Dave Boling: Sherman’s postgame rant painted inaccurate perception

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comJanuary 21, 2014 

SEAHAWKS 49ers

San Francisco wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) slaps away Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman as he rubs in the defeat after knocking away a pass from Crabtree late in the NFC Championship football game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff Photographer Buy Photo

Richard Sherman is better than that guy you saw raging into the camera Sunday night.

He doesn’t need me coming to his defense. Nor will he be moved by the advice of an old-school traditionalist that, in the long term, athletes generally don’t benefit from spewing inflammatory rhetoric over national television.

But first, sideline interviews conducted moments after a rugged game against a sworn rival are generally worthless and, in some cases, unfair.

And Sherman was caught soon after he made a game-saving pass deflection to deny a receiver with whom he has a contentious history.

The public deserves a fuller picture of Sherman, who came off in this case, to many, as a classless boor.

After the critical play, Sherman confronted San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree, who had just been beaten in the game’s climactic moment. That confrontation went about as you might expect.

Sherman then made a choking gesture to the Niners sideline, one he said was aimed at quarterback Colin Kaepernick. It drew an appropriate flag for taunting.

Sherman then denigrated Crabtree during an interview with Erin Andrews, his hostility said to be the residue of some disrespectful encounter with Crabtree last summer.

One of the best players in the National Football League, Sherman is a major contributor to the Seahawks’ success and identity.

But I would suspect that his employers, love him as they surely must, are less than thrilled with the way this reflected the franchise image.

Coach Pete Carroll said Monday that he’s already offered counsel because “I want him to present himself in his best light — he’s an incredible kid.”

And Sherman reportedly texted some media outlets with an apology for drawing the attention away from his teammates.

But that will continue to be the case.

The Super Bowl being the nation’s biggest sporting event, taking place in the nation’s media capital, Sherman’s gestures and comments will be a focus of writers and broadcasters for two weeks, and might divert the positive attention others deserve.

I would hope that analysts and critics — who now have plenty of valid ammunition — make an effort to recognize the full dimension of Sherman.

Those who pop in for a quick listen at his podium on media day won’t know that Sherman is perhaps the most likable guy on the team … always happy, joking, dancing, positive, upbeat.

His media bio will show that he was an honors grad at Stanford, so his intelligence won’t come as a surprise. But the breadth of his knowledge and awareness is something you can only fathom over time.

He not only quotes philosophers and classic literature, but has a knack for pinpointing pivotal elements in a debate and analyzing tricky situations. And perhaps adding a few dance steps in the process.

I will openly concede that I am prone to cutting him slack because he’s so great to deal with.

In fact, I’ve been tempted to approach him for advice on everyday things. Richard, what are your thoughts on term or whole-life insurance policies? Blinds versus drapes for my living room? Mashed potatoes or yams with Thanksgiving turkey?

So during the last training camp, I sought out the broader subtext to this athlete who was becoming a highly visible — but not fully understood — persona.

His older brother Branton, who helps Sherman run The Richard Sherman Family Foundation and the “Blanket Coverage” charitable program, told of an off-the-field Richard Sherman dedicated to improving lives of needy local kids.

“Our main goal is to help inner-city kids get adequate school clothing, school supplies, computers, iPads and so forth to help level the playing field,” Branton Sherman said. “Because learning is the gateway, learning is the key.”

Yes, Branton Sherman said, Richard has always been cocky and combative. But that also fuels his dedication to preparation and his drive to succeed. Even away from the team headquarters, Sherman is never without his computer, studying films of opponents, his brother said.

Sherman does nothing part way, and that’s how greatness in many fields is achieved.

He knows as well as anybody the cost of playing this game, the physical toll on the body, the drain of preparation, the frustrations and failures. Everybody on that field is playing at some level of exhaustion and pain.

It should lead a player to respect those who play the game they all love, to honor the brotherhood of the game if not the individual.

He said last week that these games are built from “adrenaline and testosterone” … and that can be a powerful cocktail.

No one has more fun playing football than Sherman. And I doubt that many have greater appreciation for the privilege of being on a team, given his rise after he was chosen as a fifth-round draft pick.

Few players are as fun to watch. At least until the taunting starts.

I know some players believe the best way to vex vanquished opponents is to ignore them, thereby dismissing them as irrelevant.

But everybody’s different, and Sherman has a style that works for him. Above all, to thine ownself be true.

But I’ve heard that he’s been influenced by the career and the personality of Muhammad Ali — certainly an athlete whose societal impact reached a global extent.

And so he might be interested in what the mature Ali said about his cruel taunting of Joe Frazier in his youth.

“I said a lot of things in the heat of the moment I shouldn’t have said, called him names I shouldn’t have called him,” Ali said. “I apologize for that. I’m sorry.”

Maybe there’s a lesson there from a weathered old champ to a brash young football star.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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