need different types of personalities to truly make things interesting. I'll always love the great Barry Sanders for simply tossing the ball to the official after a breathtaking 60-yard touchdown run, same as I'll always appreciate Richard Sherman for his ability to get in someone's head with relentless trash talk and physical play. That's one of the beauties of sports. You need passion from both ends of the spectrum. Whether you say nothing at all or scream to the heavens after each and every play, you have to have some variation of passion to reach a professional level of excellence.
I was a little disappointed when I heard that Sherman apologized for what he said, because I don't feel that he said anything that warranted an apology in the first place. If anything, he should have stood by his statements, because the fact of the matter is, some people are always going to have a major issue with the "loud angry black man." The reactions to Sherman's interview confirmed that.
When I woke up Monday morning and saw some of the things that were being said, I got angry myself. It took me back to the very proclamation that started our fascination with Sherman, both positively and negatively, to begin with; "U Mad Bro?"
Yeah. They certainly are.