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Are you tired of hearing The Richard Sherman
Story, the one about his explosive interview with ESPN’s Erin Andrews after the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers in the
NFC championship game? I am and yet, I feel compelled to write about it. Well,
not so much about the interview – that was (and is) pure Richard Sherman. I
want to write about the man-child – because that’s what he is and that’s why he
said what he said and said it the way he said it.
The Play - Richard Sherman tips the ball intended for Michael Crabtree.
It’s not difficult to parse his tweeted apology.
He didn’t apologize for what he said, per se; he apologized for taking the
limelight away from his team and teammates by declaring himself the best
cornerback in the game – which he is. What he didn’t apologize for was his
comments about the abilities of 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. Again, that’s
In the interest of full disclosure, I love
Richard Sherman, the person and the player. I’ve loved him since his breakout
year last season. It’s easy to love him as a player; he simply is the best
right now. Colin Kaepernick didn’t throw in his direction until that final,
fateful play at the end of the championship game. That, my friend, is what we
call respect, mixed with some fear.
For many, it is more difficult to like Richard
Sherman the person. He is outspoken, brash and unafraid to speak his mind. He
goes against convention in the No Fun League (NFL). Toss in the fact that he is
African-American, a brilliantly smart one, and let the racist roast begin. I
like him for all of the above reasons. He is a Starbucks Iced Quad Latte on a
hot sunny day.
Unfortunately, too many NFL fans are bubbas who
can spell beer but not latte. Toss in the casual fans that barely follow the
NFL until Super Sunday and you can better understand the vitriol heaped on
Sherman this past week. In today’s lightning fast digital media world, the
conflagration was virtually instantaneous. Poor Richard.
Poor Richard? I think not. This man-child cares
more about the joy of playing the game, winning and his team than the outside
world’s perception of him. That, too, is pure Sherman. Besides, he is the best at what he does and, when
his current contract expires, he will be a very wealthy man-child.
What the bubbas of the world don’t do is look at
Richard Sherman and consider from whence he came. First of all, Sherman is only
25-years young. Think about that. Just a few years out of college and he is at
the top of his profession and playing in the Super Bowl. Oh, and his college?
Stanford. Not exactly a football factory.
Richard's Parents, Kevin & Beverly
Richard Sherman grew up in the Watts section of
Los Angeles, maybe one of the toughest neighborhoods in America, certainly one
of the most notorious. If he didn’t grow up in abject poverty, Sherman wasn’t
exactly sucking the silver spoon. His dad drives a garbage truck, still leaves
the house at 4am to make his rounds. Sherman’s mom works for Los Angeles
County, teaching mentally disabled kids. In that he was lucky; too many Black
kids grow up without their dads around.
Sherman will tell you both his parents stressed
the importance of education above all else. In his words, “It got to the point where I’d bring home a B in middle
school, even in a tough class, and get stern looks, like, That is not
Two other gifts he received from his parents
were a strong work ethic and just keeping him involved with sports and other
activities, the latter keeping him away from the gang culture that surrounded
says he decided at the age of seven that he wanted to play in the NFL. In high
school he played both wide receiver and cornerback and the big football
programs came looking. It was also apparent in high school that this kid was
more than just a jock. Again, in Sherman’s words, “I
also realized that by doing well in school, I’d always be able to control my
fate. Knowledge is power, and I wanted as much power over my life as possible. There
were times when my favorite subject was math. Other times it was English. I
remember reading The Iliad and loving it. You wouldn’t think a football
player would be into Greek poetry about the Trojan War, but my parents gave me
the greatest piece of knowledge when I was young: You can learn a lot if you’re
willing to go outside your comfort zone.”
USC wanted him as a cornerback but he was drawn to Stanford
because they would play him on offense. Not surprisingly, he was also drawn “by
the school’s academic culture and prestige.”
As the 2011 NFL draft approached, Richard Sherman thought he
might go in the second or third round. His name wasn’t called until the fifth
round and to this day he carries that as a motivational chip on his shoulder.
If there is such a thing as channeling anger in a positive, albeit violent
manner, then Sherman has perfected the art. He always talks about that draft and all those who told him he wasn’t good enough.
Finally, and sadly, there is the racial issue in this whole maelstrom. He doesn’t talk about it much, in fact I never heard him mention
it until this week, but Sherman also feels anger toward those who begrudge the fact
that he is smart, good and Black. To
them, he says, that is an oxymoron. He brought it up in a Seattle news
conference this week, saying he was disappointed that some bubbas (my word, not his) were calling
him a “thug.” In case you aren't aware, the word nigger hides behind the word “thug.”
Richard Sherman thought he had won that battle, that people were
accepting him simply as an intelligent and gifted person. At his news
conference he said he was disappointed that he had to fight that battle again.
So am I.