The evolution of one Richard Sherman is an incredible phenomenon in the annals of sports and society alike. You see, Mr. Sherman is the quintessential African American male, not the notion of the maladjusted version that is represented in all forms of media. From the moment that he first began garnering attention back in 2011, it was apparent that Richard Sherman was going to be the type of player who would capture the moment, any moment, and make it his more often than not.
Who can forget the now infamous photograph of Richard Sherman getting in the face of Tom Brady after his SeattleSeahawks defeated the New England Patriots 24-23, a game in which Richard Sherman’s defensive play was the deciding factor. Works of art that can be observed for reasons other than its intrinsic face value are that much more important in today’s world. On the surface, the duality of the golden boy QB Tom Brady avoiding eye contact with the loud-mouthed, dread-locked Compton-raised Black man with an attitude, and didn’t Sherman get raked over the coals for that one?
They said he was a poor sportsman, he should show some respect, and let us not forget how often the thug word was thrown at him? Too many times to count. Nor can it be forgotten how Sherman expertly maneuvered the discussion surrounding it into one about race, appearances and assumptions.
Then, who could forget how the uninformed rushed to judgment during his postgame interview with Erin Andrews after a game in which he made the game ending play against the 49ers, his joy temporarily halted when he was disrespectfully mushed in the face from San Francisco 49ers WR Michael Crabtree following the final play?
It was already known that Richard Sherman could give a good sound bite at that point in his career, so Erin Andrews is savvy enough of a reporter to have known that all she had to do was put the microphone in front of his face and he was going to explode, and Sherman obliged her.
Though he was loud, excited, brash, and boisterous on that January evening in 2014, Richard Sherman did not use any profanity, nor did he disrespect Erin Andrews in anyway. Given the circumstances of what had just occurred, the high of the victory, the low of being shoved in the face after an attempt at reconciliation with a vanquished opponent, it is easy for this writer to imagine a less savvy player behaving far worse in that situation.
From that time through Super Bowl XLVIII, Richard Sherman has become something of a de facto spokesperson for the entire Seattle Seahawks roster, and his celebrity status has only grown from there. However, it is very interesting to observe a young man grow into such a nuanced individual in such a short period of time.
Once I was told that the primary way that a person can see the personal growth of another is by the types of things that person talked about. This Stanford University graduate went from talking smack to the media and opposing players to taking indirect shots at the NFL in general by way of a hilarious parody that he and teammate Doug Baldwin pulled off back in November 2014.
Then Sherman wrote a story for Sports Illustrated in which he hypothesized what he would do if he were ever named commissioner of the National Football League. But the stance taken by Sherman in his follow up Sports Illustrated offering was decidedly terser.
Could it be that Richard Sherman envisions himself as something of a reformist for player’s rights or is just someone who enjoys the spotlight? There’s no way to be certain. But what is certain is that Richard Sherman would not be afforded the many, many opportunities that he is given if he did not have something profound to say, and a profound manner to say it in.
With his Seattle Seahawks down 20-10 early in the third quarter, Sherman says Brady began to talk smack. But then rookie quarterback Russell Wilson went on a tear, and Sherman salivated at the opportunity to take the ball again.
“I kept saying I’m going to get that next time. Every TV timeout, I went up and said it right to [Brady]: ‘Please keep trying me. I’m going to take it from you.’ That was when they were winning. He just gave me that look and said, ‘Oh, I’ll see you after game.’ Well, I made sure I saw him after the game.”
That in-game prophecy would come true as Richard Sherman would pick off Tom Brady in the third quarter and create a momentum shift in Seattle’s favor. The negative media and social media comments that bombarded Sherman at that moment were astronomical. Brady didn’t help Sherman’s cause any by slipping in his own passive aggressive insults as well.
“My dad taught me at a young age to play with class and respect and give my opponents respect, and certainly I have a lot of respect for the Seahawks,” Tom reportedly said on his radio show the following day. The funny thing is, since that show, many of Tom Brady's contemporaries have stepped forward and said that he is one of the biggest trash-takers in the NFL. Yet Richard Sherman is often lambasted for being too mouthy.
But in reality it seems like he's being criticized for being too Black.
Now, two years after that win, the Seattle Seahawks are once again back at the Super Bowl and, as fate would have it, they will face a New England Patriots franchise that many feel is the standard bearer of excellence in the National Football League.
Their leader is not only the epitome of excellence at his position, and at maintaining his image, but the best player on what many feel is the best team in the league. So it seems appropriate that the Seahawks and Patriots are slated to meet up in Super Bowl XLIX, and it also seems appropriate that Tom Brady will eventually have to throw the ball in Richard Sherman’s direction. Karma dictates it, the universe craves for it, so it shall be.
That play, no matter the outcome, will be the culmination of 24 months of professional animosity. It’s only right that the two combatants face one another with the game on the line.
And it’s only right that Richard Sherman would not have it any other way.