Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Unparalleled Fascination With Richard Sherman

The numbers don't lie: America is obsessed with the Seattle Seahawks loquacious cornerback. Opinions are passionate on both sides of the issue, but the one thing everyone can agree on: We can't wait to see what he does next

Flying home from Denver on Monday, I was fascinated at the burgeoning controversy of the Richard Sherman story. I wondered why it got so big, and why America was so magnetized and polarized by it. I will get to that in a moment, but first, a measure of your fascination with the story.

Wednesday will be the six-month anniversary of The MMQB’s launch. In that time, we’ve had lots of stories that generated traditional-media and social-media buzz: the Sam Hurd drug story, the story of what it’s like to be cut from a team, a three-part series entailing one week embedded with an officiating crew, the inside view of an ACL surgery, a former teammate’s side of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga, etc. But in the first three hours of Sherman’s column explaining why he flipped out as the NFC Championship Game climaxed, that column smashed every measure of web traffic we have. Without getting into specifics:

  • It was our most read post ever, by far.
  • It was the highest trafficked day since launch, with four times the typical readership for a Monday.
  • The Twitter referral rate—the amount of readers who came to the site from Twitter—was nearly 18 times more than the previous Monday.
  • The Facebook referral rate was almost 523 times more than the previous Monday.

So I decided that since so many of you were so passionate about the story, I thought it would be smart to seek out a couple of professionals to ask why it exploded … and then allow you to vent through your email reactions. And so that’s what the column is this morning, along with the second portion of the Q&A I did over the weekend with co-counsel Christopher Seeger, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the NFL’s head-trauma case.

Emily Kaplan of The MMQB reached out and found two experts in sports and fan behavior. She asked why America got so caught up in the story in the 12 hours or so after Seattle beat San Francisco for the NFC championship, and Sherman went off on Niners receiver Michael Crabtree because he doesn’t respect Crabtree as a player or person.

“I think this story has really caught on because everyone loves a villain,’’ said Dr. Annemarie Farrell, a professor of sports management and media at Ithaca College. She is an expert in fan behavior. “There’s not a ton of villains on either of these teams that people can talk about. We can’t all talk about Peyton Manning every day all the time. That’s boring. Sherman, on the other hand, put himself out there, and America really latched on. That’s why it became a bigger story than the game.

“There’s a lot of different storylines with Richard and reasons for why this blew up, but I think a really important one here is race. This seethes into this narrative of race in America and race logic. Think about who Richard Sherman is. He’s a kid from Compton who graduated second in his class and went to Stanford to earn a degree in Communications. He’s at a critical point in his football career, makes a huge play, then a reporter sticks a mike in his face. What does he do? He not only speaks, he shouts. And now you have an angry, almost violent black man, in a very passionate moment, yelling on national television.’’

“There aren’t many Disney movies about sports that end with the winning team going on TV and shouting the way Richard Sherman did,” Dr. End said.

Said Dr. Christian End, an associate professor of psychology at Xavier University: “What Richard Sherman did was he violated the script of good sportsmanship. He not only deviated from that norm, but he almost violated it. After a hard fought game, good sportspersons are supposed to compliment the opponent. That is what is expected of them. Of course, that’s what leads to many boring and scripted post-game interviews, but it’s what we as sports fans expect. We know that typically those who violate norms are often ostracized … There aren’t many Disney movies about sports that end with the winning team going on TV and shouting the way Richard Sherman did.’’

I like this theory, too, from End: “There are fans of 30 other NFL teams who are completely envious of the Broncos and the Seahawks right now. So there’s some sort of negativity or jealous aspect. Richard Sherman voluntarily offered the ammunition for these fans to say, ‘Well, they’re not worthy of the Super Bowl.’ Those fans can maybe reframe things and justify it as, ‘Well, we may not be in the Super Bowl but at least we don’t have a team full of guys like that.’ ”

My take is an amalgam of that. I think more of this is sportsmanship-driven than race-driven. People detest sore, cocky winners in a team game like football. If Sherman were a normal athlete without a Stanford degree and true greatness at his position—say, if he were an average player of average skill—the narrative would be simple. It’d be easy for a coach to get him back in line and say, “Shut up. Adhere to the program, which is saying next to nothing.” But the Seahawks know who Richard Sherman is. They wish he was another bland team-only guy, but he’ll never be that. And because he’s so good, and he made the play that sent the team to the Super Bowl, the Seahawks have to say, “Well, we’ll just have to manage Sherman the best way we can.”

