“Way Out of Line”
Our society claims to crave authenticity. We plead with others—especially men—to share their raw emotions, to tell us what they’re feeling. We say we want people to be real…like, really real…
Unless it’s after an emotionally charged football game.
You’ve probably heard something about Sunday night’s NFC Championship game between the Seattle Seahawks* and the San Francisco 49ers. The game was everything one could wish for in a playoff battle of longstanding rivals; it was exciting, it was nerve-wracking, it was a good ol’ American football gridiron epic.
Seattle held a slim lead for the last several minutes of the game, but SF threatened to score for the upset. On what would be the last critical drive, SF quarterback Colin Kaepernick (I didn’t even have to look up how to spell that!) set his sights on the end zone and launched a pass that was tipped and recovered by Seattle. It was this play that ultimately sent the Seahawks packing for the ‘big game.’
Now imagine you’re the guy who was primarily responsible for setting up that game-clinching interception, one Mr. Richard Sherman. You’re nothing short of stoked. This was the biggest game of your career to this point, and that was a hugely pivotal moment. Pure adrenaline and primal passion are running high after four solid quarters of action and anxiety. Oh, and your triumph unfurled in the midst of a face-off against an opposing wide receiver with whom you have negative history (Michael Crabtree). Odds are you, like Sherman, would be ready to celebrate and express all of those pent-up emotions.
Before leaving the field, Sherman taunted his aforementioned opponent and gestured at the quarterback—not spiking the ball, not the traffic finger, not a slicing action across the neck, not pretending to fire a weapon but hands-around-the-neck implying “dude, you choked!” Crabtree shoved in retaliation, the penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct was assessed and that was that.
Until the infamous Erin Andrews interview just moments later. If you missed it or care to watch again, it’s here.
Was it borderline (or more) idiotic? Sure. A little (or more) tasteless? Yup. Do I condone it? Nah. Is Sherman, in fact, the best cornerback in the league? Probably not, but I don’t know.
What I do know is this whole kerfuffle has been overblown to ridiculous proportions.
I’m a day late and a dollar short writing about this, but I’ve grown tired of debating it on Facebook so I’m turning here instead. A few thoughts from yours truly, a girl who’s trying to look at it a bit more objectively…
This is the NFL. All of these men have trained to be highly competitive players; they cannot and will not foster much of a career without an ample dose of self-confidence to back their skills.
In subsequent interviews, including those with the Fox panel only minutes after his initial outburst, Sherman demonstrated a marked shift in poise. He was still excited and self-assured, but the vitriolic demeanor had subsided. Either he heeded advice to reel it in or he simply cooled from the proverbial heat of the moment.
“The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect blah blah blah”…we hear this legalese time and time again. And yet in this instance, people feel entitled to disregard common sense and attribute a lack of “class” to the entire Seahawks organization based solely on Sherman’s rant.
This is what bothers me most about the situation: It took the whole team to win the game, but many in the general public are discrediting that same team because of one player’s comments. Were we all judged based on brusque behavior by a colleague or other acquaintance, we’d all be a sorry lot indeed. And that’s not even accounting for the fact that every one of us has, at one point or another, said incendiary things…but we gloss over it because there’s not a microphone shoved in our face or a national audience.
I’ve been told that he needs to be held accountable, because he’s not being a good role model for the kids who were watching the game. “That kind of unsportsmanlike conduct should not be tolerated by any organization,” said one Facebook post. “He chose that profession, he needs to be responsible with it,” another agreed. Sherman belittled his opponent, but he didn’t curse or threaten violence. He had a platform to express his feelings, and he took full advantage of it. He was impassioned but not overtly hostile. Should he be fined or benched for this? Hardly.
Another post I saw said, “We wouldn’t want teachers behaving like that.” I fail to see how this is the least bit relevant. Last I checked, Richard Sherman is not a teacher. Moreover, I’m sure you can find numerous classrooms across the country on any given day where some misbehaving kids have pushed their teacher to his/her wit’s end and prompted him/her to voice angry comments towards the class. From what I hear, it sounds like it happens an awful lot with parents, too. And what of athletic coaches who routinely emote with ‘strongly worded’ delivery? Frankly, if this is what you’re worried about your child seeing on television and emulating, you probably need to be more in tune with what your child is watching; I’d bet my bottom dollar they observe far worse language and disrespect on a daily basis.
What happened after Sunday night’s NFC Championship game is a commentary on our culture of hypocrisy. That this incident overshadows the rest of what was a remarkably good game for both teams is utterly inconceivable to me. If you’re unhappy that the Seahawks won, or you prefer to cheer for the Broncos for whatever reason, that’s a-okay. Just don’t blame it on Richard Sherman. Unwise and in need of a muzzle he may be, but “way out of line” he was not.