Why Everyone Is Wrong About Richard Sherman

The word thug can mean many things to many people.  To some people, it can be seen as a badge of honor, evidence of the struggles one has overcome and the requisite and/or resultant toughness.  To others, it is something quite negative, an indicator of one’s violent or criminal nature.

Similarly, class means many things to many people.  Most often, it refers to either a person’s economic standing in society or their adherence to broader social norms and expectations.  These are generally conflated and reduced to the term “socioeconomic class”, largely because of the tendency for those with more money (and, thus, more power) to be the prime drivers of social norms and expectations.  But it can also mean many other things and often reveals more about the speaker than the target at which it is directed.

How we define these words goes a long way towards evaluating the response to Richard Sherman’s postgame comments after last week’s NFC Championship game.  For those who haven’t followed the saga, video can be seen here.  Sherman has been called a thug, classless, stupid, selfish, and arrogant.  He has been called brilliant and passionate.  Some consider him everything wrong with modern athletes.  Others argue he is an exemplar among his colleagues.

So what is the truth about Richard Sherman? Well, I think it is far more complicated than any of these arguments can encapsulate.  And I think there is an angle here that has gone largely unexplored.

First, let’s make a few things clear.  Sherman is not stupid.  Not by a long shot.  I haven’t found a verifiable report of his high school transcripts, but his high school GPA has been cited as high as 4.2 and as low as 3.9, his SAT scores as high as 1400 and as low as 1090 (on the old 1600 scale).  He finished second in his graduating class, albeit at a struggling school in Compton.  He completed his degree in communications from Stanford (with reports stating he was an honors student) and returned for graduate courses during his last year of eligibility.  Depending on how you weigh all these factors, you may or may not consider him particularly intelligent, but it is hard to argue that this is the profile of someone fundamentally stupid.  Now, what he did might have been stupid.  But he is certainly not a stupid man.

Is he a thug?  Using the traditional definition linked to above, he is certainly not.  Let me be clear and say that nothing in the preceding paragraph disqualifies him from being a thug.  Many have argued that he simply can’t be a thug because of his Stanford education and academic credentials.  Stop.  A gawdy academic transcript doesn’t preclude someone from violence or criminality.  And arguments to the contrary severely miss the point.  What does matter is that Sherman has no criminal record or history of off-field violence.  Yes, he plays defense in the NFL and is known for a hard-nosed style, but that is not what anyone was referring to when they called him a thug.  Plus such a definition would make the vast majority of NFLers thugs.  Some folks may be happy declaring such but that similarly stretches the bounds of credibility given the context in which people lobbed their criticisms his way.  And criticisms they were, eliminating the possibility that they were using the more positive sense of that term (which arguably fits Sherman to a T).

Is he classless?  Or, more precisely, were his actions classless?  Honestly, I’m not really comfortable answering this question.  Because I don’t think anyone is actually talking about class as an economic or social indicator when they’re talking about a 30-second postgame interview.  If we allow for the myriad of possible uses of that terms under its broadest possible definition, sure, we might be talking about class.  But a better term would be sportsmanship.  Sportsmanship encapsulates the norms we have for athletes while engaged in the business of sports.  The problem here is that sportsmanship is even more of a Rorschach test than class is.  There is far from an agreed upon expectation of what constitutes sportsmanship, even if you look within the various constituent groups that have standing on the matter (athletes, fans, coaches, team and league officials, the media).  In this case, when people invoke class or even sportsmanship as a critique of Sherman, I think they are appealing less to a consistent standard of behavior and instead are trying to cloak a personal dislike of Sherman or his actions in something more objective.  If people really cared about sportsmanship, enough to pen pieces about every instance of its violation, ESPN.com’s servers would melt.  And we’d probably have a different perspective on Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.  That none of these things have happened indicates to me most people care less about sportsmanship than they do about an athlete acting in a way they don’t like.  As I see it, the question is less about whether Sherman’s actions were perfectly sportsmanly (the refs and Roger Goodel say they are not and I am inclined to agree) and whether we really care about sportsmanship.  I think we don’t.  Not nearly as much as the commentary would suggest.

But what if I told you that I think everyone is missing the boat on what Sherman did that night?  What if I told you that why Sherman did what he did is more interesting than what he did?  Because I’m pretty sure that, right now, all of us are eating out of Richard Sherman’s hands.  And he is loving it.

