One hot minute can get you into a lot of trouble these days, especially if it's spent in primal elation after a hard-fought victory.
Case in point, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman has created a whirlwind of criticism and debate after jolting the sports world with an outlandish interview following Seattle's victory over San Francisco.
Speaking to Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews, Sherman said, “I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you 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 emotional words were certainly off-putting if chest-thumping isn't your thing. It's one thing to dislike the attitude—particularly if you are a 49ers fan—but there is genuine anger out there over Sherman's mini-tirade.
This isn't really about the third-year cornerback's post-game rant, which could have been straight out of a professional wrestling promotional spot. This is about the perception those words created.
It was clear that 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree spent the game battling Sherman physically and psychologically, as vocal opponents are wont to do on a football field.
There was a lot of talk before the game.... Now I'm the bad guy lol.... Well if u judge my character on the field ....So many glass houses— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) January 20, 2014
Sherman doesn't shy away from trash talk, and he happened to get the better of Crabtree in the end. In other words, he walked the walk, as he usually does.
Andrews caught up with him a few minutes later, and now we are here, discussing this at length like it's important.
But, of course, it's not—in the grand scheme of importance in sports at any rate.
Somehow, these words—an emotional soliloquy moments after he made the game-deciding play—have become a lightning rod for hyperbolic criticism. It's as if Sherman reached through their television or computer screens to personally abuse them. How dare he utter such outrageous words!
Sure, there is a long list of athletes who win with quiet dignity. Barry Sanders celebrated most touchdowns by handing the ball to the official. Peyton Manning is practically Epicurean in his response to victory. How can anyone complain? There can be no visceral outcry without passion.
But do Sherman's actions really merit the anger?
What excuse do folks have for the vile tweets about or directed at Sherman after his post-game rant? What, exactly, does his excited exclamation reveal about his character, other than he is a talented, self-aware individual with a bit of flair?
None of this is really new—it is merely magnified in the moment. Just a scant few hours before the Seahawks kicked off their eventual home victory, The New York Daily News' Ebenezer Samuel posted a profile on the polarizing cornerback, foreshadowing the day's later events.
Sure, some label Sherman as a sports villain, too brash for his own good. But Sherman insists that’s not true.
“A lot of people take it as I want to be controversial or something like that,” he says of his antics. “Nah. It (football) is just a game. It should be fun.”
Sherman reads everything written about him, searching for rips, not compliments. They drive him, just as the things [older brother] Branton used to say once did, just as last year’s Pro Bowl snub after an eight-pick season did.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Don’t read your clippings,’ ” he says. “I read them every day. Anything negative somebody said about me, I find it and use it as fuel . . . So things like All-Pros, Pro Bowls and these awards don’t mean as much, because you’re focused on the chip (on your shoulder) and you stay hungry.”
Sherman knows what he's doing, and he doesn't care how it makes you or me feel.
In a sea of boring cliché, Sherman gave us a mite of unadulterated passion. It flew in the face of the sanitized athlete, who is supposed to stand in his or her place without rocking the boat.
It might be off-putting to some, but it's a refreshing reminder that this is a game, after all, with winners and losers.
More to the point, would you refuse Sherman on your team because of a little bombast?