Richard Sherman's Post-Game Mishap with Jim Harbaugh Is Overblown

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistSeptember 17, 2013

Jim Harbaugh may have been the man who switched Richard Sherman to cornerback at Stanford and changed his life forever, but don't expect the two to lovingly reminisce about their days in Palo Alto anytime soon.

After Sherman's Seattle Seahawks laid a 29-3 walloping on Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field Sunday night, the All-Pro cornerback again had his ex-coach's name at the tip of his tongue.

Apparently Harbaugh wasn't much for the post-game pleasantries.

"I told him good job, good game, but he didn't give me nothing back," Sherman told NFL Network (h/t ESPN). "I guess sportsmanship doesn't go both ways."

Sherman provided some clarification with reporters afterward, according to SFGate's Eric Branch.

“I told him good game,” Sherman said. “I slapped him on the butt. He turned around and gave me the wave. That was it. I didn’t hear anything.”

Go ahead. Cue your "shots fired" GIFs and get it over with.

Because, like so many things in this 24/7 sports culture, this supposed slight from Harbaugh is completely overblown. Why, you ask? Well, for one thing Harbaugh says it didn't even happen.

"I didn't realize it was him until he was moving in the other direction," Harbaugh said. "He came up and patted me on the back, and I congratulated him, and same with Doug [Baldwin]. I congratulate the Seahawks. They played a hell of a game."

So Harbaugh slighted his former player? Or Sherman ran off before his ex-coach could even slip a word in edgewise? It's your classic he-said-he-said. Hooray.

After looking at the footage, I tend to believe Harbaugh's side of events. He appears to be speaking when Sherman jogs off in the opposite direction, and it's likely that the noise inside CenturyLink Field just drowned out the reciprocation of congratulations from Harbaugh. 

Richard Sherman says a lot of things. Some right, some wrong. Mostly all entertaining. I'm all for people like Sherman in my football conversation. He keeps the checks coming for people like me, those of us who feed families off the words of sports' interesting personalities.

In this case, though, it seems like he was in the wrong.

The real question here: Does any of this matter? 

In a word: No. 

Sportsmanship and how the court of public opinion weighs in on it is a strange phenomenon. Always has been.

After games, players and coaches ritualistically go to the middle of their playing surface, shake hands and congratulate or console the people you were just trying to beat the holy hell out of seconds prior. 

The concept is ingrained in our culture starting in childhood. Be a good sport. Don't be a sore loser. When anyone steps even the slightest bit out of line with those expectations, we excoriate them the same way our mothers would when we tossed our gloves to the ground in frustration as a youth. 

Neither Harbaugh nor Sherman are what anyone would call models of sportsmanship. We've seen both men act like donkeys after games before.

For Sherman to be calling out Harbaugh on sportsmanship grounds would be like Anthony Weiner telling someone to learn from their mistakes. 

If there is any real beef between Sherman and Harbaugh, it's sure not the compelling type. There is no good guy, no bad guy. Both are incredibly gifted at their craft, and not so much with the human interaction element. 

The dueling narratives being spun by both men will keep people talking—mainly because it stokes the coals of the NFL's best rivalry.

The Seahawks and the 49ers are the two best football teams on the planet not playing at Rocky Mountain altitudes every week, they play in the same division and pretty much want to rip out each others' esophagi. I'm sure we'll get between one and 2,413 First Take segments on the very subject between now and Week 14, where the 49ers and Seahawks meet up back in the Bay Area. 

What's dumb about the entire Harbaugh-Sherman saga is that it distracts from the numerous great, compelling narratives that one could spin out of Sunday night's contest. 

You could start with the fact that the Seahawks haven't lost at home since Christmas Eve two years ago. In an era where state-of-the-art stadiums are pricing out common fans right as the home experience continues to improve, Seattle's crowd is record-breaking.

This deserves more discussion than, "Boy, those Seahawks are sure good at home."

Narrative two: The Seahawks have given up 10 points in two games. Their secondary has shut down Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick in subsequent weeks, making two of the world's most explosive young quarterbacks look like Blaine Gabbert.

Kaepernick, a week after looking like the Baddest Man on the Planet against the Packers, cobbled together his second straight dreadful performance at CenturyLink Field. He completed only 13-of-28 passes, throwing for a paltry 127 yards and three interceptions—one of which landed in Sherman's hands.

And that may be the most shameful thing about this whole overblown fiasco. Sherman's need to air dirty laundry and run his mouth too often overshadows just how great of a football player he is.

There may be no better corner on the planet right now. Sherman allowed Anquan Boldin just one catch for seven yards a week after his 208-yard campaign, shadowing Kaepernick's favorite target stride for stride all night long.

Even better: He asked to do it.

“I asked Coach for a challenge,” Sherman said (h/t the Seattle Times' Jayson Jenks). “I wanted to follow. There were a lot of things said this week. There was a lot of talk about elite corners and who follows who. Going to negate that.”

Sherman has been targeted 10 times this season. Opposing quarterbacks have a 22.9 rating when throwing his direction. Maybe, and I'm just spitballing here, that should be the focus of conversation rather than some perceived slight. 

Hell, you want to go all Tupac-Biggie with Seahawks and 49ers-related beef, it's not like you have to look far. Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman had an excellent breakdown of the festering hatred between Harbaugh and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Walt and Jesse from Breaking Bad are more likely to send each other "happy birthday" texts than these two.

But this is all a part of the game. Sherman said that Harbaugh intentionally slighted him after the game. Harbaugh denies such blasphemous claims. The two obviously aren't as close as they were at Stanford, if they ever were the best of friends to begin with.

Harbaugh changed the course of Sherman's life, switching him from middling wide receiver to cornerback and watching on as his protege became a world-beater.

Now standing on opposite sides of the NFC West power struggle, Harbaugh's offensive genius will have 12 weeks to figure out how to destroy the monster he built.

That is the story coming out of Sunday night. Whether Harbaugh and Sherman exchange pleasantries now or a few months down the line in San Francisco is irrelevant. 

When championship glory is on the line, sometimes it's OK to throw your glove down. 


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