The Seahawks also know that deep down, Sherman is a generous person with good intent. But on the field, he’s as competitive and nasty as they come. Most guys can handle a mike stuck in their face coming off the field; they can cool down and launch into cliché-speak. And I think Sherman normally can. But not this time. Not with Crabtree. Not in the biggest game of his life, after making the play of his life.


Now let’s hear what you think.

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733 comments
HarryTurner
HarryTurner

It would have been nice if Peter King and his two psychology professors could have done a little more research.  What they would have discovered is that this "trash talking" episode of Sherman's wasn't an isolated moment in time.  He's done it since he played high school football at Compton.  He did it in Stanford.  He's done it since he's been in the NFL.  He does it leading up to games, in the games themselves, and was cited for doing it along the sidelines in the NFC championship game.  Add to this that not many in the aftermath of the interview with Erin Andrews have touched upon the notion that there has been this long simmering issue between Sherman and Crabtree, long before the final moments of the NFC Championship game.  Go back, go back and review what happened between Sherman and Crabtree at a charity event in Arizona. 


One of the consistent themes presented by Sherman himself, he has said time and time again he loves to "trash talk" because, in his adolescent mind, he thinks it gets under the skin of his opponents.  Essentially, it causes them to flinch.  Another consistent theme is that he could care less what any of his fans or what any fan of the NFL might have to say or think.  The fact that he supplemented his braggadocio at the end of the NFC championship game, by diverting attention to what some fans were saying, only exacerbated his position.  He conjured up a racial event out of purely thin air.  In saying this, I flatly reject Dr. Farrell's assessment provided above.  In doing so, I also have to reject her self assessment that she might be an expert on fan behavior.  She is so off base on this one.


Dr. End might be a little closer on this one.  What many of us see in Sherman is one spoiled athlete who thinks that because of his comeuppance through Compton, his athletic scholarship to Stanford, and his NFL accomplishments, that all of this allow him some sort of twisted entitlement.  If you listen to any of his interviews, they consistently refer back to what he did at Compton and Stanford and that 3.9 GPA at Stanford.  I, for one, would challenge his academic accomplishments.  Were they meaningful?  I mean, we all know professors look the other way when they think they have star athletes in their classes.  Just what does Sherman's getting a 3.9 GPA really mean?


For us white fans, we are just absolutely fed up with the quick punch to the race card whenever the heat gets poured on a black athlete.  Sherman is no exception.  Sherman, with all of his communications education from Stanford, will have to show me just how in tarnation how using the word "thug" is tantamount to "n-----."  The fact that Sherman reached out for that assessment places this whole charade into a moronic cycle of epic proportions.  I firmly believe that it brings evidence to the surface of Sherman's own racism.


For those of us who can distinguish that race wasn't an issue, we can easily point to Sherman's egomaniacal behavior that goes back to his high school roots.  It is nothing short of bullying, and it is behavior that shouldn't be accepted in any form or fashion while Sherman is a player in the National Football League.  There are so many of us fans who are disappointed because Sherman made an astounding play that catapulted Seattle to the Super Bowl.  However, in Sherman's next breath, he completely destroyed his image and the image of his team.  There was absolutely no integrity in what he did.  Sure, a lot of shallow fans will point to what Sherman said to Crabtree before Crabtree pushed him away.  Remember, though, that the history between Sherman and Crabtree went well before that play.  I found Sherman's statements (thorough his mic) to be strewn with sarcasm.  If you look at the picture you posted here, you will see that Crabtree didn't do anything wrong.  He was just saying enough is enough with the bullying bravado.


