His words are well-known by now. Richard Sherman, in a post-game interview with FOX Sports sideline reporter Erin Andrews, eschewed the usual niceties usually proffered by the winners of a tense struggle. He chose instead to call 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree "sorry" in a diatribe that has been seen on media outlets from coast to coast.
"Well, I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're gonna get .... Don't you [Crabtree] ever talk about me! Don't you open your mouth about the best or I'm gonna shut it for you real quick."
Sherman's antics could (and have been by some) dismissed as "post game excitement." Indeed someone (likely connected to the Seahawks' public relations department) has since wrenched an apology of sorts from Sherman. But is that all there is in play here? Or do his words and actions reveal more than we may want to know about sports as they are played today?
1.) Have sportsmanship and class really gone from archaic to obsolete? Modern athletes in general call attention to themselves individually in ways that athletes from days gone by would never have dreamed. What was started by Elmo Wright's jelly-legged touchdown dance and Mark Gastineau's "Sack Dance" has become a retina-burning pageant of self-promotion. Anyone who ever watched Hank Aaron's home run "trot" will understand. Aaron circled the bases at about 85% of his dead run. That's in stark contrast to today's home run stroll, performed with preening choreography. Will the days of yore ever return? Likely not. There are million dollar endorsement deals to be signed. More on that later.
2.) Are there any actions which could be considered indefensible? Nope. Kobe Bryant allegedly misbehaved in a pretty profound way at a Colorado resort in 2004. Alex Rodriguez allegedly turned his body into a pharmaceutical erector set more recently. Richard Sherman behaved in an appalling manner on Sunday afternoon. What do these three "gentlemen" have in common? Scores of people ready to defend their actions, and call the public outcry absurd, ridiculous, and hypocritical. Bryant, Rodriguez and Sherman are marvelous ballplayers. In some circles that's all it takes for all manner of bad behavior to be forgiven. Forgiven, heck? Watch the news online over the next couple of days. The celebration of Sherman's actions is already underway.
3.) Or maybe Richard Sherman was just being calculating. ESPN's Trey Wingo tweeted to the effect that Richard Sherman was a gift to reporters with Super Bowl Media Day coming up next Wednesday. Which of the Seahawks do you suppose will get the most attention from a voracious media contingent? Publicity translates to fame, endorsements, and untold riches. I told you we would get back to that. Could Sherman have had his Q rating (measuring marketing possibilities through name recognition) in mind so soon after the game on Sunday? Probably not but he is a Stanford grad with a reportedly high I.Q....
The Seattle Seahawks would love to bring the narrative back to Super Bowl XLVIII, and that will surely be the case before long. Until then, though, perhaps we have all learned a little about sports in this the 21st Century.