Richard Sherman and the Rant Heard ‘Round the World
Sadly, nobody has been talking about the play. Why? Because of what followed, the post game interview. Erin Andrews approached a clearly fired up Sherman and asked him to take us through that last, game sealing play. So, he did. He did it in a way that was loud, passionate, slightly terrifying, and direct. It caught Erin Andrews off guard. It caught most of America off guard, and it launched an unfortunate display of human ignorance. Nowhere was this more prominent than in the realm of social media where Richard Sherman was called, “a thug”, “a gorilla”, and just about every other derogatory racial slur (yes, of course that includes the n-word). The sad thing is that the people most ready to drag Richard Sherman through the mud know nothing about him. That’s a damn shame, because his life is quite the story.
Richard Sherman grew up in Compton. Yes, that Compton. But back in the day when local celebrities Dr. Dre and Ice Cube were calling out the police and society with gratuitous amounts of F-bombs, long before they started crafting headphones or staring in PG children’s movies. The son of a garbage man and a teacher’s assistant (Kevin and Beverly), Richard never got involved in the gang life that consumed so many of his peers. Why? Because his mother Beverly made all of the gangs in the neighborhood promise her that they wouldn’t accept her son. That’s right – his mom intimidated gangsters to preserve her son’s future. It’s a good thing she did, because Richard’s future was bright. In high school, Sherman was a stud in football and track, earning All-American honors in the triple jump. After high school, Sherman knew there was only one place he wanted to go, Stanford. So he did.
Going from Compton to Stanford is kind of like hopping from roller skates to a laser-powered jetpack capable of warp speed and time travel, but Richard could care less. He learned all about Othello and Shakespeare and was a freshman All-American at wide receiver. Wait, I thought he was a cornerback? He is now, but before that he was dominant on the other side of the ball because the modern laws of physics seem not to apply to him. After his breakout freshman campaign, Richard saw a decrease in playing time under head coach Jim Harbaugh (current 49ers coach). Long story short, a defensive coach convinced Sherman to switch to defense, he wound up excelling but unappreciated by pro scouts, and was drafted by the Seahawks in the 5th round in 2011. Since then he has made his former coach Jim Harbaugh’s life miserable, and has become the one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL.
If you were one of those people who called Richard Sherman an ignorant thug, then you don’t know the real Richard Sherman. He had a 4.1 GPA in high school, so its not like Stanford had to make an exception for him based on talent or race in order for him to gain admittance. Determined not to let his friends and teammates fall into the circle of crime and addiction that surrounded their lives, Sherman tutored his friends to prepare them for the SAT and made sure they sent applications to colleges. Oh, and Richard has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford. Chances are that you don’t.
You may also be interested to learn that Richard Sherman is an accomplished journalist. He is a regular contributor for Monday Morning Quarterback, the pro football-centric website founded by noted writer Peter King under the Sports Illustrated umbrella. On top of being a correspondent for mmqb.com, his writing has also appeared in issues of the actual Sports Illustrated.
The fact that Sherman’s interview has drawn comparisons to “Famous” Jameis Winston’s post-BCS debacle further illustrates the greater population’s inability to draw reasonable conclusions about things that are similar. Richard Sherman was very clear. Very, very clear. His sentences had structure. It’s true, read them for yourself: “Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get!” Now compare this for a second to this small sample from Winston: “And I said: we said – are you – I said: are you strong? They said: I’m strong if you strong. I said we strong then.” Notice any differences? They should be pretty apparent.
Most of Richard Sherman’s rant is true. He is one of, if not the best, corners in the game. That much is fact. And while it is hard to quantify if Crabtree is, in fact, a “sorry receiver”, the 49ers did try Sherman with him and did suffer the result (of a loss). So what are we all upset about? The fact that Richard was emotional after making the game winning play in a championship game? Is it the fact that an athlete (God forbid) talked some trash? Because, Larry Bird is one of the hands down best trash talkers in the history of planet Earth, and he’s never once been called a thug.
Cornerbacks have a different mentality than most people, than even most football players. It’s necessary for them to do their jobs. Corners are consistently left on an island with some of the best athletes in the world (NFL wide receivers) with no help. In a game advertised as the greatest team sport of them all, they are left as exposed individuals. They talk trash. They compete. The great ones, like Sherman and Deion Sanders before him, do both at a very high level.
On Monday, the day after Sherman’s rant, the word “thug” was said 625 times on TV. That’s the highest total in 3 years. Richard Sherman isn’t a felon, he isn’t a thug, and he obviously isn’t a gorilla. Gorillas are not native to California, lack the intellect needed to attend human universities, and are, by all accounts, uncoachable. Richard Sherman is a football player, a writer, and a decent human being as far as we know. He deserves the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.
“UPDATE: Richard Sherman was mic’d up for the game. The recording has been verified. His inflammatory words to Michael Crabtree: ‘Helluva game! Helluva game.'” Click here to see the NFL’s video
Despite the negativity surrounding him, Richard Sherman managed to pick up over 100,000 new twitter followers within hours of his rant. Who knows what the tally is now or what it will be if he intercepts a few Peyton Manning passes come February? Maybe Richard Sherman really is smarter than us all.