I am amongst many who think that Sherman is nothing more than a chump, punk, whatever term you want to use.  It has nothing to do with race.  He is simply not a player worthy to play in the Super Bowl no matter his self-professed pedigree.  Sportsmanship goes a long way.  And, in that, Sherman failed epically at the end of the NFC championship game.

rollwithit
rollwithit

I hear fans in the NFL stands, at work, and out at the bars saying a lot worse things...the only difference was they weren't hyped up post-game black athletes.  Great to see these same fans are so outraged over a post game interview that they have judged Sherman a villian and Carroll his Satan-Father.  Hatred of the black athlete (and even some white) seethes throughout our society.  The NBA started a lot of this hate with spoiled rich obnoxious black athletes, but now everyone is quick to judge any athlete and ESPN and a lot of other sports media PROMOTE this to get ratings from all the drama and hate this stirs up in people.  

jeremiesmith77
jeremiesmith77

Richard Sherman pulled a brilliant move that most are too dense to understand.  He masterfully took all pressure of his young 2nd year QB and shifted attention on himself.  America may not like how he went about it but right now Russell Wilson is flying under the radar with far less scrutiny and media demands than most Super Bowl QBs, especially his opponent, Manning, deal with.  I think Sherman is a sharp guy and he did all this intentionally to help out his young QB.

Gary6
Gary6

Deion Sanders was a great cover corner but played in Atlanta and needed to make a name for himself.  he cashed in during football and afterward with the glitz and talking and nicknames.  Sherman is a great cover corner playing in seattle and he needs to make a name for himself.  No way to do that by saying "they played good" in an after game interview.  he stirred it up and now he is a star, and will generate lots of press for himself.


He cant be the hero of the superbowl, peyton manning has that.  Middle of the road wont get press.  That leaves loud villain.  BTW, he didn't yell at the interviewer, it was at the camera, and he didn't get bleeped because he didn't curse once.  Smart man looking to cash in.  And this is what works.  Good for him for figuring out what we want, not what we say we want.

StevenRussell
StevenRussell

Sherman did not make a "throat-slash" gesture.  He made a "choke" gesture.  At Kaepernick (remember, the nice young fellow who mocked the opposing qb's touchdown celebration by embedding it in his own touchdown celebration, one week earlier).  Sherman's "trash-talking" has nothing to do, one way or the other, with sportsmanship: it's a head game he uses on his opponents (the "psych-out" that has been part of all sportsmanlike sports since at least the late Fifties, if not since the original Olympics) and to jack himself up to his playing peak.


The post-game "rant" was not an isolated set-piece.  He went up to Crabtree to pat him on the butt and say "good game," and held out his hand.  What he got in return from Crabtree was a push to the face-guard.  Just as, when Sherman was saying "good game" to many of the Redskins' players after last year's playoff game, he got head-slapped by one of the less-perceptive Redskins' players.  It was Crabtree's poor sportsmanship that set Sherman off (apparently confirming earlier, similarly-unsportsmanlike behavior from Crabtree at the Fitzgerald charity event).


Nothing about his behavior was thuggish.  The MANY racist rants he received in response to his "rant" are the truly execrable and lamentable things about this whole incident and it is that still-festering RACISM that is the true meat of this story, which Peter King's "experts" managed to pick up on, but which has been pretty much ignored and buried by most of the media, and which King himself gave short shrift by not pursuing.

woody2014
woody2014

Long time reader....but now I'm done.  Column has become uninformative. Self promotional focus has really turned me off. This Sherman BS is the last straw. It's been real interesting watching you evolve (not in a good way...it was the old Peter I was a loyal follower of) Peter. Trying to make yourself into a "rock star" has become your main focus. I hope that works for you. It doesn't for me.  I'm done.

