The weekend between the NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl is always a little bit sad. It is more than a little bit sad, actually—it is full-on disheartening and boring. The build-up and the excitement surrounding the Super Bowl is always great. Alas, for me, the fear of the season finally being over usually outweighs the joy of watching the season’s final game, the first Sunday of February.
The first weekend without professional football in almost six months was not this bad, though. And that is all thanks to a vociferous cornerback who went to Stanford and plays for the Seattle Seahawks named Richard Sherman, a.k.a my new favorite player in the NFL. As many of you undoubtedly already know, Sherman burst onto the national media stage Sunday, January 19, after making the play of the season, sealing a Seahawk victory by tipping a ball to a teammate for the game-clinching interception against their arch rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. The play was great. The post-game interview with sideline reporter Erin Andrews of ESPN was better. The brief interaction in which Sherman proclaimed himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL and Michael Crabtree, the receiver who was playing opposite him on the aforementioned play, a sorry, mediocre receiver has caused quite a stir. Sherman is now the most polarizing personality in the league. From what I have gathered, there is no middle ground on the issue of Sherman or his post-game interview with Andrews. People either love him or hate him, think he is justified or else an arrogant punk.
I must note that the word “class” is thrown around in the sports world too often. Just google Tom Brady and you will immediately see what I mean. Headline after headline reads something like “Tom Brady is the classiest guy in the NFL.”
Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. Let’s do an experiment. Think of the classiest thing you can think of. After you have thought of that classy thing, think of the diametric opposite. In other words, think of the least classy thing you can think of. Close your eyes and think. Have you done it?
Maybe you didn’t think of playing football as the least classy thing, but it had to be close. Football is, traditionally, not a very classy sport. A sport that pays enormous men to run into one another at full speed, and whose athletes suffer from traumatic brain problems when their careers are over is hardly haute culture, right? That is the absolute farthest thing from classy. But the media and the sports-watching public have always sought to label athletes as “class-acts” or some variation of schmuck.
Sherman has been branded the latter and worse, way worse, by many Americans. If at any point in time you feel the need to be angry at the USA, go to Twitter and read some of the comments that the Sherman interview provoked. I personally guarantee your indignation.
For all intents and purpose, though, Richard Sherman is classy, highly intelligent and a real role model. He is classier, and probably smarter, than all those who have criticized him so vocally throughout the past week.
Here’s a guy that grew up in a rough neighborhood in Compton, got an athletic scholarship to Stanford where he played four years, excelled academically, was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL draft and has worked his tail off to become — arguably — the best at his position in football. He made the most exciting play of the NFL season, and he is great for soundbites.
Seriously, what is not to like about this dude? Judging him off a moment when he has just made the biggest play of his young career, in the biggest moment of the biggest game he has ever played in is simply unfair. He didn’t swear, or say anything that offensive, really. Considering how jacked his adrenaline must have been, I found his comments to be rather tame.
Trash talk is one of the many parts of sports that makes them great. The greatest trash talkers have also been some of the greatest champions. Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, et al. never backed down from a bit of verbal sparring.
Now, it is hard to compare those two to Richard Sherman, for those are the greatest of all time in the respective sports. But there is no denying they are all loquacious. Classy has become synonymous with boring. We want athletes to win and lose graciously, to express no emotion in the throes of victory or defeat. How dull. Roger Goodell even went as far as to fine Sherman close to $8,000 for his comments. That is preposterous. I’m sick of the robotic post-game interviews we see everyday. It was refreshing to see someone be himself after a game for once. So I say this to Richard Sherman’s critics: enjoy not having any personality, whatsoever. And that fine for those innocuous comments? Please. Sherman is riding his mouth all the way to the bank. I only hope that act two is as good as act one, and that Sherman’s post-Super Bowl speech lives up to the one he gave after the NFC Championship.