Monday, January 20, 2014

Richard Sherman

Because life isn't scheduled around my sports viewing needs, I happened to be in a car driving to the airport during the last two minutes of the NFC Championship game.  So I missed the "interview of infamy" as it was happening, but was able to get caught up fairly quickly when it was obvious from my Twitter feed that something had happened.

What bothers me most about it is that we're now going to have to live and relive the moment for the two weeks leading into the Super Bowl, all the while debating over what it signifies about a) Richard Sherman's character; b) the state of the NFL in 2014; c) the notion of sportsmanship in general; d) the state of race relations in the United States (and the subset of "what does it mean if I root for Peyton Manning and against Richard Sherman"); and e) whatever I'm inadvertently leaving off of this list.

So here are a few random thoughts for the record, while wishing that the game was being played next Sunday instead of on Groundhog Day.  Have at it; judge as you will.

- Bud Grant, the coach of the Minnesota Vikings during the era when they were good at making it to Super Bowls but bad at winning them, once commented to a player after a particularly exuberant touchdown celebration, "try to act like you've been there before."  To this day, it's one of my favorite football quotes.  Today, we live in an era where celebrations take place after virtually every play, regardless of the score and whether the celebrant's team is actually winning the game.  It drives me nuts, and it strikes me as unnecessary.  There's a line, and it may be a fine one, between celebrating and demeaning your opponent, and Sherman crossed it last night.

- In this morning's Monday Morning Quarterback, Sherman has a column that speaks to the issue.  I have a feeling that it will just add more fuel to the fire.  Particularly with these two paragraphs:

"Erin Andrews interviewed me after the game and I yelled what was obvious: If you put a subpar player across from a great one, most of the time you’re going to get one result. As far as Crabtree being a top-20 NFL receiver, you’d have a hard time making that argument to me. There are a lot of receivers playing good ball out there, and Josh Gordon needed 14 games to produce almost double what Crabtree can do in a full season. And Gordon had Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell playing quarterback."

For all I know, Michael Crabtree is a horrible human being, and perhaps to blame for all of this since he apparently said something to Sherman at an event earlier this year (something that Sherman seems determined not to share).  There's obviously some really bad blood between the two.  I don't like what Sherman wrote here - notwithstanding Jim Harbaugh's comments, Crabtree is no Jerry Rice, but "subpar?"  And let's not forget that he spent most of the season recovering from a severe injury himself.  In any event, I would like to hear Crabtree's point of view about all of this.

But this is the one that bugs me:
I threw a choking sign at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Why? Because he decided he was going to try the guy he was avoiding all game, because, I don’t know, he’s probably not paying attention for the game-winning play. C’mon, you’re better than that.

I don't know, it just feels like this one is way over the top. Someone can tell me whether they think this comparison is apt or not, but imagine LeBron James saying something like that about Tim Duncan last June when Duncan missed an easy shot that might have won the NBA title for the Spurs - a shot he'd probably made 99 times out of 100 during his career.  "I threw a choking sign at Tim Duncan.  Why?  Because he got a little too cute and missed a shot that no professional should ever miss, because, I don't know, he's probably not paying attention for the game-winning play.  C'mon, you're better than that."

Kaepernick, needless to say, has far to go to achieve the stature of a Tim Duncan.  But I'm not sure he deserves a comment like that.  He didn't come through when the game was on the line.  But whether you think what Sherman said was an honest appraisal or not, do we really want our best athletes to be rendering judgment in public the way that Sherman did? 

I've read nearly everything Richard Sherman has written this year for MMQB, I'm familiar with his story, and admire his efforts for charity and support for the community.  I think he's a good guy.  Further, I think sideline interviews are among the biggest wastes of time in the history of sports, and have made fun of them on this site on numerous occasions. And finally, this is far from the most serious issue facing the NFL today - there's the question of that $765 million settlement that a judge has just questioned because it may not cover all those who have suffered harm from brain injuries, and the question of whether it is really possible for human beings to be the size of NFL players (and recover from injuries in miraculous timelines) without a steady diet of performance-enhancing drugs?

But it is what it is; this is the issue that will be in front of us for the next two weeks.  And even though I think he's a good guy, I don't think Sherman should get a pass for last night.  A dick move is a dick move, and he was being a dick.  At the very least, it should make next year's games between Seattle and San Francisco really interesting.

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