BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 01/22/2014

Thiel: High honor: ‘Richard Sherman’ now a verb

Richard Sherman’s rant brought him from the margins to the white-hot center of American pop culture. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has to reel him back.

Richard Sherman is happy to make a point loudly when it serves him. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Premium athletes well-coached, in a ferocious third seasonal match of rivals in one of the world’s great sports venues, rich with spectacle, controversy, ghastliness and jubilation, sledge-hammered away until the sprawling epic was decided in the final moments by a spectacular defensive play.

If the word majestic is fair to use to describe a game, the NFC Championship Sunday was it.

Except the game has slipped into shadow because of post-game tumult. It was more startling than the game. So intense, it minted a new word, a verb.

Richard Sherman (shûrmn), v. — To utter or express with extravagance (typically on global television)  extreme displeasure that inspires public discourse on sportsmanship, race, culture, education, psychology and the end, or start, of civilization.

Usage: In a blog post Monday on the city of Portland’s official site, Steve Novick, a city commissioner,  fired back at the Oregonian newspaper for remarks critical of the council’s work. Entitled “Going Richard Sherman on Oregonian,” Novick wrote in part:

” . . . So far, the members of the City Council have kept a dignified silence. But after watching Richard Sherman’s post-NFC championship game explosion the other day, I’ve decided, the hell with that. Let’s have some fun. If the Oregonian wants to trash-talk, let’s trash-talk. Let’s give the fans something to talk about. Because we can do it better than they can. We can out-trash-talk the Oregonian on the field, off the field, or in an alley.

“You want to talk about mediocre? A paper that only delivers four times a week, now that’s mediocre . . .

Novick closes with: “COB!”

Council of Boom.

Jeez.

The maker of the NFC Championship’s decisive play is now the maker of phrases. Not merely the foe of Fox and the scarin’ of Erin (actually, Ms. Andrews appeared to hold up OK in the interview), the face of the Seahawks is now the oracle of the oppressed, the annoyer of the anointed. And to others, he is a lout and an ingrate.

To go Richard Sherman on someone or something is to unleash wrath when it is not expected, but when it is readily seen.

The final moments of the game had an audience in the U.S. of more than 60 million, who saw the Seahawks cornerback and the NFL interceptions leader tip away to a teammate a potential touchdown pass to San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree. That all but ended the game and began the awkward, larger story that attempted to divine sociological import from Sherman’s now-famous rant.

Wherever one lines up, there is little debate that Sherman is the greatest purveyor of sports timing since quarterback Joe Namath in 1969 predicted that his upstart New York Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts in what was Super Bowl III.

Namath proved right. And he will be forever remembered for brashness of his words as well as his deeds, because he said it when the sports world, and many others, were listening. Then, and now more than ever, the Super Bowl provides the fastest route from the margins of American culture to its white-hot center.

But Sherman’s circumstance is different than Namath. Sherman hurled invective at a beaten opponent, and gave a choke sign to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. In team sports, that’s poor form.

In that way, Sherman is like Muhammad Ali. The great boxing champ taunted and belittled his opponents before and after fights. For some reason, I cannot forget a bit of doggerel Ali tossed at his longtime rival, Joe Frazier.

Round one, you done / round two, you through / round three, it’s me / round four, you on the floor / round five, more dead than alive . . .

In 2012, a few reporters were quietly chatting up Sherman at his locker at the Seahawks’ practice facility in Renton when he disclosed that one of his principal sports heroes was  Ali.

Since then, I’ve watched Sherman with different eyes, seeing how he easily accepts media contact, and understands how compelling a story are his athletic feats, personality and background — a kid from the cruelties of Compton, CA.,  son of a garbage collector and a teacher who works with the disabled, who graduated at the top of his high school class and made it to through Stanford.

Besides a surpassing confidence in his athleticism, as Ali had, Sherman also has Ali’s strong beliefs and a calculated recklessness. From his post-game confrontation with New England quarterback Tom Brady  (“You mad, bro?”) to his TV confrontation with ESPN personality Skip Bayless (“I’m better at life than you”) to Sunday’s blurt that so scared the Fox TV director that he broke away from the interview, Sherman is a perambulating creator of memes, T-shirt slogans and rebelliousness in the corporate rigidity of the NFL.

He’s already usurped Denver QB Payton Manning as the leading storyline entering Super Bowl week, and he’s a win away from hosting “Saturday Night Live.”

The biggest difference between Ali and Sherman is circumstance — Sherman is in a team sport. Unlike a boxer, golfer or tennis player, Sherman owes some of his success to others, and their demands for some cooperation and selflessness.

