Monday, January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman and Shame

Whoo, I Said, Whoo
Because this is the only thing that Twitter can seemingly talk about today, and it's threatening to be the only thing that anyone will remember from what was, really, a wonderfully intense and back and forth game that I could have watched forever...

As fans, we frequently act, and feel, like we care more about the outcome of the game than the participants. The opposing laundry isn't just the guys in it; it's the city that we've disliked for whatever reason, the history of men wearing said laundry that scarred as as children or adults, the dramatically awful people we had to endure who were fans of said laundry. I will, I am certain, have a deep and abiding hatred for all Boston sports teams, thanks to the actions of the ALDS fans... and yet, what happens when the game is over? The players hug, pray together, and basically act like mid-level managers at a freaking trade show. Because that is, really, what they are: contractors under contract who are taking off the mask of allegiance, because there's a really good chance that they are going to wind up working together at some point in the future. Actors in a play, ex-teammates who could be teammates again.

And then, with an increasingly lack of frequency, you get actual teams that overcome that, and honestly feel like they are going to completely sell out for each other. Usually it's a young team, without a lot of free agents or older players, sometimes after a coaching or regime change. Every team has some small aspect of this, but some have a lot more. And today, we were treated to that in spades with the Niners and Seahawks.

Compare it, if you will, with the Broncos and Patriots game earlier in the day. It's Peyton Manning and Tom Brady... but Manning is in the wrong uniform, and so is Wes Welker, and even Austin Collie. Champ Bailey is there and has been in Denver forever, but plenty of people remember him in DC. Jacob Tamme got a score today, and he's a Colt too, right? Brady's handing off to LeGarrette Blount, who killed you when he was in Tampa Bay, and he's not getting any support from Danny Amendola, who killed you in St. Louis, and so on, and so on. So the game matters, but it feels more or less random, at least to a casual observer. (Hell, even the coaches are transients, especially John Fox.)

Niners and Seahawks? Of all the principals here, the only guys who don't spend the majority of their time in the laundry are Anquan Boldin, Marshawn Lynch with his sad time in Buffalo, some Seattle receivers that didn't even suit up, and, um, that's it. And Boldin and Lynch seem like they'd die for their teammates, and have been there forever. It just led to a fanatically better game, because you got the sense that everyone involved cared -- maybe too much -- about who was going to win the game, and that they didn't much care what their opponent thought about them afterwards.

So Richard Sherman, the Seattle corner that is among the best in the league at what he does, makes the play of his life on a play that could have ended his season, and permanently altered his legacy as a professional. He makes that play against the Niners' best WR, Michael Crabtree, who is probably not completely innocent in the trash talking war, because, um, it's the NFL; it's very likely that there is no such thing as a complete innocent. Said play wins the game for the Seahawks, and post play, there is nothing that Sherman can do that it will have any impact on this fact.

So he celebrates. Too much, probably. He gets into it with Crabtree, takes off his helmet, yada yada yada. He's hearing 80K people going bonkers, he's feeling unspeakable relief from the fact that the Niners aren't going to pull this out despite his offense not putting the game away on several opportunities earlier in the quarter. He's also saved his teammates on the defensive line, who haven't gotten to the quarterback or contained the scrambles that were the majority of plays of note today for the Niner offense.

If there was ever a time for a man to celebrate, it's this one.

And then the game ends, and Erin Andrews makes the fateful decision to just stick a microphone in his face, lob a softball and duck. View it again with me?

Now, note what Sherman *didn't* do: use profanity. He's emotional, but he's not out of control. He's not using his indoor voice, but he's in a stadium of 80K people who've been screaming their heads of for three hours. And he's as amped up on adrenalin as a football player can be.

I don't really have a rooting interest in this game. I picked the Niners to cover and have some good friends who root for them, but I also owned Russell Wilson in my fantasy league and love to watch him play. If you can't appreciate Lynch, you don't like football. The same goes for Kaepernick and Frank Gore, honestly. I find Jim Harbaugh to be distasteful, but it's not like Pete Carroll is a bowl of cherries. I'm going to root for, and pick, whichever NFC team made it, because I believed that these were the two best teams in football, by a pretty wide margin.

So what Sherman said made me snort a little, and giggle, but it didn't really register as something that should change the world. Maybe you made a Bart Scott joke, or thought about how Andrews cut things short for cause, but it's just one guy, having a moment. And then you see the social media, and good grief.

Sherman, you see, isn't just a cornerback. He's a black guy disgracing his race in front of Martin Luther King Day. He's a Stanford guy who forever calls into question the idea that the college is basically a West Coast Ivy League school. He's proof that NFL players are on PEDs, or that Carroll has no control over his team, or that Seattle are class-free bad winners. Or that Beats by Dre is ruining the world, or guys from Compton are thugs with a capital T, or any other remarkably awful thing you might want to say about guys with his kind of hair or skin.

And it's all such a great load of fecal matter, and the fact that so many people seem to think it's not... well, I get that you'd hate the guy if you were rooting for the Niners. But was everyone rooting for the Niners?

So, anyone who wants to think too deeply about this? Take a moment. Breathe. Consider, for a moment, how you might be making Sherman's race the determining factor, rather than his profession. And how you might feel about what you are saying if you rooted for different laundry, or came from a different demographic.

Then, finally, answer this question.

If Sherman was CB1 on your team, and your team was going to the Super Bowl... would you be ashamed of him?


CMJDad said...

Stop sounding like Al Sharpton, please! It wasn't about race. It was about a lack of class. I usually like Sherman, but please, act professional.

snd_dsgnr said...

Personally I didn't have any problem with the post-game interview at all, though admittedly I did immediately start making "DON'T YOU EVER PICK ME FOR A SIDELINE INTERVIEW!" jokes. I thought it was amusing.

I wouldn't have had much of a problem with him taunting Crabtree either, except for the bit where he started looking for a flag after Crabtree pushed him away. That was dumb.

Oh, and I think you could make a very solid argument that he is *the* best CB in the game right now, not just one of the best.

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