I read the hype over Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s post-game on-camera meltdown before actually seeing the clip, and I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed. I’ve seen far crazier adrenaline-fueled rants. It’s not exactly breaking news that football players talk trash to each other, or that the guys are running on some high-octane fuel in the moments after an incredibly tight championship game.
Sherman’s rant is generating a great deal of criticism, however. It’s also generated its first political aftershock, as Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) threatened on Twitter to “go all Richard Sherman on the Republicans” if they don’t pass an extension to unemployment benefits soon. (If you feel inclined to point out that Democrats, particularly legislative grim reaper Harry Reid, have done at least as much to scuttle extended unemployment benefits as any Republican, you’re paying far more attention than Democrats want you to. If you’re doubled over with laughter at the notion of Chris Murphy “going all Richard Sherman” on anyone, you’re a politics junkie. And if you think Senators should observe a higher level of decorum… welcome back to Earth, astronaut! Things have changed a bit while you were away.)
It seems like a cultural moment worthy of commenting upon. Something about this clip with Sherman and interviewer Erin Andrews of Fox News is getting under the skins of viewers:
The acronym “LOB” Sherman shouts at the end of this exchange stands for “Legion of Boom,” the nickname for Seattle’s formidable defense.
Here’s ESPN’s description of the big play Sherman is talking about:
Richard Sherman wasn’t playing. Michael Crabtree wasn’t going to make a play on him, not on this night, not ever, not when a trip to the Super Bowl was on the line.
So Sherman waited. And he waited. And he waited, until San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick couldn’t help himself. Kaepernick threw the fade into the end zone that Sherman knew was coming, and Sherman was ready for it.
With the NFC Championship Game on the line and Seattle clinging to a six-point lead with less than a minute to go, Sherman tipped Kaepernick’s pass away from Crabtree and into the outstretched hands of linebacker Malcolm Smith. Smith caught it. Sherman would have, he said, had Crabtree not shoved him on the play.
It didn’t matter. With the ball in Smith’s hands, the game was essentially over.Russell Wilson took one knee, then another, and then another, and with that, Seattle won 23-17. The Seahawks will make their second trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history and face theDenver Broncos, who beat New England in the undercard on Sunday.
Even someone who doesn’t follow football would immediately deduce from Sherman’s rant that bad blood is boiling between him and Michael Crabtree – who, in a much more subdued manner, also gave post-game interviews denigrating Sherman’s performance. “Sherman made a good play. That’s probably the only play he made in the whole game,” Crabtree grumbled in an interview you can see at the ESPN. “That’s one play. He’s a TV guy. I’m not a TV guy, I play ball.”
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air provides a bit more context, which viewers of the viral video clip might be unaware of, if they didn’t see the game:
Yes, this wasn???t the classiest sideline interview, but there???s more to this story than just this interview. San Francisco???s receivers do a lot of trash talking during the game; Anquan Boldin got so bad about it during the Panthers game last week that the commentators were practically begging the refs to toss a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct before Boldin touched off a brawl. Sherman had just gotten a flag for giving some of it back, and was clearly sore over that, too. Still not a good reason to go off like this on camera, but there is some more context to it, too.
I suspect one reason the Sherman interview is prompting such a strong response is the highly individual nature of the conflict between him and Crabtree, boiling across the field of a team sport. There’s a lot of that going around in football these days, and it rubs fans the wrong way. So does an excessive dose of “I’m the greatest” boasting, mixed with viciously putting down the other team. Sportsmanship is an ideal; we grow a bit uncomfortable when we see absolutely no effort made to reach it.
There was too much poor sportsmanship and individual conflict pumped into this brief interview, coupled with that “don’t open your mouth about the best or I’m going to shut it for you real quick” threat – an attitude the NFL takes pains to discourage in a sport that would be aggressive and dangerous under the best of circumstances. The generally unspoken assumption is that fans want to see some of this attitude, but not too much, particularly at a time when the NFL is dealing with pressure over the dangers of playing a very physical game. Intense personal conflicts aren’t what they want making the headlines right now.
If I might make a suggestion to Mr. Sherman, when you boast of your own prowess by simultaneously declaring that the other player is a subpar chump who has no business playing pro football, your own claims of superior ability are diminished. “The other guy was good, but I’m even better” is much more effective.
There has been a little criticism of Andrews for not controlling the interview better, or maybe dragging it out longer for entertainment value, but it seems that was up to Sherman, who dashed off to talk to someone else after delivering his rant. Andrews, for the record, graciously described the interview as “a candid response seconds after an emotional game.”
Update: Richard Sherman penned an editorial telling his side of the story, in which he goes into detail about his long-running feud with Crabtree. As would be true for most of us, he expresses himself differently when not pumped full of post-game Superbowl-bound adrenaline, but he’s not giving an inch on anything he said to Erin Andrews:
I spent most of the game on an island: I was targeted only twice during the entire NFC Championship. The first produced a BS holding call against me; the second ended the game. Michael Crabtree stutter-stepped out of his break on first down and sprinted toward the end zone. I was in good position for a pick until he pushed me in the back. My interception became a tip and an interception for Malcolm Smith in the end zone.
Game over. The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl.
I ran over to Crabtree to shake his hand but he ignored me. I patted him, stuck out my hand and said, ???Good game, good game.??? That???s when he shoved my face, and that???s when I went off.
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.
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.
He also alludes to some unkind words from Crabtree earlier in the season – and, in what might be taken as refreshing candor in our touchy-feely age, admits that he just plain doesn’t like Michael Crabtree. Given time to compose his thoughts and write at length, Richard Sherman sounds remarkably like Donald Trump, or maybe Vin Diesel’s “Riddick” character.
Evil galactic overlord, after Riddick effortlessly kills one of his lieutenants: “He was one of my best.”
Riddick, with a shrug: “If you say so.”
By Jove, I’m starting to get the impression that you need a pretty thick skin to be an NFL player.