Friday, January 24, 2014

Whither Richard Sherman

©2013 by LeeZard



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 pure Sherman.

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 acceptable.”[1]
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 him.
Sherman 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.

1 comment:

dfleenor said...

Well put, LeeZard. I believe that Carl Gardner's son Ben played a season or two with Richard at Stanford and Carl thinks very highly of this young man. Oh, and Ben Gardner, another defensive back, is looking toward the NFL next season. Maybe the Seahawks could reunited Ben and Sherm,