Rant & Rave: Richard Sherman and The Big Game

January 2014

Rant: I Can't Believe We're Giving This Much Attention to Richard Sherman.

Cliches are the mortal enemy of good writing and discourse. They occur whenever a once-clever turn of phrase becomes overused to the point of meaninglessness. (To whoever coined "It is what it is," I'll see you in hell.) When you read or hear a cliche, you're dealing with someone who's too lazy or disinterested to try and come up with a fresher way to express themselves.

Nowhere is the plague of cliches more rampant than in sports—newsy talk shows are close, but at least they try to wedge a few original thoughts in between the trite ones. With precious few exceptions, sports interviews and commentary are wall-to-wall with vapid interactions that shed little light on the subject at hand.

Sports reporters are fully complicit in this. When they spoonfeed players or coaches garbage questions like, "What does this win mean to you?" or "What do you guys have to do today to pull it out?" we get garbage responses that are straight out of Bull Durham: We'll just take it one play at a time, and if we play our game we'll bring it home. This is why most sports journalism, studio shows, and commentary reveal almost nothing beyond what you can plainly see for yourself. 

Which brings us to Richard Sherman. If you've read this far you're probably already well aware of his antics last weekend, but to recap: Moments after Sherman clinched Seattle's trip to the Super Bowl by deflecting a pass that was then intercepted by a teammate, sideline reporter Erin Andrews asked him to take her through the play. This ensued.

The internet and our citizenry, evidently with nothing better to do, subsequently exploded. In the four days since we've been force-fed story upon story arguing over whether Sherman is a cad or just, to invoke yet another cliche, "keeping it real." 

Here's a thought: Who cares?

As I wrote to some friends in a Facebook discussion of the incident, Sherman didn't use profanity or insult his opponent personally. He didn't offend Andrews, because she's a pro. He did the interview less than five minutes after the deciding play, and his feat sent his team to the biggest game of their lives. If we NFL fans (and I'm a rabid one) want to celebrate these modern-day gladiators for transforming themselves into missile-launched maniacs for three-plus hours every Sunday, we can hardly expect them to behave like senators on C-Span while their adrenaline is still pulsing.

This didn't prevent a degree of outrage usually reserved for things that, you know, matter. Included, of course, were the requisite tweets and comments tinged with overt and covert racism. (Anyone who might argue that Sherman's look-at-me antics are a uniquely African-American phenomenon is conveniently forgetting that pasty Caucasians such as Larry Bird, Rick Barry, Patrick Roy, Philip Rivers, Dick Butkus, Roger Clemens, and Babe Ruth count among the most notorious smack-talkers of all time, and the biggest showboat in college basketball right now is this guy.)

Personally, I prefer athletes who "act like they've been there before:" Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and of course, Peyton Manning. But for the reasons outlined above, we've spent way too much mental energy on this non-story. In fact, I'd defend Sherman's right to do whatever it takes to motivate himself based on his biography alone.

He grew up in the notorious Compton, California. He was a multi-sport athlete who finished second academically in his high school class, which was good enough to get him into Stanford (one of the few colleges that doesn't cut corners on admissions, even for star athletes). He changed positions throughout his college career, which is a primary reason he wasn't drafted into the NFL until the fifth round, a slot that usually stamps a player as a career backup. But in his first three years in the league, he's intercepted 20 passes and is, for the moment, clearly the best cornerback in football.

In other words, Richard Sherman is exactly what most of his detractors claim is so sorely lacking in American society these days: A self-made man.

To those of us who crave something, anything more thoughtful and compelling from our athletes/entertainers than the mindless pap we usually get, Sherman is simply a gift. If having to wait until the fifth round to be drafted motivates him to play with the proverbial chip on his shoulder, so be it. It's working.

That said, if he stops talking before the end of Super Bowl XLVIII, it will be the biggest upset of the week. And if the Broncos don't have an answer for him, the noise in their ears will be louder than ever.

Rave: Has Denver Ever Been More Fun?

On Wednesday, I attended Justin Timberlake's concert at the Pepsi Center. Despite the arena's terrible acoustics—I know there's only so much you can do with that type of venue, but man...—the show was fantastic. I haven't heard that many women shrieking since I jogged shirtless through Wash Park. (The screams I heard back then were terrified, but the volume was similar.) "JT," as I believe the youngsters call him, is a phenomenal performer; the kid's such a smooth dancer I bet the soles of his shoes are still scuffless.

What made the event even more fun was that delirious crowd. Yes, they were there to see a pop music icon, but the biggest ovations, by far, came whenever Timberlake mentioned the Broncos, the Super Bowl, or his friend Peyton. 

Even non-sports fans must admit that having your most popular team about to take our most popular sport's biggest stage creates an infectious enthusiasm that pulses through the city. This lead-up to February 2 is almost better than what might come after it, because if the outcome is still a mystery, what we have now is hope and the ability to freely imagine possibilities. Denver's a pretty happy place in general, but at times like this a silly little thing like a football game can make us all smile a little wider.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.