The fallout from Richard Sherman’s post game interview is ravaging the American sports landscape right now, and I’m a little shocked at how clearly the line is being drawn in this situation. Note I did NOT say Sherman’s interview is ravaging America, because it is not. It was just an interview. I am talking about the manufactured fallout. It’s very different.
Sherman made a game winning play, was asked about it, and responded honestly. Some hated his statements, while others are lauding him for the emotional response. But are those really our only choices here? Hate or Love? Why are we forced to take sides when there is so much more at play? Why is any one person’s reaction so explicitly “wrong” to people on the other side?
It all stems from our current media structure where two warring sides come to the field of battle and try to destroy one another. It happens on CNN, Fox, ESPN, in sports, pop culture, and in politics. It happens between dear friends Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless every single day, often about extremely inane topics. It happens with Alan Colmes and his sister-in-law, Monica Crowley, where both sides boil arguments down to myopic talking points. It happens with husband-and-wife James Carville and Mary Matalin. The sky is blue. The sky is pink. And it can’t be both. Now pay up and take sides, sheep!
ALL OF THE ABOVE PEOPLE are making really good money off of the two warring sides process of “news.” They are paid for controversy, and if anything is “stupid” in the whole Richard Sherman debate, it’s the two-sided set up we are all embracing.
This is the framework of modern media, and we all eat it up on a daily basis. We look for “sides” to take, and how we feel about the issue drives us to extremes with very little introspection or thought. We hear what we want, and enter an echo chamber of agreement. If you’re conservative you watch Fox. If you’re liberal you watch MSNBC. We support those who agree with us, and demolish those who don’t. It’s a recipe for disaster and it makes both success and opportunity a surprisingly dangerous thing. As a consequence, it also places a low regard on truth.
No one is framing Richard Sherman as an intelligent man who has a professional persona or even as someone who made a mistake or two, or ten. NO ONE. He either made a mistake and should be rebuked, OR he is an intelligent man. No one is framing Richard Sherman as a real person, with real emotions, who isn’t perfect. He is either an outspoken genius or a “thug.” This distinct dichotomy of good and bad is an absolute JOKE.
I am much more interested in the upcoming Denver offense vs Seattle defense debate. I want to know what Manning can do to beat Sherman (and the rest of the Seahawks’ tough D!), and I want to know what Sherman and his compatriots can do to stop Manning and the Broncos. Will Richard Sherman’s quote impact the game more than special teams? It won’t? SHOCKING.
I really don’t care how Manning or Brady or Wilson would have answered Erin Andrews’ boring questions. It’s immaterial, as Sherman is not any of those guys. I also don’t really care if Richard Sherman thinks he’s the best CB in the league. I’m sure lots of guys think that, and others have said it before him. His interview response was something different, and it was honest for a change… but was it really so bad (or good) that it is ALL we can talk about?
The opportunity to talk about what professionalism truly means, how dry and emotionless interviews do little for the game, and million other topics are all readily available, and could be interesting and stimulating, yet all we can talk about seems to be “is Richard Sherman a thug?” Some say YES, others say NO, and no one learns jack.
Is that truly the best we can do?
Sherman can not be defined solely by his post-game interview, or his play on the field, or his charitable work, or that he graduated from Stanford, or that he is from Compton, or that he is black and has dreadlocks, or that he graduated from high school with a higher GPA than you, or that is he is supposed to be cocky as a CB, or any ONE SINGULAR issue. He’s a complex man, involved in a complex situation, just like everyone else on the planet.
I am not excusing what he said, nor am I decrying it as unprofessional. There is more to the story than that, always has been, and always will be. Richard Sherman is not a sound bite you posted on Twitter. He is not a thug, or a scholar, or a even a professional football player. To label him as only one of those things would be stultifying. Sherman is a young man, with many sides, and the sooner we stop trying to reduce him to a single word, the more understanding we will all gain.
Everyone can have their opinion on Sherman’s interview, but I continually fail to see why there can only be two sides to this issue.
Deadspin reduced the story to one of race, and used the page view driven title, “Richard Sherman And The Plight Of The Conquering Negro“.
The New York Post has taken the “thug” approach, did some “research,” and they are focusing on the many feuds of Richard Sherman. Zero positivity, and it’s all about his cocky attitude.
Or you can read some words that come directly from Sherman himself over on Sports Illustrated. This article, like the detritus above, is also total crap. Sherman continues to rub salt in the wounds of people he has beaten and refuses to see the incident from any perspective other than his own. He has now bought into all the BS and is polarizing himself as he complains about being polarized! Unreal. Here is a very telling direct quote:
A lot of what I said to Andrews was adrenaline talking, and some of that was Crabtree. I just don’t like him. It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am. I don’t want to be a villain, because I’m not a villainous person.
BUT because I (Richard Sherman) like/don’t like someone, I will make ridiculous over the top statements about them. Then I will act shocked when people do the same to me. The hypocrisy in this PR laden “story” was abundant, and it did little to change my opinion of Richard Sherman as a highly talented, intelligent, yet imperfect human being. And now he has apologized, which makes the SI article even more meaningless.
At the end of the day, Richard Sherman gave an emotional interview and said some things we aren’t all that used to hearing. It doesn’t make him a hero, and it doesn’t make him a thug. He should not have had to defend himself, and he shouldn’t have then apologized. But the modern media coverage makes us all idiots, and now it looks like Sherman is in that boat too, at least for the time being.
Skip and Steven A. will milk this story for all it’s worth. Fox, CNN, and MSNBC will all pick it up and pick it apart from two distinct sides. Racism will continue to rear its head in the conversation. Words like “class”, “thug”, “scholar”, “entertainer” and more will be thrown around willy nilly by people who just want to get paid. And at the end of the day no one will have learned anything because they found the people who agreed with them right away and entered their own personal echo chamber.
It’s sad when a player makes comments that overshadow his team’s success… that’s my personal opinion on the matter. But it’s MUCH sadder when the media overlooks a great game to feed a story based on almost nothing but confidence and trash talk.