Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is challenging Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning as the most talked about player leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, thanks to his memorable rant after the NFC title game.
Sherman, a regular contributor to Sports Illustrated's The Monday Morning Quarterback, has been in the spotlight ever since that moment, and his latest piece for the site examines what he's learned over the past couple weeks. It provides a unique look behind the scenes leading up to the biggest game of his career.
The first and most significant point he makes is that his attack on San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree was a mistake. He suggests he should have focused on his team's success rather than making it personal, even in the heat of the moment. He highlights the lesson, "No one has ever made himself great by showing how small someone else is":
That’s not mine. It belongs to Irvin Himmel. Somebody tweeted it at me after the NFC Championship Game. If I could pass a lesson on to the kids it would be this: Don’t attack anybody. I shouldn’t have attacked Michael Crabtree the way I did. You don’t have to put anybody else down to make yourself bigger.
One thing that stands out reading through the column, and Sherman's previous firsthand account of the moments leading up to the now-infamous interview, is how reflection has changed his view. It just happened that the outspoken remarks came in front of a huge television audience.
Sherman was also surprised by the reach of his comments. An interview that lasted less than 30 seconds ended up becoming a popular topic across the media spectrum, well beyond the usual sports outlets, and he says he received Twitter responses in six different languages.
One other key point in the aftermath of his Crabtree interview was the role of race in the backlash. He admits there were other things to consider, but doesn't shy away from saying prejudice and stereotypes were definitely in play as well.
Ultimately, however, Sherman believes the biggest winner of the whole situation was the NFL. His rant allowed the NFL to take center stage even sooner than usual leading up to the Super Bowl, which helps the hype machine:
Every time a game ends on a controversial call or somebody loses it on camera, it’s free advertising for the NFL. It’s not just my name being talked about on all the shows; it’s the NFL’s logo on all the shows. That means more eyes on the Super Bowl, more clicks for their websites, and potentially more sales of my jersey, for which I don’t see a kickback. Even when they’re taking money out of my pockets with fines, the league is constantly winning.
While the initial reaction was negative, Sherman thinks the long-term impact of pushing himself into the spotlight will be positive because it allowed him to remove himself from anonymity. Only time will tell if that's the case.
He also touched on other topics, including the impact playing football has on the body, the importance of head coach Pete Carroll and how he probably wouldn't change a thing if given the chance. He was just reacting based on his emotions.
Looking ahead to Super Bowl Sunday, Sherman and his fellow Seahawks defenders face a tough challenge against the explosive Broncos offense. At the same time, Manning and the Denver offense face a difficult task as well. The San Francisco Chronicle's Vic Tafur speculated on the matchup between Sherman and "The Sheriff":
It's a chance for the talented cornerback to prove he belongs in the spotlight for more than just a couple of words after the NFC title game. Seattle is probably going to need at least two or three truly critical plays from its defense in order to turn the tide in its favor.
If Sherman provides those game-changing moments, it sounds like fans should expect a more measured response in the postgame interview.