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Wednesday Roundtable: Is Richard Sherman good for Stanford football?

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?

(JOHN TODD/stanfordphoto.com)

Richard Sherman ’10 (9) has brought much attention to Stanford football, with varying viewpoints on its positive or negative impact on the program. (JOHN TODD/stanfordphoto.com)

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:

 

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.

About The Daily Sports Staff

The Daily Sports Staff is the collective moniker of an overworked, beleaguered, underpaid collection of sportswriters that feel comfortable enough with their own self-identities to give up any sense of individualism for the good of the sports section. To contact The Daily Sports Staff, send an email to dpark027 'at' stanford.edu to reach Do-Hyoung Park, keeper of the souls of those sportswriters.
  • Candid One

    Wonder how your roundtable’s comments would’ve read if y’all had been born when “Stanford’s” John McEnroe was changing the pro tennis world with his bratty gig? Of course, that was before the internet was available. That was a much more tumultuous upheaval within a still-staid milieu. There was a stunned silence and avoidance on most of this campus. Now, in the most emotional and violent sport in modern history, at the end of a nationally hyped, televised championship game, which included a near-the-end spectacular, multi-replay injury, an on-camera tirade without censorable expletives is on national TV and a rational context goes begging. As David Shaw implied–no big deal. Stanford survived John McEnroe, and a few other less mentionable examples since. Aside from ratings, what’s it really worth?

  • http://jacksonandwilson.com/ Mitch Jackson

    #25 is a passionate professional hard working athlete. In my book he gets a hall pass. What’s not to like about Richard Sherman? I’d be proud if my kid followed in his footsteps (graduate #2 in his high school and go to Stanford and start working toward his Masters). Too bad the whole race card thing gets brought up. FYI, a thug is Aaron Hernandez, not RS. Amazing story once you dig a bit deeper http://mitchjackson.com/richard-sherman

  • Sylvia Richardson

    Thank you very much. You are very brave to express sentiments that are pro-Richard-Sherman, considering that most of the comments that I have read are distinctly anti-Sherman across the board.

  • james

    I am only addressing Sherman’s interview antics; not the obstacles he admirably overcame to graduate from Stanford. Sorry, I don’t understand how an arrogant and self-righteous attitude on display for the world to see is a good character model. Sherman may be good for Stanford football, but his behavior in the interview was not good for Stanford as an institution. An experienced professional athlete should be able to control his emotions.

  • http://jacksonandwilson.com/ Mitch Jackson

    No big deal. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 28 years of practicing law it’s that people need to relax. We’re all different and we all make mistakes. Sherman’s acknowledged if he had a “do over” he go about things differently. Should be a fun game!

  • Erok

    None of these ‘football writers’ ever played football….you guys sound like dudes that always loved football but couldn’t play it or FULLY understand the culture. Do you go into restaurants and tear apart the meal and dissect the chef and menu like an old game of Operation? You’re not a chef!
    Keep reading articles, watching ESPN, doing blog research and jawing about pure gossip and nonsense. I’m a HUGE Stanford and Niner fan but this kind of media is the same shit that coaches and players hate; get back to more productive jibba-jabba….here-say, your opinion and ‘what if’s’ are annoying and unproductive.

  • SPM

    I am embarrassed for Richard. But he is not the first nor will he be the last Stanford graduate to display poor character. I am more concerned about David Shaw’s reaction. He could have declined to comment, but his response reflected his acceptance/tolerance of the behavior so long as the athlete’s performance is exceptional on the field of play. What kind of message is that to send student athletes? Sherman’s antics are not good for Stanford football, but Shaw’s reaction is worse as it comes from the University’s paid representative — a person entrusted with building character. I am hopeful both men will regret their responses over time.

  • Richard

    One point I would make is that John McEnroe did not get a degree from Stanford that I am aware of, nor did Tiger Woods for that matter.

  • Candid One

    How many folks, Stanford-affiliated or not, make much of that esoteric detail? Grasping a straws…is it aerobic?

  • Candid One

    Richard Sherman is 25. That’s still immature in the world in general, grad student opinions notwithstanding.

  • phenry

    Sherman was simply being emotional in a highly charged atmosphere in which he made a great play to enable his team to advance to the Super Bowl. Opponents, especially in the NFL, can make a player overly excited and go over the line sometimes. Usually a mistake is made in the form of an unnecessary and costly penalty on the field. Yes, some people may not understand how Sherman made it through Stanford and believe that he should have displayed better manners in the post-game interview. After all, the game was over only a few seconds prior to Erin placing the mike in Herman’s face. I am sure he has learned from the situation and response. Perhaps the media will also learn to give the players a little time to celebrate and gather their senses before seeking and expecting an entertaining and elaborate interview. I don’t think the media will delay any attempt to interview a key player immediately after the game, especially when the player is already considered controversial and vocal. I wish Sherman and the Seahawks success in the big game. The hawks were unbeatable at home and the Super Bowl will give them a chance to show that they can also win on a neutral field.

  • Candid One

    Your rules, huh? World view askew? There’s much more substance to being a student-athlete at Stanford than whether some bygone alum rumples assorted sensibilities–without censorable expletives. David Shaw’s integrity isn’t at risk in this situation. We merely witnessed a tidbit of theater from a globally-broadcast business of violence and braggadocio, performed by angry, well-paid gladiators that a preponderance of Stanford student-athletes–and their fans–admire. Sanctimony goes begging.

  • Marc

    Richard Sherman might be smart, inspirational and mega-talented, but he all too often acts like an entitled, smug athlete with a distinct lack of class and sportsmanship. I have the highest respect for Stanford, and for all Sherman has overcome. His achievements on the field and in the classroom are considerable. However, I think his antics and his defenders’ feeble defense of them refelct poorly on a great university.

  • hawaiiguy

    So your judging him based on his soundbites and warrior mentality (a prerequisite for all NFL players), who’s the mature one here?

  • Marc

    I assume you didn’t go to Stanford because a Cardinal would have come up with a far more compelling argument than your callow (look it up) name calling.

  • hawaiiguy

    A: Lets look at my post, hmmm no name calling in there, their or they’re! B: Stanford is an excellent University, but the fact remains the core curriculum of all universities hasn’t changed in over a hundred years. Its a farm system of erudite kids no doubt, but the subject matter is the same, which is only to subjugate. Have a good day typing your “big” words, we’ll keep the NC trophies though:)

  • Michael Falzone

    I absolutely love the guy! People are too quick to judge someone on one interview or 5 seconds of someone’s life! I mean if you look at the whole picture on this guy, he’s a role medel! I’m a fan to say the least!

  • Michael Falzone

    I’m a huge fan. Talks crap and backs it up! It’s good for the sport! Pro football is becoming nothing short of the WWE anyway so let him do his thing. Read his bio! He’s earned the right to run his mouth! Good luck Richard Sherman!