Richard Sherman frightened a lot of people after the NFC championship when he barked like a crazy person into the camera during a post-game interview (like immediately post game, like during his walk off the field) with consummate professional (and Mainer) Erin Andrews.
We’ve all seen this by now, but here it is again. It’s wild, angry, and spontaneous and shows a man still intoxicated on the hate that’s needed to play professional football at the highest level, a level which Sherman has no problem declaring himself sole owner of, at least when it comes to the corner back position.
Given his play all year, and the amazing athleticism he displayed in the final play of the game with his team’s season on the line, it’s hard to argue with him on that point. Actually, it’s hard to argue with him at all.
As is always the case now when somebody of color does something at all controversial, society went ahead and put a finger down it’s throat (in the form of Twitter) and vomited horrible racist vitriol everywhere. And as is always the case in the Twitter era, when that vomit is right there in the middle of the room for all to see, the media did a bunch of write ups defending the person in question. Most of this defense, as Rembert Browne points out, revolves around the fact that Sherman went to Stanford, so he must be smart. He also was the salutatorian of his high school. So therefore he can’t be a thug.
What we end up with is all sorts of racially coded language on both sides, with the term “thug” being thrown at Sherman by twitter users with no audience outside of the instances when a news organization shows their tweets to the world as an example of what a racist and sexist cesspool the internet is, and his education used to defend him by people who write for a living. But why are we using education to defend him? What does that have anything to do with his behavior? No assholes ever went to Stanford? I can think of at least one other wealthy asshole Stanford graduate who lost his mind on camera.
If Richard Sherman was white (so if he was say, Jason Sehorn) we would just say he seemed like sort of an asshole and move on. His alma mater wouldn’t come up, would it? But it’s almost like we have to make it clear that he’s been vetted and spoken for by predominantly white institutions, that he’s existed among our kind for years and is therefore not a threat. But that’s fucked up. If anything “he went to Stanford” should be used to say “he really should know better, ” at least if your view of Stanford is that it produces well balanced, humble people, like Steve Ballmer or half of that benevolent hub of enlightenment known as silicon valley. If Richard Sherman were white, would we mention his alma mater at all? Maybe. Maybe we would just think what Blake Griffin tweeted after the game.
Richard Sherman seems chill…
— Blake Griffin (@blakegriffin32) January 20, 2014
There’s all sorts of race issues wrapped up in this, especially the seemingly never ending white fear (and anger) that arises whenever white people see anyone they deem to be a dangerous black man. Many good writers have examined the interview and the fallout from that angle, and they aren’t wrong. But another way to define Richard Sherman, besides race, might be that he is a 24-year old millionaire at the top of his profession who can be an asshole at times. He can also be smart, funny, and kind, I’m sure. He’s definitely not a thug, whatever that means, but he’s probably not the nicest guy in the world either. We don’t need to defend his actions. He did an asshole thing. The world is more interesting because of it. The only person who should be angry is Michael Crabtree. The only people defending him should be his teammates and Erin Andrews, since it was great for her career. There’s no doubt he’s kind of an asshole and there’s no doubt he’s impressive. He’s an impressive asshole.
I like Richard Sherman precisely because of this fact, this assholishness and the WWE style heal turn. It’s great theater, which is what the NFC championship game was and what the Super Bowl will be. But you can like a guy while admitting he’s an asshole. Here’s another example of an asshole giving an impressive yet obnoxious post-contest interview.
Now that’s an asshole. One we can all love.