Watch Sherman’s interview with Erin Andrews again.  Does he appear out of control?  Yes, he is yelling.  Yes, he largely ignores Andrews’ initial question.  But he also demonstrates a unique degree of composure.  He does not stutter once or seem lost for words.  He alternates between making eye contact with Andrews and looking directly into the camera.  He responds immediately and on point to Andrews’ second question.  He never curses or uses inappropriate language.  Likewise with his far-less-discussed follow-up interview with Ed Werder.  And he was downright Presidential during his postgame press conference.

Now watch Sherman’s just-released-but-previously-recorded commercial for Beats.  Hmmm… a remarkable degree of prescience there, no?

Now look at Sherman’s history as a member of the media.  He’s written for Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback.  He’s appeared on First Take (where he thankfully eviscerated Skip Bayless in a similarly calculated media apperance) and been invited to participate in NFL studio shows.  He demonstrates poise, thoughtfulness, and intelligence.  He demonstrates a clear sense of how to work in front of both the camera and the keyboard.  He demonstrates the skills and talent of a trained journalist.  It’s almost like the guy is a trained journalist.

Oh wait… that’s exactly what he is.  Remember above where we discussed Sherman’s academic history?  And noted his degree from Stanford in communications?  Well, Stanford doesn’t have an undergraduate journalism program.  The communications department is the closest thing they have (and oversees their graduate program in journalism).

If you think this is a coincidence, think again.  Richard Sherman knows exactly what he’s doing when a microphone is put in front of him.  He is an intelligent man with strongly held opinions on a variety of subjects.  He knows that even the longest NFL careers peter out by the time a player is in his late 30’s.  Sherman is laying the groundwork for a post-NFL career in the media.  He is demonstrating not only his competence with the spoken and written word, but a willingness to tackle difficult topics and engage in controversial conversations.  He may not be right all the time, but what media member is?  But what he is all the time is thoughtful and deliberate and considered.  His postgame “rant” was not a rant at all; it was a carefully calculated move to make himself the focus of the most media saturated two weeks on the NFL schedule, a time when there is precious little actual football to talk about but plenty of football players to talk about.  In a matter of seconds, Sherman vaulted himself to the forefront of the run up to the Super Bowl.  He has managed to overtake Peyton Manning as the most talked about player in the game thus far.  Peyton Manning!  The guy who graces your television every 13 seconds and who just had the greatest season ever for a quarterback.  Sherman wanted this controversy.  And he got it.

People are going to think what they think about Richard Sherman for a variety of reasons.  Maybe he’s a thug, maybe not.  Maybe he’s lacking in class or a bad sport, maybe not.  What is certainly is is a masterful manipulator of the media… because he has an intimate knowledge of how the media works.  A careful parsing of Sherman’s history demonstrates more than meets the eye.  Far from demonstrating his own thuggishness or classlessness, I’m convinced that he is exposing NFL fans and, perhaps more importantly, media members as the ones with no control over the situation.

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61 thoughts on “Why Everyone Is Wrong About Richard Sherman

  1. The thug stuff is absolute BS. It is also the kind of thing many people refuse to face head on, its all about race and calling him a bad loaded word that they can get away with. People can’t say N without backlash but thug is safe enough.

    If he had leveled a receiver leaving him concussed on the field would he be called a thug? No, that happens regularly and don’t remember a DB or LB being called a thug for it. If he had hit the QB from behind leaving him writing on the ground, would he have been called a thug? No. If he had been implicated in a scandal involving monetary rewards for injuring opposing players would he have been called a thug? Not many even though what they did was far worse. In fact if he had done all of the three things above he likely would have gotten applause and been told he he is hard nosed, tough or plays old time football. Many of the people complaining about his words would have defended him saying the NFL is getting soft. Many of the people complaining about words also complain about how the new focus on concussions is ruining the game, taking players off the field who want to be playing or may even kill the precious NFL.

    Calling him a thug has nothing to do with violence or hurting people, things you usually would associate with the term thug. But what about trash talking. Do any of the people complaining about him even have a sporking clue how much trash talking goes on in sports in general. Apparently not. Players taunt and tease and verbally spar all the time. A few days ago on TNC’s blog he linked to a doc about certified saint, sportsman and massive trash talker, Larry Bird. Does anyone call Bird a thug because he spewed a stream of trash talk at opponents. No.

