The Sports Ramble is the weekly sports blog of Erik Ritland. The St. Paul, Minnesota journalist and musician is the founder of Rambling On. Learn more about us on Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, or our website.
Hello boys and girls and welcome to this week’s Sports Ramble. Since I’m too lazy to come out with any original content…uh, I mean, because I want to highlight my best articles from the past that have been out of print, here’s one from the archives.
After the NFC Championship game in January 2014 Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went on a weird angry rant to sideline reporter Erin Matthews. In it he discredited 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree and spouted a bunch of other nonsense. It was a huge news story, some feeling like Sherman’s rant made him look like an idiot, others claiming that he was just expressing his emotions.
In my article about the incident I argued that both sides were wrong. His actions weren’t disgraceful or laudable, they simply proved a point about his character, and the character of a certain subset of athletes.
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Don’t Be an Asshole: The Ballad of Richard Sherman
Originally published on January 14, 2014 as part of the original Sports Ramble series
If Richard Sherman’s controversial post-game interview didn’t make you laugh out loud you just don’t get it.
It’s all a lot simpler than those arguing about it think it is. Richard Sherman is an asshole and proved it long before the interview incident. Regardless, most of the perspectives on what he did are pretty weak, from those defending him to those who are calling it disgraceful.
His character can easily by judged by watching this video of him mic’d up for the Seahawks game against the Vikings. Beginning around 1:35 all he does is mock and demean Cordarrell Patterson and especially mild-mannered Joe Webb, who fights back impressively. His comments aren’t usual trash talk, at least I’d hope, but are childish personal jabs. He tells Patterson that he’s weak and needs to ‘lift more’ and goes on and on about how bored he is covering Webb, repeatedly calling him a waste of his time.
The funniest part about that is earlier in the game Sherman got burned on a touchdown reception Christian Ponder threw to Jarius Wright. The reason he was covering Joe Webb, probably last on the Vikings’ wide receiver depth chart, is because he wasn’t good enough to cover their other receivers. When considering how mediocre the Vikings’ receiving core was this year that’s a pretty big insult.
The only reason this latest incident is getting so much attention is because it was in an interview after a big game. But disrespect is disrespect. What he said to Webb and Patterson was far worse than the ridiculous, humorous rant that he went on about how great he is.
Context also needs to be considered. The Seahawks had just dramatically won a tough game. Each side was doing a lot of trash talking. His emotions were high and how physical and arrogant the 49ers were added to this.
So in a moment of high emotion he did something stupid. Anybody who has ever done that – and that pretty much means every single person – has no business saying how disgraceful Sherman’s actions were. People will, though, because it’s easier to point out what’s wrong with others than it is to look at yourself.
Those defending Sherman also miss the point. What he did still wasn’t right. If he wasn’t such an asshole in the first place, and if he was mature enough to keep his emotions in check, he wouldn’t have done something so stupid, period.
Finally, this incident is bringing up the discussion about whether athletes are role models. I cringe to think there are kids who saw the interview and thought it was the coolest thing ever and that it shows how an athlete is supposed to act. At the same time it’s also a teaching tool. It’s especially easy when considering the Seahawks, because their quarterback Russell Wilson is probably the most upstanding man in football. There will always be Shermans and there will always be Wilsons, but it takes good role models in kid’s lives to teach them which is the better way.
As often happens, those on both sides are missing the point. Defenders of Sherman can’t admit that what he did was wrong. On the other side, those who think what he did was disgraceful are hypocrites because they’ve all said and done stupid things when emotions are high. Most of them also get off on talking down to those who make mistakes because it makes them feel like they’re above that person.
What Sherman did, ultimately, is a teaching tool, both for kids and for adults. The lesson is simple: don’t be an asshole.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling Onfeatures commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him viaemail, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.