G_BOA
G_BOA

I don't think the Seahawks wish Sherman was just "another bland team only guy". His teammates love him for who he is, he's another Carroll type of guy. Who says that's bad?

seahawkfan23
seahawkfan23

Richard Sherman is a amazing athlete who make a big play, no harm = no foul

128ray821
128ray821

Watched the game, saw RS go off, went "s--t, what an a-swipe," went on with my life, as did most everyone else.


Pretty telling seeing the MSM run interference for this "educated" clown. I mean, graduating second in Compton ain't no big feat. Plus "communications" as a major? Please.

GlennLundy
GlennLundy

Peter,

First of all I applaud you for not censoring Sherman's comments.  You agreed to give him the forum and let him speak his mind, despite obviously not loving a lot of what he had to say.  Again, it's called free speech.


More disconcerting to me is the showboating, me-first, team-second attitude that permeates every professional sport.  I despise the get up and strut 15 yards down the field after a routine tackle.  I can't stomach the extraordinary celebrations following a routine play.  I hate the 20 second choreographed touchdown dances. We know you made a first down, we don't have to see you run down the field an extra ten yards and point with your hand, especially in the first quarter of a pre-season game.  You'll see the same disgusting behavior in the NBA when a player dunks and glowers into the camera like his child was attacked or he ate spoiled food.


You observe this behavior more in teams without strong leadership.  Unfortunately, there is another factor is this behavior that we can't talk about.


I would venture to guess that most fans would prefer to see only the extraordinary plays celebrated like there is no tomorrow and the rest of the game handled with the class of a Barry Sanders or Peyton Manning.



KidHorn
KidHorn

No one is fascinated. ESPN make stories out of nothing. This is what they're paid to do. PK is stupid enough to fall for the false hype.

Buck2185
Buck2185

What Sherman did was classless, unintelligent, and unprofessional. The same can be said about King, for condoning it and allowing the punk to continue to write editorial for this site. What is hard for me is deciding which one of these two I want to see go away first.....

gsxrs
gsxrs

Dr Christian is an IDIOT, he did try to shake his hand a say good game but Crabbytree snubbed him, THAT’S WHY HE WENT IN THE RANT!!!!


did you NOT read the articel wher Richard explained what happened and why?


they even posted up a pic of Crabbytree SNUBBING Richard


UHHHGGG!!!

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

The prevailing criticism of Sherman is that he lacked class and good sportsmanship - valid criticisms. What's interesting to me is how many people criticizing him demonstrate a lack of class and sportsmanship that far exceeds Sherman's lapse. Indeed, far too many comments in cyberspace are outright hateful and racist.

Given time, I think Sherman will learn to control his emotions. Unfortunately for the haters and racists, you'll continue to look like jerks to a degree that far surpasses Sherman's worst transgressions.

MartinPederson
MartinPederson

Someone on this made a point I'd like to follow up on about the double standards between athletes and comentators.

 We pay Skip Bayless and Mike and Mike millions of dollars to say the exact same things Sherm said in that interview (Well maybe not the Andrews interview yelling part, but the other post game interviews). What did he say?

1) I'm the best (a sentiment many journalists have echoed). People just want to hear amazing athletes be humble, and say platitudes. They are suposed to do super human things and then pretend that they didn't happen. Make a play to send your team to the superbowl and act like it was expected, like you just flushed the toilet. Take no glory for yourself. Be "classy" (a word I'm really starting to find absolutely meaningless).

 2) Crabtree is a mediocre receiver. People had no trouble that Chris Carter called Doug Baldwin "pedestrian" and an "appetizer", both ways of calling him mediocre, but because he's paid to give his opinion we smile and nod our heads and continue calling him an inspirational man. But when Sherman says it we want his head served to us on a platter. Because he's an athlete that violated the rules of "sportsmanship". You can headhunt and try to give a guy a concussion, or punch him in the face after the game and we'll cheer and clap but fie on you if you sad a bad word about him.

RockinManny
RockinManny

Don't stick a microphone into a beat up athlete right after the game. Wait for the official press conf. so that they have sometime to thikn about what they wanna say, otherwise POOP will come out.

