As the character played by George Segal hysterically put it on a recent episode of The Goldbergs while watching his awkward teen grandson rap, “What’s happening?”
I feel the same bewilderment when it comes to the curious case of Richard Sherman. While a potential super Super Bowl match-up between the NFL’s top offense and top defense is almost here, no one is talking about the game. Instead, they are still harping on the words of Sherman, the Seattle superstar cornerback.
What exactly did this man do that was so bad?
The answer is: absolutely nothing. But you’d think he’d committed a crime. Actually, if he did he’d get very little attention. Numerous NFL players have had as many mug shots snapped as they have trading cards but they are beloved. Sherman, though, called a receiver who’d been dishing out trash talk of his own “mediocre” and “sorry.” For this, he is being attacked and slammed in the media on a daily basis.
The funniest part of all of this nonsense is that the media is falling for Sherman’s “techniques,” if you will, hook, line and sinker. Do they not see the smirk on his face when he says some of the things he says? Sure, at first glance and listen you may think you’re watching Kel Mitchell in an old Good Burger skit, but closer examination reveals a bright, articulate guy. He is a showman. They paint him as a villain.
Are we that far removed from Joe Namath? Deion Sanders? T.O.?
Over the years some of the most beloved American athletes have said far, far worse than Sherman.
Celtics great Larry Bird, the Legend himself, once hit a three-pointer on Christmas Day against Indiana. After draining the shot, Bird turned to the Pacers bench and wished them a “Merry fu*k*ng Christmas.” Before the Three-Point Shootout in 1986 Bird asked his opponents in the contest “Which one of you motherfu*ke*s is coming in second?”
Funny? Yes. Worse than Sherman? I didn’t hear any profanity from Sherman.
Michael Jordan liked to talk too. One time against Atlanta, he counted backwards from 40 as he made shots until eventually hitting zero. Isn’t that “unsportsmanlike”?
Unlike Sherman, both Bird and Jordan reeled it in off the court. They talked the trash during the game. Sherman keeps it honest at all times. Because others put on an act during press conferences and interviews, does that make them better than Sherman? You can argue it makes them disingenuous. Sherman is honest.
Sherman’s words were very pedestrian when you compare what he said to the loaded comments of Muhammad Ali. The great Ali, revered all over the world, said some of the most vile things ever spoken in the world of sports. Just his shots at Joe Frazier alone should put the Sherman comments into perspective.
Ali attacked Frazier relentlessly saying, “He’s the other type Negro, he’s not like me. There are two types of slaves, Joe Frazier’s worse than you to me … That’s what I mean when I say Uncle Tom, I mean he’s a brother, one day he might be like me, but for now he works for the enemy”
He called Frazier an animal. “It will be a thrilla when I get the gorilla in Manila,” Ali bellowed.
It got worse. “Joe Frazier should give his face to the Wildlife Fund,” Ali said. “He’s so ugly, blind men go the other way. Ugly! Ugly! Ugly! He not only looks bad, you can smell him in another country! What will the people of Manila think? That black brothers are animals. Ignorant. Stupid. Ugly and smelly.”
People laughed. They still do. They call Ali “The Greatest” while labeling Sherman a “jerk.”
Now, 49ers fans and Seahawks haters don’t count here. Of course the overwhelming number of them will be impartial and look to crucify Sherman. It’s kind of like how Eagles fans embraced Mike Vick. Imagine if Vick had signed with the Giants or Cowboys? Philadelphia would have called him a dog killer then. Sports clouds the rational thinking for some.
For those who can incorporate logic in their opinions, however, they can see Sherman did nothing more than express passion and exuberance after winning a conference title. I was ripped for my earlier column defending Sherman. The pot shots hurled my way were poorly expressed and often profanity laced. Very un-Shermanlike indeed. I was called an “idiot” for defending Sherman. So, I’m an “idiot” for standing up for a man who called another man “mediocre” at his job? Got hypocrisy? You could imagine how pleased I was to see so many high-profile people jump on the commonsense train when addressing ShermanGate.
Hall of Famer Henry Aaron, who knows a thing or two about outrageous reactions from the public, tweeted some support Sherman’s way. Aaron wrote, “hang in there & keep playing as well as you did Sunday. Excellent job – you have my support.”