That’s why Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was able to walk back Sherman from the precipice of jeopardizing the team. Smart as Sherman is, he’s not as smart as Carroll in protecting the Seahawks’ shield. He talked Sherman into apologizing through a couple of media outlets for blowing up his personal triumph while obscuring the team — not for busting on Crabtree.

“This is a very emotional kid,” Carroll said. “It’s what drives him, and I understand that. We did sit down and talk about it, because I wanted him to present himself in his best light. He’s an incredible kid. He’s got great sense about things, understanding, sensitivity and awareness. He cares. He’s a very thoughtful person.

“He was really clear that the last thing that he wanted to do was to take something away from our team and what we had accomplished.”

Carroll deployed his credibility as a national champion college coach and a Super Bowl coach to talk up to a national audience Sherman’s lesser-understood virtues, then made it seem as if Sherman came to the notion himself that he inadvertently hurt the team.

It was a masterful manipulation of the narrative that, to that point, had millions of older white fans frozen in place when unexpectedly confronted with a black man in a nearly falsetto voice raging about a moment of disrespect that none of them understood.

Then Carroll laid in the final curve to bring back the narrative.

“What I am the most is, I am the dad,” he said. “I looked at it like he was my son, in a sense. ‘What would I tell my son?’ I said, ‘There is some stuff (in Sherman’s post-game statements) that I think that you should think about. Did you really want it to come out the way that it did?’ (We) talked our way through that, and he didn’t want that. He didn’t feel right about that.”

Probably no other player in the NFL would have done what Sherman did post-game. Probably no other head coach in the NFL would have handled Sherman the way Carroll did. The story isn’t over, because Super Bowl media week looms in the media capital of the world. But Carroll gave Sherman an exit ramp off the crazy-man narrative, should he choose to take it.

For a while, “Richard Sherman” will be a verb. But in 11 days, Richard Sherman has to be the best cornerback in the NFL because he’s facing maybe the greatest quarterback in the game’s history.

Sherman can wait to play Ali on “Saturday Night Live.”


YourThoughts

  • Pixdawg13

    Ummm… Art? “Wherever one lines up, there is little debate that Sherman is the
    greatest purveyor of sports timing since quarterback Joe Namath in 1969
    predicted that his upstart New York Jets would beat the celebrated Green
    Bay Packers in what was Super Bowl III.”

    Was the Baltimore Colts, not the Packers. The only Baltimore TD was when Johnny U relieved Earl Morrall.

    • whoKarez

      and Namath was MVP but didn’t throw a TD.

    • art thiel

      Thanks. Fixed.

  • ss

    Stellar stuff, as usual, Art. I’m waiting for a story about some nuns
    going Richard Sherman about something. Maybe that will be on SNL.

    Carroll’s
    handling of it all is a model to behold. That dude knows how to captain
    a ship of mis-fits, and has, all the way to the Super Bowl. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      Carroll understands that clear rules made to make players better, an not to aggrandize a coach, actually has some appeal to young men. What a concept

  • Jamo57

    From the ‘glass half full’ department, it seems to me the definition of going ‘Richard Sherman’ on someone may replace the synonymous verb ‘going postal’. Perhaps drawing from a 25 year old athlete who was unable to shut off and rise above the adrenaline that was pumping through his system and needed to perform at such a high level 5 minutes after a defining moment, in what is essentially just a game and entertainment, is progress over making humor of mass murder. Just a thought.

    Baby steps.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    Ali was a classic grand stander….it fueled him. He called himself the greatest and frankly he was.
    Our defensive back really does have that same mentality. Right or wrong our country is built on free speech….just be thankful he is in our backfield.
    I would like to invite you to put your feet in those moccasins. We have no bigger hated rival than the 49ers. We were called a flash in the pan…told they were the big boys and last years super bowl entrants. We hadn’t done nothing.We were she hawks.
    1000 pounds of smack talk thrown at us. A guys bound to break.

    Crabtree is lucky he didn’t get spanked silly in Arizona during what is suppose to be a character building experience in helping out another fellas charity. I would NOT want to be in a fight with RS, the guy came from the bad side of town.He plays like a bad dude. There is some real mutton heads on that 49er roster.

    I really do hope Richard makes it to Saturday night live after our defense hounds Peyton into the worst statistical day of the 2013 season for him.Like the Super Bowl it will be a classic.He is a natural.

    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      I think Sherman is smart enough to stay out of fights with 300-pounders.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Crabtree is 300 lbs? Thats the size of a lineman…if he is that big during the off season he best work on his footing beating CBs to the ball and a good diet too.