But NFL/media don't care- they want more fodder to promote the league.!!

jack.moskovita
jack.moskovita

What really happened that set Sherman off was he WAS being a good sportsman when he ran over to shake Crabtree hand, I'm deaf and lipread and clearly saw in the reruns where he said "good game man" and the pictures clearly show he has both hand out to shake his hand, but got a hand in his face instead. Sherman was willing to put the bad past behind them, but Crabtree was not. So it set him off, it would set me and others off too. This all happened in the "heat of the battle" too. Crabtree is the poor sportsman, not Sherman!

I'm on Shermans side here and he had no reason to apologize!


This is Jack Moskovita from the NW.

ryan15
ryan15

Look.....if there wasn't this then there really wouldn't be a story right now.  NFL is a business so of course the suits are loving this because it gives the press and fans something to talk about the next few weeks.  Sure stats and breakdowns are great but the other factor that the higher ups like is the soap opera. 


From my point, stick a microphone in anyone's face right after a huge play and I am sure I would have said things differently.  Knowing now that they had history, it makes more sense but judging Sherman and his character just on those comments and actions alone will sell this guy short.


I highly respect the Broncos and everything they are and have done.  I am a Seahawks fan, hate the niners but seriously respect the team.  Rivalries are good for the NFL, their fans are solid, team is solid, and though I rout against them, show them great respect as they are an awesome team (Kapernick's shenanigans drive me crazy as much as Sherman's drive other's crazy though, but still respect the dude)


Not too worried as I see the rivalry and matchup greatness happening for the next 3-5 years.  NFC WEST BABY!


GO HAWKS

6PackDonuts
6PackDonuts

It's not WHAT he said, it's HOW he said it. Imagine him saying the same words at a calm unhurried pace with a laid back James Bond smirk on his face. Still stupid, but no longer outrageous.


As a society, we instinctively want to tame the (natural) ANIMAL in us and in everyone else. The identity of the animal and the validity or invalidity of his logic is immaterial.


Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@Gary6 How do his disrespectful acts help him "cash in?"  He was going to get paid well by Seattle because he's a very good football player.  From an endorsement perspective this will hurt him far more than it helps him.  The vast majority of companies prefer to hire buttoned up types who don't rock the boat or create controversy.  Who would want somebody like Richard Sherman representing their company or product? 

bawlbustrr
bawlbustrr

@StevenRussell When Trent Williams of the Redskins punched Sherman it was because after the game Sherman was jawing just like Sunday. Williams said to Sherman, Get out of my face or I am going to punch you. Sherman said do it, and Trent did. Ala Legarrette Blunt when he was with Oregon.

Now maybe Sherman did just what he says. It does look that way. I am sure there was much more said during the game though. 


Always falls back to racism. That has to be it. Copout. 

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@G_BOA Who says that's bad?  Is there anyone involved in the NFL with less integrity than Pete Carroll?  I would think the last thing the NFL, or the world needs is "another Carroll type." 

Merv
Merv

@128ray821 


Yet you are here, reading the columns and reading the comments and taking time from your busy life to actually write one.  


Don't you think a little honest introspection is in order?

HawkBall
HawkBall

@GlennLundy I for one enjoy the celebrations. Watching a football game for me is all about seeing lots of action and creating excitement. Seeing them celebrate creates a higher excitement level as I feel like I am celebrating with them. When the opposite happens and the oppsing team does the same, I get to hate the villians even more. 

But maybe I am in the minority. Football games are like an action movie, the bigger the explosion or daring stunt, the more I enjoy it.

csquared
csquared

@GlennLundy Good points and I also think a line has been crossed with when and how a celebration should be done.  But I think where many struggle is how do you regulate that sort of thing?  How can you say spiking the ball with one hand is OK after scoring a touchdown but with two hands is not OK.  Or how some celebrations have become traditions like the Lambeu Leap or Mile High Salute.  Why can't each team make up its' own home stadium celebration.  Should be an interesting debate.