    But what about pre-superbowl/game boasts. Was Nameth a thug? Drunk on the sidelines with Suzy Kolber maybe. But did anyone call Nameth a thug for saying they would win, or for drunkenly asking a sideline reproter for a kiss. Has anyone ever called a player a thug for pregame boasts about guaranteeing a win in a big game or how much better they are. hmmmm no not really.

    Yeah Sherman likely knew what he was doing. Most of the people calling him a thug, likely don’t know what they were saying.

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      • I’m perfectly willing to believe that he’s not really an asshole and is just playing one on TV for the reasons you describe, or that he just lost himself in the moment.

        On the others, I’d need to know the nature of their transgressions. I have called Steve Spurrier a dick due to similar post-win taunting/insulting.

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      • I linked to Peyton’s comments about his own teammate and Brady’s post-game tirade with the refs. The former was not during a sideline interview at the Pro Bowl while the latter was caught on cameras but Brady didn’t have a microphone in his face and a reporter at his side. So the contexts are somewhat different. But both show behaviors that, were they exhibited by other players, would likely be ridiculed but instead get described as displays of leadership or passion or whathaveyou.

        The thing with Sherman is… do you think any NFL player thinks otherwise? They all think they are the best. They need to think they are the best. It’s damn near a job requirement, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where a moment’s doubt or hesitation can result in failure if not injury.

        So if we acknowledge that all or at least most NFL players think the way Sherman does, why do we get upset when they say so? I recognize that hubris can be a liability, but do we have any reason to think that is the case with Sherman? Sure, he’s confident-bordering-on-cocky. But he A) probably is the best cornerback in the game and B) has demonstrated a remarkable work ethic to achieve that lofty status. He’s a guy who played WR at Stanford his first few years before transitioning to the less-heralded CB position and worked his way from a mid-round pick to be the best in the game.

        Let’s compare this to Eli Manning a few years back. When asked in the preseason if he was an “elite QB” (one of the more meaningless phrases out there, but whatever), he said that he thought he was. Some in the media, particularly the NY media, went after Eli. But not with terms like “asshole” or “thug”; they just thought he was wrong to characterize him that way. Others supported him. They argued that the moment he thinks he’s less than the best is the moment he loses any chance of being so. That situation was slightly different because the question was posed to him, but nonetheless, it was another example of a player talking positively about his talent level that didn’t fan the flames like Sherman did. Not identical, but close enough.

        We seem to want modesty from athletes (or at least from some athletes) but I’m not sure why modesty should be seen as a virtue in a sport that doesn’t actually reward modesty. If we had reason to think that Sherman was resting on his laurels and didn’t have the proper perspective to continue to get better… okay, let’s criticize him. We don’t have reason to think that.

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      • Slight off-topic, but if winning two Superbowls doesn’t qualify one to be considered an “elite” QB, pray tell what does?

        And hell, if I’m going to bring up off-topic things, I may as well mention what I consider “class,” as in “that person has class/is a classy guy.” To me, “class” means behaving better than you must. Being gracious and good-natured even when you have a perfectly reasonable excuse to do otherwise, being humble and courteous even when people are praising and trying to toady up to you. Etc.

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      • Eli was asked the question before he won his second.

        And the trouble with counting rings is that anyone who was on both those teams could claim “elite” status by that logic. The QB position is the most important on the field, but QBs don’t win Super Bowls… teams do. Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl. Dan Marino did not. Those names might not mean anything to you, but Dan Marino is one of the greatest QBs ever and Dilfer was never even really considered one of the greatest amongst his contemporaries. Counting rings is but one small piece of measuring a player’s talent level, especially in a sport like football where even the best players are only on the field 50% of the time.

        I think your definition of classy is probably a fair one. By that standard, I would say that Sherman did not handle himself in a classy manner. But I don’t think that necessarily means he was classless. I think he chose one of many possible routes that can be argued to be acceptable. He didn’t take the highest road, but I also wouldn’t say he took the lowest road. That probably would have been a profanity laden rant with some misogyny thrown in for good measure.

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      • I’ve heard of Dan Marino. I’ve never heard of the other guy.

