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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Only in America

Seattle Seahawks conrerback Richard Sherman was the talk of the sports world following a 17 second rant immediately following the 2013 NFC Championship Game victory by his team over the San Francisco 49ers. Sherman tipped a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Niners wide receiver Michael Crabtree in the end zone, intercepted by a teammate.

Seconds after the biggest play of Sherman's career, which sent his team to the Super Bowl, Sherman was interviews by Fox's Erin Andrews. The adrenaline clearly had not leveled off in the loquacious defensive back's system. For those of you living in a cave, or just wanting an encore, Sherman treated America to this:

If you wanted to know why the NFL has a 10 minute cooling off period before player press conferences and locker room interviews, here's Exhibit A.


Richard Sherman was already well known to Seahawks fans and NFL die hards. Sherman thinks he is the best cornerback in the NFL and I (along with many others) agree with him. Still, casual fans of football may not have known of the star defensive back prior to the NFC Championship Game. To quote the late hip-hop poet, Biggie Smalls, "If you don't know, now you know!"

Twitter exploded with Richard Sherman fodder and the clip of the 17 second rant went viral almost immediately. The NFL star sounded like a WWE performer challenging Crabtree to a steel cage match. Some were put off by the rant. Some agreed with Sherman because, let's face it, if you walk the walk, you can talk the talk, and Sherman has walked the walk all year.

Then there was the small but always loud contingency that saw their once-a-week opportunity to gain 15 minutes of Twittersphere fame by speaking ill of Sherman. Naturally the N-bomb was sprinkled in with Sherman-hating. The word "thug" was used so much to describe Sherman, a Stanford honors graduate, that one may think it was his middle name. Every talking head in television and radio offered an opinion.

Sherman, right, denies his arch-nemesis Crabtree, left, a trip to the Super Bowl. I'm sure I would have quietly asked for a cup of Earl Grey and curled up with a good book immediately afterwards. 1


To describe Richard Sherman as a big talker is accurate. Calling him a loudmouth, under the circumstances, would not have been unreasonable. To describe him as a bad guy or any other pejorative based solely on his appearance and a short adrenaline-juiced rant, is a reflection of the simple-minded nature of some in our society, needing everyone and everything to fit into a neat category (often negative) and averse to critical thinking art the most basic level.

Still, from every sensational event arises an opportunity for all involved to color in the lines of an incomplete picture. Sherman apologized shortly after in the post game press conference in which he was more mild mannered and composed. He had a very different demeanor after having an opportunity to shower and cool off (literally and figuratively). The media saw gold and everyone rushed in after it.

Sherman, who has had no shortage of media opportunities, came across as intelligent, personable and insightful in the days following the incident. Anyone continuing to label him a "thug" by the end of the week was either not listening to him or simply uses the word "thug" in place of "nigger" regardless of what Sherman (or anyone else) says of does.

His 17 second monologue gave rise to a fame that will last much longer than 15 minutes. Sherman, already well known to sports insiders, became a media star across every format. Sherman has been on every media format from sports television to talk radio to cable news talk shows since he helped punch his team's ticket to the big game.


Sherman, known well in his craft but with limited recognition outside the sports world, took a moment of potential infamy and managed it into the opportunity of a lifetime. Sherman vaulted himself into a position to broaden his appeal beyond the world of sports - a goal of most successful athletes that relatively few attain. A lesser man with a shorter fuse may have chosen to engage his critics by returning verbal fire.

That would not help his brand in the long run. Instead, Sherman chose the highest road available. And in turn, America, always salivating for the next big star, has given him a platform at the country's signature sporting event and biggest television/media extravaganza.    

They aren't surrounding him because they think he is uninteresting. 2

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1) Image from
2) Image from ESPN's SportsCenter's Twitter page (@SportsCenter).

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