CJ101
CJ101

@KidHorn Exactly!!!  No one I know is talking about this guy.  He is not interesting.  Just a bunch of lame sports reporters getting off on making this some sort of societal issue.  Whatever.....

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

Try applying the same standard to what you post.

Serena
Serena

@gsxrs Do you really think that was a genuine attempt from Sherman to say good game or an opportunity for Sherman to dis Crabtree a bit more? 

Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and open your other eye

128ray821
128ray821

@BillRobinson 

Yeah, it's "hateful" to note that blacks are much more likely to um, "act out," than whites.


Some call it being charismatic and magnetic, I just call it TNB.

AF Whigs
AF Whigs

@BillRobinson:  What an excellent point, Bill.  While I'm not a fan of poor sportsmanship (as demonstrated by both Crabtree & Sherman) I'm ashamed of the almost gleeful racism and classless, knuckleheaded responses to an athlete's emotional response after winning an important game.  

It's 2014 and yet there are far too many in our country (and abroad) who will use any excuse to trot out hateful, racist, bigoted language.

RuKdingMe
RuKdingMe

@jack.moskovita Sherman was CLEARLY taunting Crabtree further, this non-sense about trying to shake his hand in goodwill is absurd.


Sherman has proven on several occasions that he is a jerk, which has nothing to do with his skin color.  However, the racists are far, far, FAR bigger idiots (and most unfortunately, Sherman's antics gave them an excuse to crawl out from their holes).

gsxrs
gsxrs

@jack.moskovita 

loser snubbed me off like that I would have told him OK, we can settle this next year, bottom line is Sherman has OWNED Crabbytree since he started in this league and Crabbytree in typical whiner fashion just dont know how to handle that..

man those guys really live up to that name, at first I thought it was a joke but man now after reading what their fans say, going over to whinernation, its true they really are a class of whiners and crybabies, spoilt, they don't get thier way what’s "owed" to them they pitch a fit..

really like toher what the Doc has to say about that as opposed to things he doesn’t know about, like who SNUBBED who...


RockinManny, STFU already I can hear you whinin form here, Richard SAID that’s why he said what he said and they even posted an image of Mr. Crabbytree's hand in his face as Sherm tries to congratulate him, buncha whiney babies, GFY!!

RockinManny
RockinManny

@jack.moskovita  Of course Dr J Moskovita, you are the great lip-reader from the NW - heard so much about you!!

gsxrs
gsxrs

@ryan15 

whines are on their way out, this was the time, the chance, Cards and Rams are going to have a go at it now. unfortunately the whines and hawks wont be able to keep this heavy roster unless they all take about 50% pay cuts, most are in it for the jackpot not the love of the game, a few might hang around to try and get another title but soon as one goes the domino falls and they all go, no sense sticking around if everyone else leaves, slim chance of success so they leave..


I like the Rams and the Cards however Pete does have a knack for making it work with less and finding gems in the rough, Hawks might get there again but the whines are having a tough time even with talent, second shot at it, we'll see but I don't see SF reaching post season next year?


rollwithit
rollwithit

@Ilovemesomeme @G_BOA Hmmm I don't know...wasn't there a Saints coach that lied to the NFL about his bounty program and was banned for a YEAR?  Wasn't there a Patriots coach that was penalized draft picks for illegal spying on other teams?

nyjets
nyjets

@CJ101 @KidHorn So why the hell do you bother to not only read this article, but post a comment as well?

ScottASmith
ScottASmith

@Serena @gsxrs Why would you just assume otherwise? I think you are the one drinking the media Kool-Aid.

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

@128ray821

Thanks for confirming my last sentence.

Merv
Merv

@PhillyPenn 


For someone who claims to have an Ivy League education your reading compression seems to be limited.

Michael_Dubbs
Michael_Dubbs

@ScottASmith She probably took Sherman's past behavior into context.  He has a reputation of doing that kind of stuff, likely Crabtree didn't want to deal with it (who could blame him) and operated under the guise that Sherman was just there to gloat.


Willy1962
Willy1962

@Merv  I thought he had great reading compression.  

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