        I know that both P Manning and Tom Brady are considered pretty much the definition of elite QBs. (I know that because I do not live in a cave on Mars, not because I have any opinion whatsoever on the matter.) I would just figure if you’ve led your team to victory against the latter twice, that gives a plausible reason to count yourself in their company.

        But what the hell do I know? I still don’t really know what a “safety” is.

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      • As long as the Doc is going off-topic I’ll go a little farther.

        (Sorry for so many comments, but being home sick means lots of free time!)

        “behaving better than you must”

        This might be just a southern thing, but that phrase called to mind the old “why, she’s no better than she ought to be.”

        Sort of related to “class” as the Doc describes, but very specifically used by women to refer to other women who were dressed or acting (in the speaker’s view) in a forward/promiscuous/revealing manner. I heard my grandma use this one more than once, often when watching awards shows or beauty pageants (she loved to watch these and keep up a running and fairly hilarious snarky commentary).

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      • First off, I think Eli was right to say he considers himself elite. You need that confidence to succeed. I had no issue with him saying it.

        As to whether or not he is elite, he definitely was a huge reason the Giants won those two Super Bowls. That can’t be taken away from him. But if we were to define “elite” as “among the top 5 at your position”, Eli probably doesn’t pass that test. Brady, Manning, Brees, and Rodgers are all certainly ahead of him among his contemporaries. At different points in time, other guys could also make the case.. Ryan, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Warner, McNabb and now Luck, Wilson, RG3, Kaepernick pushing their way into. So, the reality is he is not on the same level as the uber elite, which are the first four mentioned, but is probably at the head of the class of the next tier of very-good-to-great QBs. Now, in 25 years time, we’ll look back and remember Eli’s two Super Bowls and the collective three of everyone else I’ve mentioned and probably consider his historical legacy to be elite. But if you were drafting sides, he’d be closer to the 10th or 12th QB chosen than the 1st.

        Which is why I dislike trying to make hard arguments with soft terms like “elite”. And I personally bristle at ring counting and Marino/Dilfer is the perfect example. Rings can be tie breaker, as far as I’m concerned, but we shouldn’t start the conversation.

        To make an analogy, it’d be like saying Actor X is better than Actor Y because the former appeared in more Best Picture winners than the latter, even if the latter has more Best Actor nods and generally demonstrates greater skill. (I wish I could insert names in there that would have made sense.)

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      • Peyton Manning was definitely being an asshole in that clip. The distinction between “being an asshole” and “is an asshole” is primarily on the basis that I know Manning for many things but my primary association for Sherman is this one thing.

        Tom Brady was pissed off with the refs for a non-call and he lost his cool. Not good, but something that’s relatively easy to shrug off unless he’s made a habit of it. (Which maybe he has. Brady plays for the Pats, and I’m not particularly inclined to like him.)

        Eli Manning… I have some pretty strong opinions on that guy. Opinions that, to be honest, would probably actually look kinda bad if I associated them with a black guy. This actually might be worthy of a post.

        I think the “thug” tag for Sherman is pretty inseparable from race. I can also maybe see that Sherman may have gotten as much attention as he did because of race. But I think some criticism here, including using words like asshole or jerk, as being within the realm of fan chatter here, even if “thug” is not.

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      • For the record, I don’t think Peyton is an asshole; in fact, I think he’s demonstrated himself to be a pretty stand up guy. I think Brady might be an ass. I think Sherman is far more good than bad, especially when you read about his off-the-field work (which he actually does on the ground… it’s not “just” a foundation). Of course, we have more data on Manning and Brady.

        I’d like to read your piece on Eli. I’m curious what your thoughts are on him and how they might come across were he black.

        Ian O’Connor has a good piece on ESPN.com right now that explores Sherman and the race conversation. We can pretend it doesn’t, but race remains a huge factor in how we respond to people, consciously or unconsciously. Sherman nails it when he refers to the hockey brawl and compares it to the response he received.

        The worst offender is that writer for PFW who has never met a black QB prospect he didn’t think was arrogant, insincere, and would struggle with the playbook. I think he’s nailed Newton, RG3, and Geno with basically verbatim criticism the past three years.

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      • To make an analogy, it’d be like saying Actor X is better than Actor Y because the former appeared in more Best Picture winners than the latter, even if the latter has more Best Actor nods and generally demonstrates greater skill. (I wish I could insert names in there that would have made sense.)

