Last night Sherman, broke the internet after losing his mind in a post game interview with Erin Andrews thus exposing a fascinating dichotomy in what sort of behavior we view as acceptable. There seems to be little gray area in regard to opinion on this. Many, myself included, believe he acted inappropriately. Others still, seem to be making excuses for him based on the emotion of the moment. Two such pundits are David Flemming and Joe Posnanski, both of which I have tremendous respect for.
Flemming is a Stanford graduate, former TV announcer for Stanford Football and Basketball and current member of the San Francisco Giants broadcast team...no slouch. His twitter stream last night can be distilled down to the following statement:
Our entire country sits and watches these guys beat their brains in gladiator fashion and then we get indignant when they scream and yell
Posnanski is an award winning sports journalist who I have enjoyed reading for years. One of my favorite works of his is this piece explaining the myth of "The RBI Man". His opinion piece on the Sherman incident too leans on the premise that the guy just spent a couple of hours in an intense, violent game and he should be excused for his impassioned outburst.
It's curious that we view some athletes differently with respect to their relative level of professionalism in dealing with the media. A major topic of discussion in Bay Area sports this year was Colin Kaepernick's relative aloofness toward the local media. They deemed his indifference as unprofessional. Tim Lincecum is often very quiet and doesn't say much to the media either. He is viewed as "shy and quirky". Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are both highly regarded and exceptionally savvy faces of their respective teams who give the media enough detail to satisfy, yet not so much that they expose too much to their next opponent. Johnny Manziel, stands in stark contrast though one could argue a pass based on his youth. Robert Griffin III get's no such allowance, at least from the Washington Sports media, for the way he dealt with the media this year.
So why the vociferous defense of Sherman and his absurd outburst last night? While true, he did just finish playing a very intense game. Football is violent. Football requires a level of intensity that few can comprehend. But it remains…a game. There is more than adequate precedent for players involved in similarly intense and heated games who behaved in a professional manner immediately after. Barry Sanders and Walter Payton come to mind.
Richard Sherman is an exceptionally intelligent man. He is an exceptionally well educated man. Right now there are young men in our military far younger, with far less intellect and education who we expect professionalism from. Those young men are engaged in ACTUAL combat with ACTUAL bullets in contrast to the oft used combat metaphors assigned as descriptors of football games. Yet those young men are expected to behave in a professional manner before, during and after. We expect similar professionalism from Law Enforcement or other public Safety officials despite the real and present risks they face in their workdays.
We view harshly those in the Military and Law Enforcement who don’t live up to those expectations yet Sherman, the grown man, the professional athlete, the Stanford graduate is given a pass because he just finished playing a game.
Playing a game.
I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong and in truth, that’s not what matters in this little thought exercise. What does matter, I think is that we take a look not at Sherman, but at ourselves and the deltas in acceptable standards of behavior that we assign to different individuals and why.