What did you expect from Sherman?/Michael Bleach
Benjamin Franklin probably got it right when he wrote “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
There are a few things I would like to add to that list – something about the Copper Country and shoveling – but who am I to argue with a man who’s visage graces a dollar bill that is out of my pay range?
So instead of certainties, I have slowly tried and tested a list of items in sports I can be confident in, if not certain.
At the top of that list, in big bold letters, it reads: “If Skip Bayless thinks its wrong, I’m sure it’s right.”
But first, let’s back track.
Where were you when Richard Sherman blew up Twitter?
I actually caught the now-infamous Erin Andrews interview live – which, if you haven’t seen it yet, then you are not living life correctly – and spent about five minutes chuckling. I thought it was awesome.
Sideline reporters tend to get three interviews, with little in between. Either it is clichd (“both teams are just playing hard”), surly (anything with Gregg Popovich or Bill Belichick) or a disaster in the Joe Namath/Suzy Kolber vein. Andrews can be thankful Sherman was to the point, if nothing else. And she looked composed in a video that was sure to go viral.
As a 25-year-old American, there is only one natural reaction when something awesome is happening – go on Twitter and participate in a 140-character community forum. The attitude was a bit different there.
My timeline was filled with sports writers (read: old white guys) beyond indignant about Sherman’s explosion. Sherman’s timeline was filled with virulent racists, sending more hate in two sentences than my ignorant brain thought possible. The irony that is was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Monday is apparently lost on our nation’s mouth-breathers.
But even putting the racists aside, the reaction from reasonable-minded folk rang a bit off-chord.
Unsportsmanlike. Classless. Arrogant. Cocky. Jerk. Insert your preferred descriptive here.
That’s football. All of football.
It strikes me as absurd the way we choose to manipulate reality as sports fans.
We willingly accept that these guys will destroy their bodies for our entertainment.
Wait, accept isn’t the right word.
We NEED them to destroy their bodies for our entertainment. Our fantasy football, gambling and Sundays depend on it.
So we glorify their toughness. We deify the guys who play through sprain ankles and broken fingers. Every time Eddie Lacy ran through a defender this year, I yelped in awe. What a truck!
And that’s exactly what they are. Trucks. Missiles. Beasts.
NFL athletes are built with more mass and explosion than was supposed to be humanly possible, even 40 years ago. The courage it takes to not only survive those collisions each Sunday, but invite them, revel in them, is astounding.
But that courage doesn’t come naturally. Anyone who has been in a football locker room understands. You build up to it.
There is the one guy slapping everyone’s pads before the game. There is a coach making war metaphors. There is Ray Lewis shimmying and gyrating and psyching himself and his teammates up to kill another running back.
So in the biggest game of the season, after the biggest play of his career, after three hours of a mano e mano battle, Richard Sherman couldn’t seamlessly step away from the character he must create to play football? It turns out he needed more than five minutes to come down from the adrenaline high he was feeling?
I won’t begrudge him that. And if you are an NFL fan, you shouldn’t either.
What Sherman did wasn’t classless, it was just a peek behind the curtain to how football is actually played. The making of the sausage isn’t always pretty.
Watching football in 2014 is a series of compromises. The specter of Junior Seau, Andre Waters and Mike Webster looms over everything.
It’s a compromise I willingly make – it’s their choice after all, and the compensation isn’t bad – but one we should look at honestly. Professional football is not played by normal humans. It takes a level of devotion, commitment and attitude not found in many (any?) other fields. Expecting them to survive football AND act like Mr. Rogers requires a splitting of reality I am just not capable of.
Still not convinced?
Check out Sherman’s interview on ESPN’s First Take with Skip Bayless.
Anyone who can walk over Bayless like that is just fine by me.