        Because I am determined to insert as many off-topic comments as possible, I will suggest Leonardo DiCaprio for the former and Daniel Day-Lewis for the latter.

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  2. Further evidence of his media savvy is his deft use of the Weak Man Argument, highlighting his detractors that used the term “thug”, and thereby lumping in all his detractors into the “how dare these ignorant people call this Stanford grad a thug!” camp. The fact that he’s a smart guy with great communication skills doesn’t invalidate my opinion that he’s an insecure asshole.

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    • In what way is he insecure? His talk was bog standard athlete chatter? In what was was he an asshole? What did he do beside say he was really good? Was Ali an insecure asshole? Was Nameth? What Sherman did wasn’t much at all different from what many athletes have done and nobody called them anything.

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  3. Part of the problem is that there is a constant expectation that every single post-victory interview be something to the effect of “Man, we played against a great team and we played out hardest and were lucky to get out of there win a win against such skilled competitors.”

    You talk to anybody within seconds of getting a big play in a football game and, if the player isn’t careful, you’re going to find yourself talking to a pre-enlightenment caveman screaming “KING KONG AIN’T GOT NOTHIN ON ME!!!”

    After a shower in the lockerroom, the same guy will give the interview that everybody wants him to give. “Man, they’re a great team! It’s an honor to be on the field with them.” Anyway, the people who are getting all upset that there was a moment of caveman seconds after a big play are, I presume, completely unfamiliar with adrenaline. It tells us more about them than about anybody who is interviewed in the throes of it.

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    • There’s another more basic aspect going on here that I think gets overlooked, which is this:

      I bet if you looked at the populations of people who condemn Sherman vs. those that defend him and compared that with the populations were rooting for the 49ers or the Seahawks, you’d see pretty identical looking pictures.

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      • I’m sure that was a factor in some of the responses.

        But I still think it possible that Sherman is playing chess while many media members are playing checkers.

        Again… he filmed a commercial that depicts EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE IT HAPPENED!

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      • Oi…

        I got through about four paragraphs of that before my head started to pound. Writing an article about Manning’s perseverance while ignoring the remarkable perseverance demonstrated by Sherman (Neck surgery with top notch doctors is much easier to work through than growing up in Compton)? Brady and the Patriots win with grace (see the above-linked video on Brady, see Spygate, see their history of running up the score)? Comparisons to Kanye West (Why? WHY???)?

        I can’t even finish that. Why, Tod, why? That article didn’t deserve to see the light of day.

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      • Okay… from an earlier #HotSportsTakes…

        “Every now and then, we will attempt to write the worst sports column on earth. Today: Let’s talk about the BCS National Championship and the value of integrity.”

        It would seem that these are intended to be satirical. That explains a lot.

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      • The commercial isn’t that big of a gotcha moment for me, having followed Sherman on the “Hawks for two years now. That’s just who he is, and who has been since he got here. Perceived slights from others appear to be how he gets himself so amped week after week. For example:

        The first game of the season was also against Harbaugh’s 49ers. Harbaugh (as I know you are well ware, Kaz, but other readers might not be) was Sherman’s coach at Stanford. Before that game and immediately after there was all this stuff about how Sherman hated Harbaugh because Harbaugh stabbed Sherman in the back. And his hatred of Harbaugh really did seem to fuel his performance that game, in which the Hawks routed — in no small part because Sherman was kind of a one-man wrecking crew with the Niners offense, like he was playing Madden or something.

        Anyway, a few weeks after the game on local talk radio shows here it started coming out from other Stanford guys that no one knew what the f**k Sherman was talking about. And it started to become clear that Sherman has sort of invented a reason to hate Harbaugh in his head and used it as a motivation tool. Which is pretty similar to what he seems to have done with Crabtree.

        Now honestly — and this is the point I have been on my way to making — tell me that story about Sherman isn’t every story you’ve ever heard been told about MJ.

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      • I think the analogy between Sherman and Jordan is informative. In talking with my sister about this, I had to emphasize the role that the “new media” (Twitter, 24/7 sports talk, the internet in general) played.

