With less than two weeks to go before Super Bowl XLVIII, I have one, clear message for Richard Sherman:
Keep being Richard Sherman.
I don’t want him to hide. I don’t want him to apologize. I want Sherman to keep being the intelligent, loquacious, emotional face of this Super Bowl.
Yes, you read that correctly. Forget Peyton Manning and his legacy — Sherman is the wonderful and fantastic face of the New York Super Bowl. And it’s simply outstanding.
I absolutely loved every little thing about Sherman at the end of the NFC Championship Game — starting with the play. He is unequivocally the elite cornerback in the NFL. I thought Colin Kaepernick was en route to securing a go-ahead, NFC title-clinching score for the San Francisco 49ers in the game’s closing moments — and then the quarterback met his match. With one tremendous tip in the end zone, Sherman knocked the ball into teammate Malcolm Smith’s hands and sent the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
Sherman’s play was incredible — and what happened next was fantastic.
I loved every second of Sherman’s postgame interview with Erin Andrews. It was real. It was emotional. It was raw. How many times do we criticize athletes for saying nothing, being vanilla, and not speaking the truth?
And I have to stay consistent, here; before the Seahawks and Niners faced off in Week 2, I wrote a column calling theirs the best current rivalry in the NFL, a rivalry that is fueled by hate. I wrote again before the NFC title tilt about the way the hate stems from the coaches. With the salary cap encouraging roster turnover and with players seemingly cozy with each other these days, this is refreshing. It would be hypocritical for anyone to appreciate the ‘Hawks-Niners rivalry and then knock Sherman for his candor in a postgame interview.
Sherman gave Andrews and the national viewing audience a wonderful glimpse into his battles with Michael Crabtree, letting them see the passion of the rivalry, the Seahawks and Sherman himself. It was pure. It was great.
We live in a world where New England Patriots players are trained to say nothing. We live in a world where Derek Jeter has made a living by accommodating the press while mastering the art of truly saying nothing.
“It’s a double standard and hypocritical,” said Sherman’s teammate, Michael Bennett, on Monday’s “Schein on Sports” show on SiriusXM Radio. “When athletes are honest, they take heat.”
Amen, Michael. Amen.
Sherman himself penned a fantastic column for TheMMQB.com backing up and explaining how genuine Sunday’s events were. Make no mistake: Sherman is writing a column for Peter King and Sports Illustrated because he is a super bright individual who oozes emotion and honesty.
The Seahawks play with swagger, and it starts with Sherman. Do you think that the noise from the cornerback might take some of the pressure off Seattle heading into the big game? Sherman — not Russell Wilson or Marshawn Lynch — is the go-to interview for Super Bowl week. That helps the ‘Hawks.
I remember talking to Seattle general manager John Schneider after the Seahawks beat Tom Brady’s Patriots last season in the infamous “U mad, bro?” game. Schneider compared Sherman to the basketball player who keeps shooting and making 3-pointers — and reminding you about it. You want that guy on your squad, as Bennett, who told me he and his teammates love Sherman’s brashness, can attest.
And consider this: Sherman is everything that’s right with sports and society.
Born and raised in Compton, Calif., Sherman has worked hard to get where he is today. He starred and studied at Stanford, one of the nation’s most prestigious universities. After being picked by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he worked and studied around the clock to become the best defensive player on the best defense in the NFL, the heart and soul of the potent backfield dubbed the “Legion of Boom.”
When you combine talent, intelligence and charisma, Sherman is the best in the NFL. And the nation hasn’t stopped buzzing about him.
Every sports show, talk show and news show is discussing Sherman — even hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager were talking about him during the fourth hour of The Today Show on Tuesday (which was being watched by my wife, by the way). I loved that both the New York Post and New York Daily News devoted pages upon pages of coverage on Monday and Tuesday to Sherman.
He’s the kind of athlete — rising from a humble background to become a bold, outspoken success — that New York loves; remember the guarantees of Joe Namath and Mark Messier. Sherman is in the right place at the right time. He will have the local and national media eating out of the palm of his hand.
When Sherman apologized for the postgame interview late on Monday (later in the day, after his column was posted), I was frustrated and disappointed. I loved the fact that he followed that apology, which I assume he was urged to make by a public relations rep, with a vintage and real news conference Wednesday, in which he stressed the only regret he had was taking away from his teammates.
And then Sherman — who said he was appreciative to see people like Hank Aaron come to his defense — rightly expressed his discontent with being called a thug.
“The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays,” Sherman said. “It’s like everybody else said the N-word, then they say thug and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s fine.’ That’s where it kind of takes me aback and it’s kind of disappointing, because they know. What’s the definition of a thug, really?”
“Maybe I’m talking loudly and talking like I’m not supposed to,” he continued, “but there was a hockey game where they didn’t even play hockey, they just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that and I said, ‘Oh, man, I’m the thug? What’s going on here? Jeez.’ ”
Sherman is one of the brightest, best and most compelling athletes I’ve interviewed. I love watching him. I love listening to him. He should never succumb to hate; he should never change.
As the Super Bowl comes to New York, the city I call home, I’m proud to say we have someone like Richard Sherman to represent the game.
It’s perfect. It’s real. It’s needed.
Richard Sherman perfect as the face of Super Bowl XLVIII – NFL.com.