The Sherman circus is not limited to just sports circles either. Radio talk icon Rush Limbaugh commented, “I’m convinced that if people got to know Sherman, they’d like him.” Limbaugh called Sherman a “really smart guy” and complimented Sherman’s “great vocabulary”.
Even former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin weighed in as well. Palin, who was rooting for the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game, chalked up Sherman’s words to his being “verbally ramped up after intense competition and hard fought victory.”
What is so hard to understand here? In a day and age where almost every postgame interviewee sounds like Bull Durham’s Ebby Calvin LaLoosh…you know, “I’m just happy to be here, and I, uh, hope I can help the ball club. You know, I just wanna give it my best shot, and good Lord willing, things will work out. You know, you got to play ’em one day at a time though,” it is refreshing to hear someone like Sherman. The ultimate non-faker.
The personal attacks against Sherman are uncalled for. You want to say his comments were inappropriate? That’s fine. You have the right. But to go after the man personally is weird. Perhaps that’s why Aaron, Limbaugh, and Palin get it. All three are no strangers to visceral, vitriolic and hateful attacks from people that don’t know them.
People that do know Sherman, love him. One Seahawks player’s aunt told me, “Richard was pumped after that game. The team has been the underdogs, up until now. They have been ridiculed in the press by fellow players and reporters such as Skip Bayless. Richard is a gentleman, very intelligent (Stanford Graduate); kind and a big teddy bear. But even he can only take so much. These young men and their coach have put this team on the map. Going to the Super Bowl is every pro-football players dream.”
Unfortunately with that dream comes the nightmare of people who want to tear you down. Sherman is handling it well. No surprise. This is not the toughest thing he’s had to overcome. Not even close.
Sherman made it out of Compton, California, a place where Sherman said that “not a lot of people eat every night.” He is the poster boy for success. The man proves that circumstances, as he has said, don’t dictate your future. The future is limitless for kids. There’s a message that should be spread. Not Sherman’s opinions on what’s lacking in Michael Crabtree’s game.
Sherman has a special place in his heart for children living in poverty. He said in his Wednesday interview that those kids “didn’t choose those lives.” Sherman knows all about it. Because of his childhood, he understands every moment and every play counts. Sherman takes nothing for granted.
He gives back too. Providing students with school books and participating in plenty of other charity work quietly and humbly. Sherman is delivering a classic American message to our youth. Hard work and faith can pay off. Sherman is living proof.
Also, take notice the types of players Sherman has taken on with relish. Crabtree and Bayless. Two guys that had plenty to say about Sherman first. Is he supposed to remain silent and not defend himself? It seems Sherman is very respectful to those who deserve it. He speaks highly of Peyton Manning and Larry Fitzgerald. It’s when people cross Sherman that he pounces. Because he does it with facts, smarts, and creativity those who fired the first salvo are often left speechless. They in turn play the victim card and some in the press buy it.
We’ve seen this in the world of politics too. Look at Palin for instance. Those who command respect, get it. When people attack her, though, the Mama Grizzly comes out. She told Chris Christie to not get his “panties in a wad” once. She called out Karl Rove for his “theatrics.” Just like the polar vortex used to be known as winter, this type of plain speak used to be called telling it like it is. Sherman is a pro at it. Dish it out at him, be ready to get it back ten fold.
There are a lot of more pressing issues in the world today than which team will hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the Meadowlands on Groundhog Day night. As Palin put it, the on the goings in Iran “along with innumerable domestic failures of government, should warrant more concern and focus than things like, oh, say, how a Seattle Seahawk” gives an interview. Benghazi, NSA spying, and so many things come to mind. They all surely trump football.
The unwarranted attacks on Sherman however do transcend sports and need to be addressed. A man who has worked hard for all he has earned should be applauded not ripped apart. Like countless cornerbacks and other athletes before him, Sherman has his way of firing himself up while getting into the heads of his opponent. It’s nothing new. Maybe just in a day and age where honesty isn’t in abundance, Sherman rubbed some the wrong way. Let’s hope they can see the bigger picture here and enjoy the big game. There’s a cornerback on Seattle who has quite a story if you’d only listen.