It’s sad that in this allegedly post-racial society we live in, so many controversies seem to lead us, indeed force us, back into the topic of race. And that was the case when Richard Sherman seemingly lost his ever-lovin’ cool on the field and then in a postgame interview two weeks ago.
Sherman threw up a choke sign to an opposing quarterback. He got in the face of a defeated foe. And then, in that now infamous postgame interview, he scolded that beaten opponent at the top of his lungs.
He figuratively stood over a prostrate man and kicked him.
And it took about three minutes before the narrative of excuses for such behavior hit the Internet. Excuse No. 1 had Sherman merely letting off steam. Excuse No. 2 deflected blame to the media for unjustly wanting a player to fall in line after complaining too many athletes are robotic
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Finally, predictably, the most common excuse was that Sherman was targeted for criticism because he is black.
Sherman himself seemed to initially shield himself from criticism by pointing to how some social media bullies called him a “thug,” which has quickly become a code word for a racial epithet.
It was crazy.
And then sanity prevailed.
“Last week I felt like I regretted just attacking a man — attacking him and taking away from my teammates,” Sherman said this week. “You never want to talk down on a man to build yourself up and things like that. So I regretted that, and I regretted taking that attention away from my teammates. That’s the one thing that I wish I could do again.”
Thank you, Richard Sherman.
Thank you for being honest, because although there might have been some racists offended by your rant simply because you are black, there are people like me who were offended because you simply showed poor sportsmanship.
Having been raised on and covering the University of Miami football team of the glory days, I have heard trash-talking and seen swagger up close. I know the exact words Miami defensive backs used on Notre Dame’s Tim Brown, while talking about his mother, that actually made him cry out of anger on the field years ago.
And I have zero issue with that psychological assault on an opponent’s mind and emotions while the game is on in order to gain an upper hand. So you talking trash to San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree or anyone else is merely a new chapter to an old story.
But there has to be an off switch that gets flipped when the contest is over. When that time comes and the foe is defeated, the sharp tongue needs to yield to your greater sense of grace, sportsmanship, dignity and honor.
Said another way, once you’ve had your way with an opponent, there’s no use spitting on him, too.
There is a sad and demented thinking out there that perhaps because of where you came from — the tough Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles — you can be excused from this criticism because what that environment taught you was it’s a dog-eat-dog world.
That thinking is actually the height of racism. It assumes a black man growing up in a tough neighborhood does not possess common human decency as an instinct. It stereotypes that black men didn’t have fathers at home to explain dignity and honor — something your father absolutely did after he came home from his job to your mom and the rest of the family.
I don’t accept the excuses because I reject the stereotypes those excuses use as a starting point.
The excuse mongers also suggested the behavior we saw on national TV was merely a souped-up athlete talking while he was still revved up after a huge game and grand performance.
Not buying that, either.
NFL players do interviews coming off the field all the time and this one was the exception rather than the rule. Also, you said pretty much the same things about Crabtree and quarterback Colin Kaepernick about 30 minutes after the on-field rant. By then, you’d showered and collected yourself. You’d thought things through.
And you still called Crabtree “mediocre” and mocked him and took great joy in doing so.
I’m not saying you didn’t have a right to your opinion. But your opinion became the story rather than the great effort by you and your teammates in beating the 49ers.
But by this week, that mistake was behind you. You understood that football is a team sport and no matter how much individuality you show, the “me” cannot overshadow the “team.”
“I really think these cameras should go to my teammates, especially after Bobby Wagner’s 15-tackle game in the NFC Championship, Kam Chancellor’s interception and multiple pass deflections and his 11 tackles, or Earl Thomas’s 11 tackles,” Sherman said. “I think these cameras can be around anyone.
“I think that what happened after the game, the situation that occurred, forced them to be around me and forced everybody’s attention, but I think I have the best teammates in the world. Doug Baldwin had a heck of a game, and he’s a heck of a receiver, and has the stats to prove it. I think that these cameras could be anywhere. They could be on all my teammates, and they deserve it.”
Thank you, Richard Sherman.
You love you. You love lots of attention, too. But there is no denying you can reflect and ultimately, you get it.