It has been a contentious week for Seahawks wide receiver Richard Sherman. Following Seattle’s victory over the rival San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC Championship, the superstar cornerback became the pre-Super Bowl storyline for an outburst on live television that has received widespread condemnation.
The 25-year-old made an acrobatic leap to tip a pass from San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, leading to an interception that effectively clinched a Super Bowl berth for the Seahawks. In on-field postgame interviews with FOX and ESPN, Sherman called out wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver he was covering on the interception.
“I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman yelled. “When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me!”
Sherman has since apologized, but the only sin he seems to have committed was being loud and immature. There didn’t appear to be a legitimate reason for Sherman to apologize, and it reeks of caving to public sentiment that his actions were inappropriate.
“Obviously I could have worded things better and could obviously have had a better reaction and done things differently,” he said in an interview on ESPN Radio’s “SVP and Russillo” show. “But it is what it is now, and people’s reactions are what they are.”
It’s not a crime to be enthusiastic and energetic after a victory. Sherman was merely expressing honest emotion and that emotion was pointed at his direct competitor. Disparaging another player while bragging about yourself seems to be in bad taste, but that’s all that Sherman should feel guilty about. Talking trash has been involved in sports for decades, and that's exactly what Sherman was doing.
Indeed, one of the best defensive players in football is a man deserving of defending. Publicly bashing your opponent’s abilities isn’t worthy of the outpouring scorn by the media and social networks.
Sherman has been subjected to racist comments from Twitter, and harsh criticism from media pundits, in yet another example of how pitiful our society can act and how quick things can get overblown in a social-media dominated landscape. The timing couldn’t be more telling, as the Martin Luther King holiday began just hours after the game ended.
Perhaps lost in all of the commotion is the fact that demonstrating such emotion in interviews has happened on multiple occasions. In a similar situation, now-retired New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott was particularly animated after a playoff victory in 2011. The Jets had beaten their division rivals, the New England Patriots, in the playoffs, and Scott didn’t hold back his emotions.
In an on-field interview with ESPN, Scott decided a loud rebuttal to the “non-believers” was in order and singled out the sports network’s studio analysts Tom Jackson and Keyshawn Johnson. He then transitioned into lambasting the Patriots defense, saying “they can’t stop a nose bleed.”
Like Scott, Sherman didn’t use profanity or insult anyone’s character. His Sunday rant was an example of a professional athlete who was caught in the moment after a major victory.
In most cases, athletes are not immediately interviewed following a game. They are asked questions in the locker room or in the press room. When Sherman had time to let the moment set in, he was more judicious with the volume of his voice, and the selection of his words and criticism.
Football is a high-energy and physical game that perhaps lends itself to such belligerence and adrenaline. Opposing players often feel like bitter enemies, especially when they have met on multiple occasions and are constantly in physical battle with one another. The 49ers and Seahawks have developed a fierce rivalry that even involves their head coaches, who have a history that dates back from when they coached in college.
Most fans would be lying if they said that rivalries don’t make sports better. Much of where the rivalries begin and become publicized is through trash talking. The Lakers and Celtics talked trash. So did Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Floyd Mayweather Jr. talks so much trash that it’s often surprising when he isn’t bashing someone.
Bad blood between players is often good for sports. It’s an extra motivating factor that perhaps raises the level of competition, and that seemed to be the case in an intense NFC Championship.
Trash talking does sometimes cross the line. But those who watched Sherman raise his voice on live television and thought he took it too far, might have forgotten that for 60 minutes of football it was likely a two-sided battle of words.
Sherman and Crabtree probably spent a majority of the game, and perhaps other games, jawing at one another. While most players are capable of dropping their antagonism for their opponent when they hear the final whistle, Sherman simply couldn’t control his emotions.
But there were also other factors that for some reason received less than deserving attention. Crabtree slapped Sherman’s helmet after Sherman tipped the pass and after receiving immediate taunts. It was the slap that likely instigated the rants, but the two probably just don’t like each other and haven’t for a while. Crabtree reportedly tried to start a fight with Sherman over the summer at a charity event.
Should Sherman have reacted with more grace after his team won the NFC Championship? Sure. But he should be spared the incessant criticism. His outburst can be chalked up to his energetic personality, and the only person who should feel bothered by the comments is Crabtree.
Yet, so many people feel offended by Sherman being loud and boastful. Terrence Moore of CNN believes Sherman deserves to be blasted.
Moore wrote on Wednesday: “If you decide to look and sound like a crazy person on national television, you likely will receive a bunch of responses from yahoos that won't be kind.”
Moore is certainly not alone. In headlines, the words “crazy,” “bizarre,” “insane,” and phrases like “loses it” have been attributed to Sherman’s rant. Sherman’s quick decision to deride another player, something routinely done by athletes of most sports, was greeted by a public who were just as quick to deride him.
That is a lot of vitriol directed to a guy who plays a game where players’ brains are bashed to the point that they are committing suicide within a decade of retirement.
It is Sherman’s critics who probably need to grow up.