  • Huskydwj

    There is no erasing of this accidental facial cringe causing rant, nor immediate total recovery. The 60 million viewers will never see Sherman as us Seahawk fans, his friends and family see him. Does that really matter? What is really an issue is dominant focus that the media has on this subject, which distracts from the upcoming championship marvel.
    I lift my Mai Tai high in the air toasting next week’s media day, and the first journalist to ask Richard Sherman something NOT about his rant – maybe about the Broncos receivers or Peyton Manning? There is potential for RS to be somewhat of a media darling…..again, no erasing of what has happened is possible, but maybe some diminishing. Ultimately, on-field performance in the Superbowl and time will be the best cures for Sherman’s image

  • jafabian

    Love the Namath comparison Art. For all his brashness, for all his arrogance, if you look at the antics that Sherm is known for (U Mad Bro, Skip Bayless, Crabtree) they are all in reaction to something where he believes he’s been disrespected. Michael Jordan was famous for taking anything that he preceived as a slant and using it was motivation to elevate his game. And that’s what Sherm is doing.

    Everything he said with Erin Andrews was spot on. He IS the best CB in the NFL. Kaepernick DID make a poor decision on the final play for SF. And Crabtree IS an average WR. Sherm is everything that Brian Bosworth should have been.

    When all is said and done, people won’t remember Sherm for his antics. People don’t remember Namath, Jordan or Ali for theirs. They’re remembered for their accomplishments and based on the path he’s on the same will be for Richard Sherman. It’s going to be a blast watching his career grow.

    • art thiel

      Truth, shouted, is still truth.

  • Will

    While Sherman did his thing I immediately thought of a youthful Muhammad Ali. When Ali was speechifying, shouting his verse or taunting a beaten opponent, white America winced. Later, when Ali was seen with health issues, almost magically, his early behavior, bravado and his political/religious views were all but forgotten.

    • art thiel

      The passage of time, and changing view of America’s Vietnam debacle, had more to do with how he was regarded.

  • zigzags

    Really looking forward to media week to see how Big Sherm handles things. My guess is he’ll win over a lot more fans once they see who he really is.

    And I can’t wait to see him on SNL…

    • art thiel

      Manning vs. Sherman. Great by itself.

  • poulsbogary

    He is going up against Manning. He has backed himself into an impossible corner to get out of.

    • K.j. Hinton

      Long as Manning keeps it under 4 picks, it might be competitive.

      • Lodovick

        Let’s see…59 td’s and only 11 picks? That’s five td’s for every interception. Something tells me he is not going out and throwing four picks, even if he threw at Richard on every play.

        • Diamond Mask

          When was the last time he threw against this defense? It’s not comparable.

    • Lodovick

      Manning will get him on a stop pattern to Welker in the corner of the end zone. Manning has the most popular jersey out there. You don’t want those $1,000 ticket buyers showing up wearing orange. That could be happening.

    • Diamond Mask

      Could not disagree with you more. Did you miss the play he made? The man has skills. I doubt that Peyton is stupid enough to challenge him.

  • Freiboth

    Nicely nuance, Art, checking your own refined, humorous snark to subtly add a baseline of seriousness to this piece. One of your best columns.

  • Mike

    RS can be a jerk . 25 years old is not a ‘Kid.’ He might’a been high on something other than adrenaline. Good sportsmanship is what it is. I hope the Stanford man can learn some. Were he my son I’d be embarrassed. I’d get over it after seeing his next contract–i.e. outa Compton for the folks.

  • SSquared

    Green Bay was undefeated in Super Bowls under Lombardi…..geez Art….

  • Goforit

    Isn’t it the least bit ironic that a coach who flashed the choke sign as a defensive coordinator 22 years ago now has a player on his team doing the same thing? Is that the personification of a team taking on the personality of it’s coach? http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1992-12-22/sports/9203080015_1_jets-defensive-coordinator-pete-carroll-shula

  • Diamond Mask

    People are so seriously freaked out about this. Just because something sets off a bunch of tweeters doesn’t make it ground breaking news. Unfortunately our 24 hours a day news media finds it the cheapest way to put “content” on air.

  • Steve Graham

    Such an excellent idea, huskydwj, about hoisting that Mai Tai to the first intrepid reporter to ask a question not related to Sherman’s rant. I’ll join you. Just be prepared for the usual fusillade of softballs next week that’ll rain down not only Sherman, but most all other players.

  • tedsfrozenhead

    Well Done Art!

    Richard Sherman (shûrmn), v. — To utter or express with extravagance (typically on global television) extreme displeasure that inspires public discourse on sportsmanship, race, culture, education, psychology and the end, or start, of civilization.

    That’s classic stuff!