by Kent Sterling
A black man loudly speaks his mind, and he’s a thug. A white guy does some posturing, and he’s a colorful character.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman called out San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree after a game where both men took their jobs very personally as they battled one another.
When Sherman was invited immediately after the game by Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews to describe the play that sealed the game for the Seahawks, a beautiful deflection by Sherman that led to an interception, he went off, “I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me. Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick. L.O.B.! (Legion of Boom)”
Crabtree’s averages going into the game during eight games, including the playoffs, were 4.5 catches, 60.9 yards, and 0.1 TDs per game. Yesterday, he was targeted eight times, caught four balls for 52 yards, no TDs, with one pick. In the Week 14 season matchup against the Seahawks, Crabtree was targeted eight times, caught four for 40 yards, no TDs, and one pick. So he was roughly as good (or “mediocre” to use the word Sherman has employed again and again to describe Crabtree) against the Seahawks yesterday as he was against everyone else.
Sherman is one of the best corners in the game as evidenced by the low number of times opponents targeted the receiver he defended in 2013. The leader of the Legion of Boom was only targeted 58 times on 1,003 defensive snaps. No one else with 1,000 snaps played or more was targeted less than 79 times. Darrelle Revis was targeted 63 times on 972 snaps.
The point isn’t whether or not Sherman was right; it’s whether Sherman was justified in honestly baring his feelings into a microphone repeatedly after the game. The answer is, of course, yes.
In our 24/7 news cycle society, news and sports networks enjoy prompting and airing raw emotional outbursts. The talk today had very little to do with the AFC and NFC Championships, and everything to do with Sherman sharing forthrightly about Crabtree’s mediocrity and Sherman’s own superior talents.
A survey today on ESPN.com shows 40% of fans believe Sherman’s rant to Andrews was “Funny/entertaining” and 60% view it as “Not cool”. What would the response be if Wes Welker went off after the Broncos game about how Alfonso Dennard or Kyle Arrington couldn’t stop him?
People say, “Act like you’ve been there before” or “be humble in victory and gracious in defeat”, but most of the time these phrases follow a black man speaking out. And when that black man looks like a guy who would scare them witless if alone with them in an alley, the response belies that fear.
Being inoffensive should not be the goal of any man or woman. Some of the best men in world history were defiant as they spoke publicly. We are celebrating one of them today. While Dr. Martin Luther King didn’t play sports or yell about a football player being mediocre, he said things that upset a great many people. That so many were driven to annoyance and violence by a man who tirelessly preached love should inform all of us as to the value of the opinion of the majority.
Muhammad Ali was seen as insolent because of his words and actions. His stance as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War cost Ali his championship and more than three years of his ability to earn. Converting to Islam resulted in society viewing him as a heretic. Today, Ali is viewed as a leader and paragon of virtue for the same decisions that caused castigation in the 1960s.
Of course, King and Ali are two extreme examples of men speaking their minds with positive results. Terrell Owens and Dennis Rodman do it too, and unless Rodman can leverage his friendship to motivate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to abandon his post as the sheriff of Crazytown, those honest men will even the scales for those considering a life of blunt declaration.
The point is not that Sherman should be seen as some sort of prophet, but that saying what you feel and believe is a good thing, even when it irritates. Our society has evolved toward believing we have the right to never be annoyed, but annoyance sometimes evolves into discussion which then inspires understanding.
Cut Sherman some slack, and examine your reaction before casting judgement. Modest and measured is dull. We need more boat rockers, and Sherman rocked the hell out of that boat last night.