The Seahawks are headed to their second Super Bowl, thanks to a win on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. But demanding just as much attention as the game itself was a brief, heated postgame interview of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who screamed at the camera some strong words about himself and his on-field rival, Niners receiver Michael Crabtree.
Have you ever said something stupid, disrespectful or maybe just tactless? Maybe while you were feeling overzealous, excited or a little angry?
I have, and I’m glad that it wasn’t televised so that strangers could make huge judgments about my character from their sofas. That’s what’s happening to Sherman, who made perhaps the most important play of his career to save his team’s season, in front thousands of screaming, frothy-mouthed fans — and whose demeanor was reflective of that.
Sherman is no stranger to self-aggrandizement, which explains why people weren’t too surprised by the outburst. In fact, he would repeat the same thoughts in subsequent interviews, albeit in a more measured tone.
Evidenced by outrage and backlash about his fiery comments, many people expected Sherman to be more civil, even after toughing out that exceptionally violent game and coming out on top.
We shouldn’t be offended when players seem to act arrogant, or even self-assured. That pedestal is of our own construction. It’s really unfair criticism for someone in Sherman’s position because that passion is what makes the games so exciting to watch.
These incredibly competitive people don’t always come in sterile, neat packaging. Like spoiled children at the zoo, we expect athletes to be passionate and competitive, but also inoffensive and relatable.
You can’t have both, so why not have the one that’s honest? Or at the very least, not punish people for being truthful and sincere.
Sherman screamed that he’s the best cornerback in the league, and by any measure, he is. It doesn’t mean that he gets to act like a jerk, but don’t forget that what he’s been saying all season is true.
Of course, there’s another way of doing interviews, one that we’ve come to expect. Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning, this Super Bowl XLVII’s pair of squeaky-clean quarterbacks, recite it every time: Praise your teammates, acknowledge your opponent and downplay anything about yourself.
Maybe that’s actually the way they feel, or maybe they prefer to be modest, if just for their own well-being. But Sherman is a breath of fresh air in a league full of people oozing with vanilla.
ESPN and other broadcasters are also perfectly willing to stoke controversy like this. They need fodder for their stable of talking heads, things to yap about with two whole weeks before the Super Bowl. After all, why are they interviewing these bloodied, exhausted people in the first place?
Postgame interviews are usually really boring, but sometimes, like on Sunday, we strike gold.
For a similarly unhinged postgame interview, check out Kevin Garnett, then of the Boston Celtics, after his team won the 2008 NBA Finals. “Anything’s possible!”
For another dominant athlete making huge claims about himself, listen to Muhammad Ali after his 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” with George Foreman. Then polarizing, Ali is now universally respected, and it’s not despite his ego, but in part because of it.
Richard Sherman isn’t Muhammad Ali, but if his career continues at the pace it’s at right now, Sunday’s interview will be looked at in a much brighter light, as a defining moment rather than a pothole. And in the meantime, he shouldn’t catch so much flak for his well-deserved excitement.