There are two universal truths on the subject of Richard Sherman:
- I’m a hardcore Seahawks fan, therefore I love Richard Sherman
- If I was a 49ers fan, I would despise Richard Sherman
And that’s what it boils down to. If he was on your team, you’d love him and defend him like he’s a member of your family. You’d take him exactly as he is and you wouldn’t trade him for anything. As it stands, literally any team COULD HAVE gotten him, but he fell to the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, so if you don’t like him, blame your organization’s general manager for lacking the foresight that ours so obviously has.
To the rest of the world – outside of Seattle and San Francisco – Richard Sherman is up for debate.
There are people, no doubt, who hate the Seahawks simply because of Richard Sherman. Even though we’ve got one of the most pleasant young quarterbacks in Russell Wilson, even though we’ve got one of the funniest, toughest, and most likeable running backs in Marshawn Lynch. If you have no affiliation with Seattle or the Seahawks, and you’re watching this game as a casual observer of the NFL, AND Richard Sherman just so happens to rub you the wrong way … well, you’re probably going to be rooting for the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl (that is, unless you live in Kansas City, New England, Oakland, or San Diego).
Richard Sherman, boy is he polarizing! I often find myself wondering if I would appreciate his antics if he played on another team. Obviously, if he was a 49er, I’d hate his guts. But, let’s say he played for Cincinnati, or Philadelphia, or some other team I have relatively benign feelings about. Well, the easiest way to answer that question is to look back at some of the most polarizing players in years gone by. Deion Sanders. Chad Johnson. Terrell Owens. Randy Moss. I like ALL of those guys! To me, talent always trumps any of that off-the-field nonsense. Sometimes, what a guy says is funny. Sometimes, what he says is enlightening. Sometimes, it’s just narcissistic boasting. But, it’s almost always entertaining. And, if they have the talent on the field to back up what they say off of it, then I’ve got no problem.
It’s when guys run their mouths, then turn around and suck dick on the field … that’s what I’ve got a problem with. But, with players like Owens, Moss, Sanders, and Sherman, it’s like watching a majestic bald eagle soaring over a field of supermodel lesbian orgies: I don’t want to take my eyes off of them, except to brush away a tear because of how beautiful it all is.
I like a good rivalry. Hell, I LOVE it. There’s nothing like it. Of course, what would I know about it, since this is the first real rivalry I’ve been a part of? Even those Sonics teams in the 90s didn’t have one particular team they always competed against on an even level. The Utah Jazz came close, I guess, but can you really define your sports fandom on a Sonics/Jazz rivalry? The Trailblazers and the Lakers came close too, but I dunno. It’s hard to remember the passion you felt for something 20 years ago. I have this memory of just generally hating all the other Western Conference teams equally.
Anyway, what makes for a good rivalry are two teams who are evenly matched, who play one another regularly (so, it helps if they’re in the same division), and who actively dislike one another. Scrapes and jawing on the field. Verbal barbs through the media. Rumors floating around on Twitter about what REALLY happened between so-and-so and so-and-so.
In this case, we have Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree. Apparently, at an off-season charity event, Sherman was slighted by Crabtree in some way. We’ll probably never get the full truth out of this one, but suffice it to say, they don’t like one another.
Then, we had the quotes after the NFC Championship Game. First, on the field, with Erin Andrews:
I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you going to get! Don’t you ever talk about me!
And, when Andrews tried to get the scoop, asking him who was talking about him, Richard responded:
Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut if for you real quick!
The exclamation points are mine, but really I like to think they’re everybody’s, because that was as delightful an exchange as I’ve ever seen from a post-game, on-field interview. Generally, those things are THE WORST. The interviewer & interviewee can’t really hear one another, the questions are always the same (“How does it feel to win the game?” “What were you thinking when so-and-so did that thing?”), and the answers are always dumb fucking cliches, because when you ask a dumb fucking question, you deserve a dumb fucking answer. I will take Sherman’s animation and exuberance any day of the week.
Then, in his post-game interview session with the rest of the reporters, Sherman said the following:
I was making sure everyone knew Crabtree was a mediocre player. Me-di-oc-re. And when you try to beat the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that’s what happens. Game. I appreciate that he knows that now. There has been a lot of talk from him running his mouth about me.
He wouldn’t make the top 20 of NFL receivers. If any team had a chance to pick Crabtree, they wouldn’t draft him.
And finally, in response to a question about being surprised that Kaepernick challenged him:
Everybody in the stadium was surprised. You throw that? It’s insane. I’m thankful they keep doing it. I should have picked it, but there was some offensive interference and I knew it wouldn’t be called.
Jewels. Crown jewels, all of them. I treasure each one of these quotes like they’re my own offspring. I could write a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of fiction and it still wouldn’t make me as happy as those quotes.
Here’s the thing: if you’ve ever played sports – even if it’s just at the intramural level of basketball or football or whatever – and you’ve gone up against a team or a player who just rubs you the wrong way, you know exactly what Richard Sherman was feeling at the end of that game. It takes a certain type of individual, with a certain mind-set, to get as caught up in these petty grudges. But, when you’re in the moment, nothing else matters. To defeat that fucking dickhead – regardless as to WHY you think he’s a dickhead – is the best thing that’s going to happen to you that week. It’s a feeling unlike any other, because it’s a feeling that only the most competitive sorts possess.
Richard Sherman is a rare talent. He’s the best at what he does, yet he’s punished by not getting a chance to do what he does as often as he’d like. What I mean by that, of course, is that other teams avoid throwing at him like the plague. He had two balls thrown his way in the entire game. One resulted in a holding penalty on third down that continued a scoring drive for the 49ers; the other ended the game with a Seahawks victory in hand. To go out there and maintain your focus has to be one of the toughest things to do in this sport. At any moment, the threat of being beat is real. Richard Sherman has to stay in that moment and prevent that threat from becoming a reality, play-in and play-out.
He has to stand there as the quarterback ignores him. He has to try his best, even though the other team is CLEARLY positioning its third or fourth-best receiver in his area of the field. Not only did Sherman play a near-flawless game of coverage, but he almost single-handedly preserved the victory when the 49ers were so foolish as to change the one tactic that was working for them all game.
I talked about it yesterday, but it bears repeating: only a foolish type of arrogance would lead a team down this direction. If Michael Crabtree is your best receiver, and you’re determined to throw it to him to win the game, why wouldn’t you put him on the other side of the field, against Byron Maxwell? I’m not saying it would have worked out any better – because Maxwell is a beast in his own right – but at the very least it would have given them a CHANCE. Against Sherman? No chance. Game.
Richard Sherman doesn’t need a guy like me defending him. Anyone who has done the least bit of research knows, deep down, this is a good guy at heart. When you consider the man’s background, his charity work, his dedication to this team and the players around him: really, he’s the ideal guy to root for.
Most people refuse to listen to reason, though. They’ll never take the time to learn, and if they do, they’ll dismiss all of his genuine qualities. I get it. It’s like arguing politics with someone. They’re steadfast in their beliefs and nothing is going to change their minds.
All I can say is, I’m glad we’ve got Richard Sherman, and I’ll take him exactly as he is. Accept no substitutes. This is the guy to lead us to the Promised Land.