“A great win ruined by one player’s garbage. Come on, man”
I hastily wrote this Facebook Post last Sunday, within minutes of the now famous post game rant from Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman. My son and I watched the game. We didn’t have strong rooting interests, but, we decided based on their cool uniforms, and for me, the fact that former Crawfordsvillian (Wabash grad) Pete Metzelaars had once played for them, we would cheer for the Seahawks. The fact that their fans can cause earthquakes is pretty impressive too. So we watched as Sherman made the amazing defensive play that essentially punched Seattle’s ticket to the Super Bowl. It was a great play. My son and I jumped up and cheered. Then, almost on cue, the cameras followed Sherman, known for his swagger and outspoken persona on the field, who proceeded to get in the face of the rival receiver he had just beaten, make the choke sign at the opposing quarterback, culminating in the now famous WWE style rant to the sideline reporter, proclaiming himself the best in the league, and his opponent to be garbage.
I responded in two ways. And now, with time to reflect, I have to say, one thing I did I would do again, the other thing, not so much. But I definitely learned something from Mr. Sherman that night. So I’m grateful.
So, first, what I did right: I used it as a teaching moment for my son. My dad would have done the same thing, and did, when we would watch sports. He would point out the stuff that you just don’t do, as a competitor, as a man. One of those things is taunting your opponent and bragging. Even if it was our team, my dad would point out when there was a lack of sportsmanship. So I did the same for my son. I explained that you don’t carry yourself like that in victory, and we talked about how it really makes the win less impressive when you have to put someone else down. We noticed the other players for the Seahawks, like their QB Russell Wilson who did carry himself with class. It was a father/son moment, as it should be. It was a way to talk about what we value in our home, and how we conduct ourselves. It didn’t need to go beyond that.
Which brings me to the part that I regret, but also the part that was a learning moment for me.
Monday morning the internet was all ablaze with response and reaction to Sherman’s act. Arguments ranged from calling him a classless thug to basically taking a “what do you expect?” angle. Then, articles and blogs surfaced giving Sherman’s back story, which is actually really impressive and inspiring. I didn’t know the guy grew up in Compton, excelled in school, went to Stanford, where he was a model student athlete. I didn’t know the good work the guy does off the field. Like all of America, I only knew the few minutes I watched on TV. I think it hit me when I heard an interview with his coach from Stanford on a sports talk show while driving my son to school. He said that Sherman is not “that guy” everyone saw on Sunday night off the field. The coach admitted that Sherman is unbelievably competitive and that someone put a mic on him just minutes after he made the play to get his team into the Super Bowl. What we all saw and heard was a rant that should have happened in the locker room, not in public. In fact, interviews with Sherman even later that evening were much more professional and toned down. The coach didn’t excuse Sherman for his lack of sportsmanship in that moment. He said that Sherman said what he did the way he did and that he was not a victim of anything, that the coaches should probably deal with him, that he had to deal with him when he played at Stanford. It wasn’t an excuse for a bad decision, but it allowed for there to be a picture of whole person there before making a blanket judgment.
The more I thought about it, the more troubled I was about my compulsive FB post in reaction to him. Except for the number of viewers, wasn’t my reactive post just mirroring what I was so frustrated with in his behavior? If I really think about it, the standard I was trying to teach my son was one about restraint and self-control. Sherman’s emotions at that moment were not my concern, that’s for him to deal with. I’m not in his shoes. If he wanted to go off about his greatness and weakness of his opponent right after the game in the locker room, that’s for him, his teammates, and his coach to deal with. It was the public display, the public shaming that bothered me. But didn’t I do the same thing, by reacting out of emotion, and the NEED to say SOMETHING publicly? And that’s the rub, that, to me is at the heart of the problem. And that’s where I need to repent.
I can only speak for myself. But I had to ask the question, what made me have to add my voice to the outcry? I’m reminded of that old Saturday Night Live skit with Jimmy Fallon (I think) “I HAVE AN OPINION!” Who was I hoping to influence? Richard Sherman? Like he cares what a guy in Crawfordsville, Indiana thinks. People who liked his act? Yeah, disagreements on social media ALWAYS go well and totally convince the other person of your side. Or maybe the better question is: Why was it not enough to have simply had the moment with my son? Isn’t that where the real influence can occur? I worry a lot about our disconnected ‘connectedness’ these days, in this culture, and I have many rants about it stored up. But I have to start with myself. And if I’m honest, the need to compulsively post a rant that really should take place in conversation, person to person, is almost always rooted in some sort of pride, some sort of superiority assertion, and its not okay. Its not what I want my son to see, so I shouldn’t do it.
Richard Sherman apologized for his rant, saying “I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates.” Good for him. That is something that should be commended, and something I will be sharing with my son. I apologize, too. For the personal attack and for adding to the negative noise on the internet out of my own lack of discernment.