Why Richard Sherman-Michael Crabtree Rivalry Is Great for the NFL

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Why Richard Sherman-Michael Crabtree Rivalry Is Great for the NFL
USA Today

Over the past several years, there's been no better rivalry in the NFL than the one in the NFC West between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.

They are both top-notch teams with similar philosophies that quite simply do not like each other even a little bit. The head coaches certainly dislike each other, and have for a long time.

OK, dislike may be an understatement.

The rivalry took center stage at the end of last year's NFC Championship Game with a pivotal play followed by a sideline explosion that captured the attention of America and made Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman a household name.

Since then, Sherman and 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree have continued a war of words that some consider childish and petulant.

Of course, many more consider it wildly entertaining.

The latest bout of verbal sparring between Crabtree and Sherman was initiated by ShermanI know, you're stunnedon an episode of the reality show American Muscle (h/t Erik Brady of USA Today):

It’s much more of just I don’t like the dude. You know what I’m saying. And I think he’s sorry. So it’s really what it comes down to. ...

It’s just about him, it’s just about Crabtree.

It’s not going to be something that goes away. I hope to play him every year for the rest of my career and choke him out. There’s not much else I can say about the subject. Nobody will understand it but him and me. That’s all that (he) needs to understand.

Yikes. Tell us how you really feel, Richard.

According to ESPN.com, Crabtree chimed in from the Nike Elite 11 camp. He didn't mention Sherman by name, but it doesn't take a Stanford grad to figure out whom the wide receiver was talking about:

Like when I win, it's no hoorah. I ain't yelling. You know what I'm saying? I'm used to it. But like I said, I'm getting [tired of] talking about these guys. I concentrate on football. I love football. This my life, you know what I'm saying? So I don't really have too much to prove when it comes to talking on this TV. But like I said, I'm about it.

That sentiment was then echoed by Sherman. CBSSports.com's Will Brinson reports that Sherman told the NFL Network he was "pretty much done" talking about Crabtree.

"I'm pretty much done talking about that," Sherman said. "It's getting old, it's getting old for me. I'm tired of people asking me about it."

The smoke hasn't cleared from his latest barrage, and he's "pretty much done"?

OK. Sure.

There are those who certainly hope so. More than a few people, including Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com, have grown weary of Sherman's antics:

Richard Sherman isn't nearly as smart [as] he thinks he is. Because smart people, after turning victory into defeat as stunningly as Sherman did in January, don't keep running up the score. And he has. On himself.

With all due respect to Mr. Doyel, this writer disagrees. In many respects, the rivalry between Sherman and Crabtree is a refreshing blast from the past.

We live in the age of the "No Fun League." The NFL has homogenized itself into the third circle of beige hell. No taunting, spinning, slamming or aggressively looking at the football after a touchdown.

No more of that either, pal.

It's extended to how most players and teams deal with the media. Every response is canned: "So-and-so is a great player, so I'm just going to go out there, give it 110 percent and do my best to successfully implement the game plan the coaches gave us this week, blah blah blah."

I get why they do it, but it has all the excitement of watching milk turn to cheese.

Besides, how much "bulletin board" material can Sherman really give the Niners at this point?

Between hating the Seahawks and losing last year's NFC title tilt on the play that made this fracas famous, it's a safe bet that motivation isn't going to be an issue when the two teams meet for the first time in 2014 on Thanksgiving Day.

Anticipation, on the other hand, has ratcheted up yet another notch for the game everyone's already got circled on the calendar:

Frankly, I don't care if this is all a completely Machiavellian machination from Sherman meant to stroke his ego by making headlines. After all, an immensely talented cornerback in love with the sound of his own voice isn't exactly the Bigfoot of the NFL.

Al Bello/Getty Images

There is plenty of supportive evidence out there.

Can you imagine a 26-year-old Deion Sanders in the social media age? Ha! "Prime Time" would have broken Twitter.

As a matter of fact, the NFL we know today exists in large part because the NFL spent years as Sherman giving the AFL the Michael Crabtree treatment. The senior league thought its AFL counterpart was inferior, and many players and coaches weren't at all shy about saying so.

It took Super Bowls III and IV to shut them up, and it'll take the Niners reclaiming the top spot in the NFC West to zip Sherman's trap.

Until that day comes, let 'em talk. Sherman's going to anyway, and if Crabtree isn't willing to respond, teammates like linebacker Ahmad Brooks have his back:

In the meantime, let's all just sit back, have some popcorn and enjoy a little of the "F" returning to the "No Fun League."

 

Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.

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