When’s the last time you sent your team to the Super Bowl? Yes, the Super Bowl, America’s favorite sporting event. Very few people can affirm this statement, and Richard Sherman is one of them. In the National Football Conference Championship Game, he dove backwards and tipped the potential game-winning pass, sealing the win for the Seahawks. But it’s Sherman’s postgame interview with Erin Andrews of Fox Sports that’s been getting all the media attention.
Sherman crows, “Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you ever talk about me!” He also admonishes Crabtree for talking trash: “Crabtree! Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!”
Since his interview, we have learned that the bad blood between Crabtree and Sherman spans back to a charity fundraiser and this game was the newest manifestation. Immediately after Sherman made the crucial play that ended the game, he sincerely went over to shake Crabtree’s hand, saying “Hell of a game. Hell of a game.” Crabtree swatted at Sherman, causing the referees to separate them; and after the two parted, Sherman went on to give the now infamous interview.
The reactions to Sherman’s comments ran the gamut from praise for his adrenaline, enthusiasm, and swagger to racial slurs, including “thug” and the n-word.
But why did this incident become such hot news? Trash-talking and self-promotion are nothing new to professional sports. Sherman was just high on adrenaline and overreacted in the moment. I’ve never had high expectations for athlete interviews, and I’ve always cared much more about what happens on the field. I wanted to watch the highlight of his phenomenal play over and over again—not his televised rant.
It was only after the social media blow up that I took the time to look into who Richard Sherman was. Any inkling of doubt regarding his intelligence or integrity dissipated as soon as I learned his story. Sherman escaped from a rough neighborhood by earning a 4.2 high-school GPA and clinching a football scholarship to Stanford, where he also ran track and studied communications, graduating with a boast-worthy 3.9.
The idealized sports hero is a myth that was shattered long ago, but perhaps Sherman is the athlete who meets it. As a kid, you cannot help but admire the athletes on TV who are performing incredible physical feats. They seem perfect—and so we expect their morals to be perfect as well, flawed logic though that may be.
Recently there has been an unflattering correlation between athletic achievement and questionable morality, especially in the National Football League. Ray Lewis and Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones have both been involved in murder cases, and Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault twice.
But Sherman defies this stereotype. Yes, he did bad mouth another player on national TV, but he later apologized and explained himself. And as he said in a recent interview with CNN’s Rachel Nichols, “I’m not out there beating on people, or committing crimes, or getting arrested, or doing anything. I’m playing a football game at a high level. And I got excited.”
Sherman’s passion got the best of him in this one incident, but we should be willing to forgive him for that. The myth of the idealized sports hero was shattered for a reason: No one can be expected to be perfect all the time. Besides, Sherman’s passion is contagious. His pursuit of excellence in the classroom and on the field—especially his ability to bring out the best of his teammates—is pretty admirable. I’m excited for Sunday’s Super Bowl, and I’ll be rooting for Sherman and the Seahawks. I’m ready for the best cornerback in the league to put on a show both on and off the field.