This was originally written for a Sports Media class. The assignment was to focus on a certain element of the media’s Super Bowl coverage and write about it. It has been extended, edited, and peppered with hyperlinks for context.
55.9 million. That was the number of viewers who tuned into last year’s NFC Championship game on FOX, a thrilling spectacle that saw the fiery Seattle Seahawks edge San Francisco’s beloved 49ers 23-17 in an instant classic, punching their ticket to a Super Bowl they would win with relative ease.
However it’s not on the merits of the game itself that makes this noteworthy 13 months later, or the sheer number of people who were watching; it’s what those 55.9 million viewers witnessed directly following the conclusion of play that is worthy of revisitation. As many still vividly remember, Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman used sideline reporter Erin Andrews’ microphone to address the national public regarding an issue very close to his heart: the mediocrity of opposing wide receiver Michael Crabtree. It was the aggressiveness with which he spoke, and the brutal honesty of his feelings that caused an uproar amongst media members, reminiscent of Sherman’s “You mad bro?” quip directed at Patriots quarterback Tom Brady back in 2012.
What makes this all relevant following New England’s Super Bowl 49 victory over Seattle, is the stigma that’s followed Sherman since that fateful day 13 months ago, one he most likely will never be able to escape if the media’s coverage of the last month is any indication.
Sherman’s penchant for trash talking remains the focus of said stigma, making him easy prey for online media outlets like Barstool Sports and Deadspin when something doesn’t go his way (see February 1, 2015). What’s more fun than setting the boisterous, conceited, hubristic cornerback from one of the NFL’s most controversial franchises in his place?
Despite deflecting all media-day questions that came his way as reporters tried to entice him into “yet another self-aggrandizing rant,” and despite being the first Seahawk to complement Brady following Sunday’s game, this question was answered with a resounding NO; nothing is better than setting Richard Sherman in his place. Memes were made featuring Sherman’s reaction to the Malcolm Butler game winning interception, articles were written about how Sherman and his “Legion of Boom” were finally to be silenced, and fans from all over the country reveled in the glory of watching Sherman finally lose on a big stage with everybody watching.
It’s fine to dislike Richard Sherman. But before reaching that conclusion, it has to be noted how the media, or at least a portion of the media, handles players like Sherman, attempting to paint them in a light that is laced with negativity while choosing to ignore what’s below the surface. Sadly, this seems to be a common theme throughout the world of sports journalism today, as internet muscles are flexed with astounding levels of confidence when discussing the likability of certain athletes. Sherman is one of the main victims of this culture, one that continues to grow.
We all know that Sherman went up to Boston’s most prized athlete, the untouchable Tom Brady, and asked him if he was mad (bro) about New England’s 24-23 loss to his own Seattle Seahawks. What seems to go unmentioned is the interaction that occurred earlier in the game (when New England still retained the lead), a story Sherman is more than happy to recount. “He was pretty much saying that we (Sherman and safety Earl Thomas) were nobodies,” the Seattle cornerback said in a press conference leading up to the Super Bowl, “and that we should come up to him after they get the win. So we should take that pretty well, ‘Cool, can I get your autograph too?’”
What’s funny, and what’s sad, is that Sherman probably would’ve garnered more respect from media members across the country if he had asked for Brady’s autograph, rather than asking him this. It’s all about knowing your place within the game and respecting the greats, am I right?
Sherman’s trash talk is always calculated, and very rarely unprovoked. But because of the aggressiveness with which it’s conveyed, Sherman has accrued a plethora of disdainful critics who revel in tearing him apart, dating back to the “You mad bro?” game in 2012 and continuing even a month after the conclusion of Super Bowl XLIX.
All the while, players like New England’s Rob Gronkowski are applauded for their sincerity when, in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel he admitted to “screw it” and “throw some haymakers” as time wound down during the Patriots fourth championship of the century. Both because of his race (if you don’t think this plays a factor, you’re wrong), and because of his boyish naivety, we label Gronkowski endearing but tag Sherman egotistical.
These aren’t indictments on Gronk and Brady, two players whom I respect (and in Gronk’s case, love) a great deal. Rather, this is a plea for the media to acknowledge the double standard that has arisen, and recognize that maybe it’s hypocritical to smile affectionately at Gronkowski while painting Sherman in a villainous shade of negativity.
After all, the best cornerback in our game deserves at least a little respect.