Whether or not you know football, you’ve most certainly heard of Richard Sherman by now.
How could you not? The boisterous Seattle Seahawks cornerback came up with one of the finest defensive plays of the NFL season.
Sherman deflected Colin Kaepernick’s end zone pass to Michael Crabtree right into the hands of teammate Malcolm Smith, securing a victory for his team and a place as public enemy No. 1 in the heart of every San Francisco sports fan.
Of course, the Niner faithful would have scorned Sherman simply on the grounds of ruining yet another Quest for Six.
But it was his post-game remarks towards Crabtree, as well as an on-field gesture towards Kaepernick, that would dig himself an even deeper hole with both fans and media pundits.
It’s no secret that Sherman loves to talk. With the ability to shut down nearly any receiver in the NFL, he has all the right to.
But what separates an athlete’s on-field behavior from their nationally-televised interviews is a certain level of professionalism, as well as an air of tact, which Sherman was far removed from.
Erin Andrews’ face — and timid retort — told it all.
Standing there with a puzzled look, Andrews could do nothing but watch around as Sherman vehemently criticized Crabtree, calling him “a sorry receiver” adding that if Crabtree opens his mouth up, he’s going to “shut it for you real quick.”
Many are quick to rush to Sherman’s aid and claim that the responses were a heat-of-the-moment response fueled by adrenaline and excitement. I don’t disagree.
In fact, I would be quick to drop the issue — were this actually the case.
But not only did Sherman go on to reiterate his stance later in a post-game press conference, he put emphasis on the phrase “mediocre” every time he said it in reference to Crabtree.
Sherman also felt compelled to write a blog post about the issue, where he continued his tirade against Crabtree.
This was by no means a passion-fueled slip-up by an overly excited player. This was a calculated berating of one of the better receivers in football.
I live in the real world, so I understand that professional athletes — especially those in a sport as physical as football — are not going to hit the local bar together buying each other rounds.
But when Sherman degrades another professional not once, but three times in front of large audiences across different mediums, his ability to cry accident gets thrown out the window.
Not like he would want to anyways, because Richard Sherman is a deliberate antagonist in the media.
Sherman is a Stanford product with a top-tier education in the field of communications. Yes, communications. Because of this, Sherman knows all about the nuances of the media and exactly how to manipulate it.
It would be hard to believe that Sherman didn’t know his actions would make him a bigger story than the game itself, and that’s exactly what happened.
Monday’s headlines weren’t as much about the Super Bowl matchup, but more so about the antics Sherman displayed Sunday night.
This cast a negative shadow upon something that should be a positive experience for himself as a player, as well as eclipsing a well fought game by the rest of his teammates.
Yesterday wasn’t a Seahawks victory, it was the Richard Sherman show, and he made himself the star.
The videos of his exchange are out there in abundance around the Internet, but not once did Sherman mention anything about his teammates during his now infamous interview.
Instead, Sherman shouted into the camera like a drunken forty-year-old who just won their beer league softball championship, crafting a villain persona so great that somewhere Vince McMahon wishes he had written the script.
Sherman has since gone on to address this issue in a supposed apology to Crabtree, which is less of an apology to him and more of an apology to his teammates, but the damage has been done.
If anything, this is Sherman continuing to stir his name into the pot.
Therein lies the problem with Richard Sherman. No one can question the man’s ability to play football, and no one can take away from all the hard work and dedication that he puts into the game every season.
I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t actually enjoy the chippiness of a grudge match. But as a professional athlete, Sherman has obligations to cast a positive image of himself in the media as a player for the Seahawks and the NFL — all of which he failed to do.
There are reasons players like Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald and heck, even his upcoming opponent in Payton Manning — whose post-game remarks of late were simply about getting a Bud Light as soon as possible, — are highly as more than just good football players.
I’m not one to completely misplace my blame however.
Kaepernick’s pre-snap decision to throw Sherman’s way and lack of going through his progression — perhaps the strongest criticism of his game — led to him being in position to make a play.
But placing the ball just a mere matter of inches higher would have not only sent the Niners to the Super Bowl, but never given Sherman a soap box to preach from.
The NFL is able to humble people really quickly, and given Sherman’s task of trying to stop one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game in Manning, I would suggest he turns his attention away from himself and on to the biggest game of his career.
At least Manning knows he has a whole city behind him, and not just Denver.