Twas the week before The Week Before The Super Bowl, and everything got silly. Just a bunch of extra days for everyone (not just sports media, but EVERYONE) to weigh in on Richard Sherman’s rant following the NFC Championship, advanced Super Bowl weather forecasts, ESPN providing a statistical breakdown of games in which Peyton Manning wore a glove on his throwing hand, and other meaningless time-filling exercises. Like the NFL Pro Bowl.
I don’t have too much to add to the Sherman dialogue, but consider me on the side (cuz we all MUST choose sides!) of those who think Sherman’s only mistake was poor sportsmanship in the heat of battle. I’m not sure how we expect these guys to play a brutal game at an exceptionally high level, and then a minute later be calm and thoughtful. As intelligent as Sherman is, it’s still unrealistic for us to expect him to get so jacked up that he can make the biggest play of his career, in the playoffs, on the game-winning play at home against a heated division rival to send his team to the Super Bowl….. but then instantly calm down and give us a boring canned response like “They’re a heckuva a team but we did just enough to win the ballgame.” In fact, when we do get those measured responses we complain about how boring they are and how today’s athletes are too “rehearsed” and restrained and, well, boring.
Really, the heart of the matter was the fact that a loud and unrehearsed black man came screaming into everyone’s living room through their TV sets. So then it had to become A Thing. And once it was A Thing, thankfully everyone got to learn that Sherman graduated with a 3.9 GPA from Stanford, one of the premier academic institutions in the country. But why should we even have to “pull the Stanford card” to defend Sherman from being called a “thug” and worse in the aftermath of a post-game interview? Rembert Browne examined that question on Grantland, and there’s since been a backlash to the backlash, with a host of “Hey Richard Sherman is Actually Awesome!” coverage, from Buzzfeed to Deadspin to right here on NFL Spin Zone. My favorite piece about Sherman was William Rhoden’s column in the New York Times.
In the days following the now-infamous post-game interview, Sherman has said that “thug” is just the latest code word for people to use the “N-word” without really using it. I agree. Funny, that hasn’t been debated 24/7. When Johnny Manziel pounded his chest with some “me-first” antics at Texas A&M, or got embroiled in an autograph-selling controversy, no ever used the word “thug.” They just called him “Johnny Football.” But no one wants to have THAT conversation, they just wanna line up to declare how much they think think Richard Sherman is a thug, a classless loudmouth. Or be on the side that thinks they “get it,” by chiming in with the “But he’s so well spoken” routine… Anyway here is Sherman’s own column on Peter King’s MMQB website, “To Those Who Call Me Thug, Or Worse…”
As for the Pro Bowl, I didn’t watch that new “draft” selecting the teams and I won’t watch the game. Not surprisingly, the new format did little to ignite more interest. But I did find this tidbit of coverage to be a tad ironic on the heels of all the Richard Sherman coverage:
There was some rich irony in the dud that was the NFL’s historic, first-ever Pro Bowl draft. Players in this league are so well-trained in guarded speech that none of them could muster the kind of WWE-style trash-talking necessary to make this a watchable three-hour event…. But it was probably too much to ask a group of 88 NFL players to morph into pro wrestlers and create enough mock drama to spice up Sunday’s game.
SOOO…. Trash-talking is “necessary,” but only when it serves the league in need of spicing up a game no one cares about and makes it “watchable.” Got it.
Ah, such mixed messages. The poor kids of today must be so confused. If only there was a positive message. Something that could cut through all the noise and all the hype and have the impact of a Richard Sherman post-game interview….
Wait, what? There IS a positive message in here? Oh, and it’s from Richard Sherman himself? From his press conference last Wednesday:
“I think regardless of how bizarre my story gets at times, especially in times like this, it’s still remarkable how a kid from Compton, a kid from humble beginnings, and the story can resonate from any kid coming from humble beginnings. Whatever beginnings you come from just understand that your circumstances don’t dictate your future. Your circumstances don’t control your limits. You’re limitless, you’re a limitless person, you’re limitless by your faith, your abilities, your trust in yourself, your hard work; you can do as much as you want to do. If you go to school and get good grades and work as hard as you can, if you don’t have the materials, the school books, people can help you with that. There will always be people out there that want to help kids like that, and I’m trying to help as many as I can. But to not go out there and work as hard as you can and give yourself the best possible chance to be successful you’re doing yourself a disservice. That’s really what I want the kids to know.”