After the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game Sunday, all anyone could talk about was Richard Sherman ’10. Sherman made the play of the game to seal the Seahawks win, and then he stole the spotlight with his one-of-a-kind postgame interview. We asked football writers Winston Shi, David Cohn and Do-Hyoung Park: Is the always-polarizing Richard Sherman good for Stanford football?
Winston: I love Richard Sherman. I honestly do.
Sherman is one of the best players in football, he’s excellent beyond football, and he’s actually a very thoughtful person, as his columns written for “Sports Illustrated” attest. There’s plenty of room for cockiness when you are legitimately the best cover cornerback in football. We love our big, brash trash talkers like Steve Spurrier, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali — why not Sherm? Wes Welker even made jokes about Rex Ryan’s wife, and people thought it was funny. Richard Sherman is a part of what makes sports so fun.
Would I have given the same postgame interview as Sherman? Probably not, but I really won’t pillory him for it. He was angry, he was amped, he’d just been part of the play that took the Seahawks to the Super Bowl and he’d been able to do so in classic mano-a-mano fashion — tipping victory from between his opponent’s hands right before his eyes. Sherman beat Michael Crabtree. Few outcomes are as stark or as glorious.
Much has been made of the fact that when Sherman delivered his on-field tirade, he never swore and looked straight at the camera the entire time. Some people have labeled the entire thing an act. I’m not sure how much I believe that.
While feuds between players are generally overstated (the real feuds are almost always the ones nobody wants to talk about), Sherman seemed pretty real. Real emotion would easily fit the narrative — he was both exhausted and pumping with adrenaline at the same time. After Sherman had time to calm down, he was very good in the postgame press conference.
Ultimately, though, you have to admit on some level that Sherman knows exactly what he’s doing. Sherman doesn’t trash-talk Larry Fitzgerald because Fitzgerald won’t let it affect him. When Crabtree tried to fight Sherman at Fitzgerald’s charity event over the summer, Sherman knew he had a target he could mess with on the field, one almost impossible to miss. If Sherman’s cockiness contributed in any way to the Seahawks’ victory, I’m sure he’d consider it totally worth it.
David: As a university, Stanford has always prided itself on being an institution that welcomes studious and hard-working individuals from a variety of different backgrounds and life experiences. While some people may cast aspersions on Sherman for his bravado and his propensity for trash-talking, I believe that if people actually took a moment to consider his background, more specifically the difficulties he had to overcome in order to accomplish his goals of being a star in the NFL and receiving his Stanford degree, they would realize that Richard Sherman is great for Stanford football and for Stanford University.
Sherman was raised in Compton, Calif., a community that has been plagued by gang violence. Furthermore, Sherman did not come from money—his father still wakes up at four in the morning for work to drive a garbage truck while his mother did tremendous work in education with disabled students. As such, Sherman’s parents instilled in him the importance of hard work and dedication, and that such dedication would be the key to achieving his dreams both on and off the field.
In turn, Sherman has taken his parents’ message and succeeded at every stage in his life: In high school, Richard was the salutatorian of his graduating class, earning his football scholarship to Stanford. On the Farm, Richard graduated with a B.A. in Communications. On the football field, he survived a position change after his junior season to immediately become a two-year starter on defense. In the NFL, Richard has developed into a two-time first-team All-Pro player at cornerback.
In short, Sherman’s remarkable story is simply one example of what someone can achieve when he applies himself. Such a story is at the heart of the American Dream, and this story should be the narrative when the media talks about Sherman. Although Sherman may make it difficult for us in the media to focus on his journey, especially when it is far easier for certain outlets to draw additional viewers or readers by simply commenting or “debating” his latest boisterous proclamation or “beef” with a particular player, Sherman’s journey to reach the NFL and his work to stay at the top of his game is a far better reflection of the real Richard Sherman than any overblown attempt at showmanship.
Do: I’d love to continue my “neighborhood dogs” metaphor of last week’s roundtable, but I don’t want to take the risk of the nation’s premier “All-Pro Stanford graduate” finding out that I compared him to a dog in print. So I’ll go ahead and write a more traditional response this week.
People love to poke fun at Stanford (good-naturedly, I hope) because of Stanford’s unique position in the nation as a premier academic university that excels at competing with the “big boys” in athletics. My favorite tweet from the NFC Championship game’s aftermath highlighting this came courtesy of Fake SportsCenter:
Stanford forced to say f*** it, you’re all admitted.
— Fake SportsCenter (@FakeSportsCentr) January 20, 2014
I think that the public’s lofty expectations and perceptions of Stanford graduates are definitely reasons that Sherman has become one of the most notorious figures in the game. At first glance, Sherman just doesn’t seem like the kind of man that would have spent four years at one of the world’s most respected institutions. He’s loud, brash and arrogant. He doesn’t shy away from conflicts, and, as we saw in his legendary post-NFC Championship interview, he isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect.
If Sherman hadn’t gone to Stanford, I’m fairly sure that he wouldn’t be such a controversial figure. People would just see him as maybe another Chad Ochocinco: a talented player with a strong propensity for trash talking, but nothing too out of the ordinary. He would maybe occasionally have made the news for isolated incidents and developed a reputation.
But it’s the Stanford pedigree that makes people turn twice and consider him as someone more than just another athlete with a big mouth. And I think that’s a very, very good thing for Stanford football. It makes people realize that Stanford has more to offer than rich, old engineers and peppy start-up entrepreneurs.
Regardless of whether it’s in a good or bad context, it makes people talk about Stanford and helps Cardinal football continue to emerge into the public eye. I think there’s a lot of people that realize there’s more to Richard Sherman than what he chooses to express in his outspoken manner, which pushes a lot of the bad publicity onto Sherman, rather than Stanford football. With that in mind, I firmly believe that no publicity is bad publicity when it comes to the Cardinal in this scenario.
If Do-Hyoung Park had compared Richard Sherman to a dog, it would have been the German Shepard. Let Do, David and Winston know which breed you would choose at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu, dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu and wshi94 ‘at’ stanford.edu, respectively.