        I still think there was something calculated about the entirety of Sherman’s actions. His initial interview with Andrews may have been spur-of-the-moment, but I think he quickly realized what he stumbled upon and ran with it. And to good effect. Checkout ESPN.com’s front page… lots of images of Sherman (including stills from the commercial). Notice how precious little we’ve heard about Russell Wilson, a second-year QB in the Super Bowl who might otherwise be facing enormous media attention. Notice how much “bulletin board” material Sherman and his teammates now have. He’s a few grand lighter in the wallet but Sherman has played (and will likely continue to play similar situations in the future) this to his (and his team’s) advantage.

        Good on him, I say.

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  4. He’s smart in that he knows that being an excellent cornerback means that no one, outside of serious fans of the sport, will know who you are when you do your job well. If you’re a top cornerback, and don’t play for New York or New England, the better you are, the less the ball gets thrown at you. You don’t rack up TDs, tackles or sacks the way offensive skill players or D-linemen and linebackers do. So you have two choices. Go out like Nmamdi Asomugha and toil in anonymity and cash the numerous checks that you get from being respected for quietly doing your job or you go full Prime Time. Sherman chose the latter and will laugh all the way to the bank.

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    • you go full Prime Time.

      Deion was a relentless self-promoter. I remember the year he played for the 9ers, and all he could talk about was himself …

      Except that’s not true. Every interview I heard was about how much he loved playing with his “partners in crime”, Eric Davis and Merton Hanks. There’s relentless self-promoter, and then there’s self-centered dick.

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  5. Very good post. While I admit that calling out someone from the losing team was a bit much (though it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy), I thought the post-game interview was, at least in spirit, friggin’ awesome. I mean, I laughed and wanted to stand up and clap as I watched it live. People spend a lot of time making fun of athletes for their post-game interviews, how they always say the same thing, things that don’t mean anything, and how that shows how stupid athletes are. But the moment one says something different, in a different way? It becomes the biggest story in sports that he strayed from the script.

    I don’t know what any of it says about him personally, as I can’t really imagine what it must be like to make the biggest play of your life in the biggest moment in the biggest game of your life, in front of millions of people, against a guy who’s been taunting you since the off season, against a team coached by a guy who may have blackballed you in the draft, so I’m not sure how I or anyone I know would respond in that situation, which means I am completely incapable of drawing inferences from my experience about his character based on this particular incident. I do know this though: pretty much none of the people who’ve been calling him a thug or classless can either.

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  6. Sherman was miked up for most of the game. You can watch him trash-talk a little bit, but for the most part he’s intelligent and focused, even when a fully-suited Quinton Dial punches him in the face after the game. Watch for yourself.

    But the big kicker is that, as soon as the game-ending play was over, Sherman went to Crabtree and tried to shake his hand. Crabtree wordlessly shoves Sherman in the face. Soon after this, Sherman has his “rant”.

    Call him an asshole if you want, but Crabtree deserved a talking down for that.

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  7. I think you’re quote probably on to something with your thesis here, Kazzy.

    I would, for the record, like to point out that the universe of apologists for Richie Incognito and the universe of people applying the “thug” label to Richard Sherman appear to have a remarkable degree of overlap.

    But mostly, I am just amazed at the extent to which this subject has become such a hot button topic. To me, the notion of “athlete talks smack after big play” is approximately as controversial and newsworthy as the sun rising in the east.

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    • There’s something uniquely grotesque about that Incognito point. It’s not just that they’re defending the thug. It’s that they’re defending the thug while calling someone else the “thug.” I guess that’s just blindingly obvious, but the more I try to get my head around it, the more I just marvel at it like an Escher print. It’s sort of marvelously elegant.

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      • Which is why I think Sherman was on to something in discussing the racial implications of the word “thug”.

        What I find most surprising about his comments is how little attention they’ve drawn. I saw Whitlock talk about them while guest hosting on PTI and a few columns (almost all by black writers) discuss it. But otherwise, it seems like the “establishment media” has basically said, “We’re not touching that with a ten foot pole. Let’s just pretend it never happened.” Which makes sense on one hand but seems pretty cowardly on the other.

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      • Absolutely. Like we discussed, racial implications abound, without a doubt. I just think that nearly equating the word to the uber-verboten word of all verboten words is a big step that was taken by Sherman in haste (and a canny sense of what would advance the story at a particular moment).

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      • …Oh, also, Jason Whitlock is one of the best sportswriters out there. He’s just a brilliant, brilliant writer. He expanded considerably on his PTI comments on TK’s espn980.com radio show on Friday, as well, if you want to check that out.

