Richard Sherman goes off on national TV taking focus from game and onto something far more challenging.
January 21, 2014
Dude, it’s only a game…
What are we to make of Richard Sherman? No doubt he’s a good football player, maybe even, as he unabashedly stated on national TV, “the greatest corner in the game.” By all indication, he is also a very smart person; his 4.2 GPA in high school (Is that even possible?) and a degree from Stanford University are irrefutable proof points. Sherman is also more philanthropic than your average professional athlete; at least that’s what people say.
Frankly, I don’t know any of the above things to be true or false because normally I wouldn’t care about a position player on another city’s football team.
But Richard Sherman changed all that by issuing a vitriolic tirade against a competing player moments after making a decisive play in Seattle’s exciting come-from-behind win in the NFC Championship game. In said rant he denigrated 49er’s receiver, Michael Crabtree, calling him “a sorry receiver.” His delivery was shockingly angry sounding for a guy who just helped his team get to the Super Bowl.
The world heard it and reacted, blowing up Facebook and Twitter and, in a very real way, distracting a national audience from what should have been a crowning moment. The word “thug” was used a lot. And “classless.”
Besides the obvious topic of poor sportsmanship, Seahawk Sherman’s rant and subsequent public commentary is also a crucible in which we can look at race relations in America. Are not the words “Compton” and “thug” simple codes for black men? Are not “Stanford” and “class” simple codes for privileged white men? It’s uncomfortable but there it is, especially prescient on MLK day. Put another way, I’m pretty certain if a white player in a similar situation had gone off on a similar tirade he would have rightly been called an “idiot.” But not a “thug.” That’s interesting to me. And sad. But here we are.
Art imitates life, except here the subject comports himself…
Finally, there is the oddly timely TV commercial for Beats by Dre in which Richard Sherman gamely tries to remain composed as countless reporters interrogate him about, among other things, his “reputation as a thug.” Disgusted, he slips on his headphones tuning out the chatter to Aloe Blacc’s tune, “The Man.” It’s a fine spot, part of a campaign also featuring, ironically, San Francisco’s brash quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. (For more: Adweek on Sherman)
Add up all these unlikely pieces and we get a startling mosaic of a moment in time and hopefully a teachable one at that. For Richard Sherman. And for all of us.