Richard Sherman, defensive cornerback for the NFC’s Seattle Seahawks, stirred up quite a media storm following his rant to Erin Andrews of Fox Sports, which televised the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago.
Now the Super Bowl is upon us and the country has been Sherman-crazy in reaction to his wide-eyed rant on national TV.
Sherman made a great defensive play tipping a pass thrown to San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree in the end zone with time running out. The ball was deflected and then caught by Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith, ending the 49ers’ season and sending Seattle off to the 48th Super Bowl.
Fox Sports went to Andrews who was standing with Sherman for a game-ending wrap. Except that’s where the “Sherman rant” began. Sherman, a graduate of Stanford University and first team Pro Bowler at his position, went ga-ga and was emotionally charged in his moment of helping to knock off the rival 49ers. He talked about how much better he was than Crabtree, that he shut him down, and that his team was going to the Super Bowl.
It’s not just what he said; it was the way he said what he said. He was angry … not the same patter we’ve heard from star players who spout the pabulum we’ve been accustomed to hearing. “Yeah, that was a tough play.” “I don’t know why my shoulder hurt, but we won the game.” “Right now I’m day to day, and I’ll know more when I get the MRI results.”
When Sherman made his rant, he broke the rule that we’ve subtly been observing for years. And that we, as the paying customers or fan(s) watching the game, have been used to. In Sherman’s case he said what was on his mind. He didn’t mince words. He didn’t hold his feelings in check. As viewers, we subconsciously say, “Play this violent game but don’t act violently.” The violence can be scary, but we don’t want the players to scare us. Sherman’s “interview” with Andrews came off as “thug”, “gangsta” and hateful.
Sherman was compared to the great boxer Muhammad Ali, who acted like P.T. Barnum before the circus. Ali clowned before cameras, yelled out that he was going to retire the other fighter. Ali and Bundini Brown would come up with rhymes when a boxer would be knocked out. Everyone knows “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!” Ali said that before a big fight. Ali said most of this with a knowing smile or laugh and he would disarm us. Sherman “told it like it is” without a smile.
After the game, when players have a chance to decompress and filter back into mainstream society, we see these multimillion athletes dressed in business attire, speaking softly.
As a game, pro football is a violent one, and we saw the violent side of Richard Sherman. It wasn’t a crime. Sherman and the other players are our gladiators dressed in today’s uniform. The TV cameras just happened to document Sherman charged up after arguably the most exciting moment of his career — and they’re going to be all over him today at the Super Bowl. I hope he plays well.