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      • I go back and forth on Whitlock. Sometimes it seems like he tries to figure out what people expect him to say and deliberately takes the other route. Or that he is more broadly being contrarian. Maybe I haven’t read enough of him (I haven’t followed him much since he initially left ESPN) and my expectations are off-base. But he seems to try to stake out a position that is going to stir the pot… even if it means staking out a “Everyone needs to stop stirring the pot” position.

        His writing and thinking is no doubt top notch, but I sometimes struggle with what seems like an insincere position. He often comes across crotchety or curmudgeony, angry that others took a different position. His seemed downright angry that people suggested Breaking Bad was better than The Wire and it seemed to get personal. It was… weird.

        For instance, I was surprised by his position on Sherman’s comments. Whitlock is not afraid to talk about race and does not pull punches when it comes time. As I understood his position on PTI, he didn’t seem to approve of Sherman bringing it up as he did. It rang a bit hollow to me. Almost as if he was upset that Sherman was going to get credit for advancing a conversation that Whitlock has been trying to advance. It’s not the first time he’s gotten upset about black athletes wanting to push the envelope with regards to the race conversation, which seems odd for a black sportswriter who is so willing to push the envelope (in both directions) with regards to the race conversation.

        I’ll need to check out that radio appearance when I get home.

        I do know he is trying to make what he described as a “black version of Grantland”, wherein he can help shine light on emerging black sportswriters. Which would be a welcome part of the conversation.

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      • From radio, I do get the impression he’s a bit impulsive in forming positions, and then brilliant and dogged in formulating defenses of them, which to me is perfect for being a great writer in the popular press. That’s pretty much the job. He may leave a bit to be desired as an incisive analyst of… things, but, as I said the stuff he comes up with in putting together columns is great. He’s kind of the Frank Rich of sportswriting. The thinking is sometimes suspect (but so’s everyone’s), but the writing is brilliant. I never get the impression from radio that he’s ever anything but sincere in how he comes to his positions, I’ll say. But OTOH, when it’s your job there’s gotta be a little bit of calculating what will be a successful, distinctive take on an issue that gets you read, so I’m sure that’s there to be noted for him as well. For me, at this point I just kind of take that as given.

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      • I probably subconsciously hold him to a higher opinion because of just how talented and capable he is. He also seems remarkably approachable and accessible. His writing is clear and easy to read but still dense and weighty. I get the impression I could talk to him more than I could talk to Tony Kornheiser, for instance. That is probably a perfect storm for me to think, “Dude, you’re taking THAT angle?” as opposed to going the “Doofus writer writes doofusy” route.

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    • …And also, the last point is exactly where I’ve been stuck for the last week. I don’t really understand what happened last week. It’s as if the sports-news vacuum of pre-Super Bowl-week week sucked up literally every second following the conclusion of the last championship game and just took whatever content there was and expanded it to fill all its space…

      …Wait. That *is* what happened.

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  8. Who’s Richard Sherman?

    Just kidding, I’m aware that he participated in some sort of recent significant foot-ball contest. I even watched the video.

    All I can say is, the NFL turned into the WWE so gradually, I hardly even noticed.

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    • +1. Fred Dean didn’t have a sack dance, Ronnie Lott let his interceptions speak for themselves, and Jerry Rice’s advice on how to act after a TD was “like you’ve been there before”.

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  9. Yawn,
    I read this post, vaguely knowing about this kerfuffle, expecting there to be some red meat. More twerking it seems. I’ll have to put away the popcorn.

    *goes back to working*

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  10. I don’t know why I read the post, probably because the byline said this Sherman guy I don’t know was playing me. Then I realized it was football and finished reading it anyhow because it’s a slow day at work. I’m undecided if that means I’ve been played.

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  11. Caveat: I dislike sports and there is no sport I dislike more than American football where they spend more time standing around and kicking the grass than they do actually playing with the ball. And what’s up with that ball? Balls are supposed to be round.

    Moving on: I did see some newsclips that indicated that Mr. Sherman said not-nice things about someone or something. I would suggest that he is making the move from professional football player into something more rarified: nationally known celebrity who is always good for saying something outrageous if you aim a camera at him. It will be a good career when his knees give out. More power to him.

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