Sports at Large
5:10 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Is Richard Sherman's Trash Talkin' Too Much Or Is It Part Of Being A Passionate Athlete?

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 7:33 pm

Sometimes, I wonder if either I’ve lost my mind or if the world around me, or, at least that part of it that is attached to sports, isn’t going bat-guano crazy.

I’ve thought that my perception of things was reasonably sound, and based in some kind of reality. But maybe I’m wrong.

Perhaps, I’ve become the old man in slippers yelling for all the kids to get off my lawn, and the world has just moved to a more highly advanced place and left me behind.

I’ve wondered for a while now why the games we watch and enjoy have become increasingly coarse and uncivilized, why taunting and preening have become standard behavior among athletes at virtually all levels, from the professional ranks all the way down to the kids who play Little League and Pop Warner.

This came to a head, in my mind, near the end of Sunday night’s NFC Championship game.

There, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made a dazzling play to tip a pass away from Michael Crabtree of the San Francisco 49ers in the corner of the end zone.

The pass, if completed, would almost certainly have sent the 49ers back to the Super Bowl. Instead, Sherman reached high and tapped the pass into the hands of his teammate, Malcolm Smith.

In my mind, a reasonable person would celebrate the joy of reaching the height of his professional career, the Super Bowl, and get ready to enjoy the spoils of his victory.

Instead, Sherman ran over and taunted Crabtree - a man who had just lost his chance to go to the Superbowl.  He smacked him on the butt and yelled something in an attempt  to provoke a reaction from Crabtree.  Crabtree pushed his helmet away.  

Rather, Sherman brought his hands to his neck, making the universally recognized symbol of choking. In a column for Sports Illustrated's website, Sherman said the gesture was aimed not at Crabtree, but rather at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, for throwing the pass in his direction. 

Immediately following the game, Fox reporter Erin Andrews tried to get Sherman to describe the decisive play, but he was having none of that.

Sherman, instead, looked directly into the camera and ranted about how the fact that he was the best cornerback in football, that Crabtree was mediocre and that Crabtree had talked about him, though he never specified what was said.

It seemed clear-cut to me that Sherman had acted like a boor and I took to social media to say that.

I was shocked to see that while my thoughts were largely echoed, there were large veins of opinion that excused Sherman’s conduct.

In some corners, Sherman’s ability and talent gave him license to say what he wanted. There were those who thought Andrews was at fault for attempting to interview an emotional player without letting him cool down.

Then, there were those who wanted to see things in a racial prism. Sherman, who is black, was called a thug by some, thug having become a code word for urban criminal.

In truth, Richard Sherman is a Stanford graduate. He has written some intelligent and thought-provoking pieces for Sports Illustrated’s website, and is a usually interesting interview.

Indeed, in a SI column posted Monday, Sherman explained his conduct, including a partial rationale for his animus against Crabtree. Later, he apologized for allowing his conduct to distract from the team’s victory.

His apology after the fact doesn’t change the idea that Richard Sherman stepped over a line Sunday night and deserved to be sharply criticized for it. If doing so makes me an old fogy, well, guilty as charged.  

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