Monday, January 20, 2014

Seahawks' Richard Sherman, love him or hate him, is already the face of Super ...

The Seahawks cornerback, after making a play that sent Seattle to the Super Bowl, will have plenty of people rooting against him and for Peyton Manning after his 'I'm the best' tirade. Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

By the end of the Broncos-Patriots game early Sunday evening Peyton Manning was once again the undisputed heavyweight champ No. 1 football star on the planet, having beaten Bill Belichick and Tom Brady and the Patriots, like slaying an old dragon for his new team. And Peyton was on his way to his third Super Bowl, this one in the Jersey stadium where his brother Eli plays.

But by the end of this long football day and night, the second biggest football star on the planet was Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, who made the kind of play all defensive players dream about making, the one that put his team in the Super Bowl.

Then he gave perhaps the most famous postgame, on-field interview in all of TV history to Erin Andrews of Fox and did what a lot of modern athletes only dream about doing:

Made the whole thing about him.

I saw it, you saw it, the whole world saw it, just moments after Sherman somehow spun his body around and deflected a pass intended for Michael Crabtree - somebody Sherman likes about as well as Chris Christie likes Jersey Democrats these days - that teammate Malcolm Smith intercepted. If Crabtree catches the ball, the 49ers are in the Super Bowl. Sherman didn't let him.

And when Andrews asked him to take her - and us - through the last play, here is what Sherman shouted above the roar of the loudest stadium in the National Football League and maybe the whole world:

'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.'

Even people in remote regions of Tibet are now aware that Sherman and Crabtree have been trash-talking each other, on and off the field, on and off social media, for some time.

Sherman continued: 'Don't you open your mouth about the best or I'm gonna shut it for you real quick.'

Sherman, who made it out of Compton, Calif., to Stanford and to a moment like this in the biggest football game of his life until the one in MetLife Stadium 13 days from now, acted and sounded like an idiot in that moment (it's amazing we don't get more raw interview moments like this, this close to the end of emotional endings like the one in Seattle) even if he is anything but.


It is an absolute fact that whatever has been said to him by Michael Crabtree - who is anything but a 'sorry' receiver - Sherman acted graceless after his play, running over to Crabtree, patting him on the butt, saying something to him, getting himself shoved, then making that hideous choke sign in the direction of the 49ers bench.

But those few moments, the athletic play Sherman made with his team's season on the line and then the interview with Erin Andrews if you can even call it an interview, Andrews doing as well as she could in the heat of a moment like that with two questions, those were the official beginning of the first Super Bowl Week New York has ever had.

Not only does Richard Sherman, who can not only talk as if he never runs out of saliva but also writes a column for my friend Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback web site (, get a stage like Super Bowl Week, he gets it in New York. Where he will be as much an object of media attention as Peyton Manning, or a former Jets coach named Pete Carroll, or a former Giants defensive coordinator named John Fox.

Like him or not, Sherman comes here famous now. He comes here a star of football, because he really is one of the great defensive backs, and showed you that again when Colin Kaepernick went right at him with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. And he comes here a star of social media and drawing as much attention to himself as possible in a hey-look-at-me culture of modern sports.

Understand something: This is no defense of what he said after the game or the way he acted. Still: If there's a hashtag on this for Sherman on his way to New York for the Super Bowl, it would look something like this:



What Richard Sherman really will get to do, endlessly, once he arrives in town and faces the media next Tuesday at Media Day at The Rock in Newark, is tell his story. It happens to be a story much longer and much better than just a rant after the NFC Championship game ends up 23-17 for his team because he never let Kaepernick's throw in the right corner of the end zone at CenturyLink Field get to Michael Crabtree.

The irony of Sherman's story, of course, documented in a wonderful piece about him that Lee Jenkins wrote last summer in Sports Illustrated, is that the Seahawks cornerback now this famous for talking trash is the child of a father who drove a garbage truck for a living.

In Lee Jenkins' piece, Richard Sherman talks about seeing a documentary on Muhammad Ali when he was 12.

'He created a persona,' Sherman says of Ali. 'He was a leader, an entertainer, he knew how to break people down in the ring. I didn't really like boxing, but I wanted to be like Ali.'


Sherman's football story really began at Compton Dominguez High School. He could have gone to USC when Pete Carroll, now his coach in Seattle, was still coaching there and had built one of the storied college programs of all time, at least before the NCAA investigators came calling; before Carroll was on his way to Seattle, his third shot at being a head coach in the NFL.

Sherman went to Stanford instead, as a wide receiver. Where he played for Jim Harbaugh, whose quarterback Sunday night thought he could beat Richard Sherman and beat Sherman's team and become the first team since the old Buffalo Bills to lose a Super Bowl one year and make it back the next.

Sherman played cornerback at Stanford his last two years. Still didn't get drafted by the Seahawks until the fifth round of the draft. It just became one more score for the kid from Compton, the son of a father who drove his truck through South Central LA every morning, to settle eventually. One more grudge. Like the one he settled with Michael Crabtree Sunday night in Seattle.

When Sherman had calmed down after the game, more than somewhat, he still hadn't dialed down his rhetoric very much.

'I was making sure everybody knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver. Mediocre,' he said. 'And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that's what happens.' Those who watched both games on television Sunday will probably notice a significant difference in tone and style and content between him and Archie and Olivia's son Peyton. It only makes the thought of Peyton throwing in Sherman's direction - beating him or getting beat - a pretty spectacular story line for Super Sunday.


It is not even in dispute that Richard Sherman, who has always played with the same attitude he showed the country Sunday night, all the way back to Compton, acted small in the aftermath of the biggest moment of his football life, a football life that also included a drug suspension for Adderall, one against which Sherman fought and won (positive drug tests not exactly being unique out there in the Great Northwest).

Something else in dispute is that a sound byte or two - or two hundred - is not the whole story with him, because those sound bytes rarely are, whether you want to shoot athletes like Sherman out of a cannon or not.

It is hard to find anybody who liked what they saw and heard from him when he stood next to Erin Andrews, Sherman acting a little crazy in the middle of a crazy scene. Maybe Sherman didn't like his close-up much, either, his version of WWE, turning it into 'Sunday Night Raw.'

But that close-up was the real beginning of Super Bowl Week in New York. The week, and all the silliness that comes with it, the biggest big-top circus in sports, is always some stage for players with big mouths and big attitudes. Never before has there been a stage like this.

Richard Sherman may make you root against him, against his team, root even harder for Peyton Manning to come win the big game in Eli's house. But his face was as much the face of his sport as Peyton's was on championship Sunday. His voice, like it or not, drowned out everything, including all that noise in Seattle.

One more time: You can act like an idiot and sound like one and Tweet like one occasionally and not be one. This is going to be another kind of Sherman march, this time in New York. #dealwithit.
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