If you currently have an opinion on Richard Sherman (and if you have any interest in football, you do), then I have a few suggestions for you today.
Log off of Twitter. Take your fingers off the keyboard. Lay down for a few minutes.
Did a professional athlete really do the unthinkable Sunday night?
To put it simply, Sherman made a game-winning play that sent the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl. He then celebrated in the moment as such, earning a taunting penalty before giving one of the most memorable sports interviews ever.
For all of the angles that have been discussed regarding those few minutes of action – professionalism, sportsmanship, and racism – I don't think Sherman deserves as much criticism as he does deserve praise. Lots of praise.
That's because Richard Sherman is exactly the kind of professional athlete that the sports world has always demanded to see. Will Leitch of Sports on Earth was one of the first to say that about Sherman, but it should have been said even sooner.
Sherman talks like he's one of the best players in the game and convincingly backs it up. He finished his bachelor’s degree at Stanford in 2010 and then started a master’s degree the next year as he completed his final year of eligibility in college football. He founded his own charity in Seattle called Blanket Coverage, which helps give school supplies and clothes to needy children. He changed from a wide receiver to a cornerback at Stanford because his team needed it, even though he already had a chance at being drafted as an offensive player.
Sherman is leading an innovation in NFL scouting. His playing style and athleticism have made scouts look less warmly toward cornerbacks like a 5’8 Tim Jennings and more toward those like a 6’0+ Richard Sherman. He gives honest, real answers to questions he's asked and acts like he treats every competitive challenge as just another way to prove himself on the field.
And if you thought Sherman was in any way dumb based on a 20-second interview, try to understand how untrue that is. He's actually smart. Really, really smart.
You may get an idea of that with this video:
Sherman is a talented, tough, fierce, competitive, athletic, intelligent, well-prepared, detail-oriented, rolling ball of butcher knives-type of player. And he's a respectable and charitable person.
Roll all of those qualities into one NFL player and what do you get? If you're a Colts fan, it's a poster-boy for Chuck Pagano’s "Build the Monster" mantra.
Sherman is a monster. And he's exactly the type of player fans should embrace instead of criticize.
For as much nitpicking as people have done over the past two days to make Sherman look like a fool, it's easy to forget that only a few minutes passed between Sherman's deflection to create an interception and his interview with Erin Andrews. The confetti was falling, the fans were cheering in ecstasy, and the Seahawks were going to the freaking Super Bowl.
Football players are not robots designed and built for human entertainment. Nor are they gladiators in the Roman Coliseum. Sherman is a person with thoughts and feelings and emotions who happened to make the biggest play of his career in the biggest game of his career and is heading toward one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
So in a brief moment when he was put in front of a camera, people expected him to turn all of that off and toss out some softball answers.
I don't buy that.
The most memorable experiences in people's lives demand raw emotion. That's what Sherman, who's already one of the visibly passionate and fiery players in the NFL, felt like displaying at the time, with no curse words or anything that should make parents shake their heads anymore than Steve Smith and Bart Scott have done in the past.
I'm not trying to sell the idea that Sherman is the kind of person that officials at the NFL Rookie Symposium will tell players to behave like. His taunting and choking signs were obviously unnecessary. And even though he didn't intend to shift the public’s attention from his team going to the Super Bowl to his postgame actions, it still happened.
But in the same way that Indianapolis has fallen in love with Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers, football fans in this city would fall in love with Richard Sherman. His talent and play-making ability are only matched by the pure energy he instills in his team and in Seattle.
Sherman is pushing the boundaries of what it truly means to be a professional football player. And he's a great enough player that his behavior won't disappear soon.
Breathe that idea in, and then breathe it out.
Sherman really did do the unthinkable Sunday night. He gave NFL viewers another level of entertainment, one that disrupted the idea of moral behavior that society seems to expect out of players at all times. Sherman was humanized like none other in interviews before him.
All we have to do is embrace it.