People are so mad at Richard Sherman.
That's fine. He's a perfect villain. He's a formidable foe who relishes the role. Boo him. Root against him and his Seattle Seahawks. Point out the flaws in his game. Remind him of the times he's been burned. Point out better players. Even tell him to shut up and play.
Those are all acceptable responses to a bragging victor. But to call him classless, deem him an embarrassment and an idiot, is an unfair and misguided assessment.
This is sports. This is entertainment. Part of (modern) competition includes the element of banter and verbal jousting. In any event, it's a stretch to use trash talk in sports as a barometer for one's character. But it's especially inaccurate for Sherman.
Don't let liberty of his tongue shock you into casting him as a degenerate. You've got the wrong guy.
Sherman is a rose that grew from Compton. A straight-A high school student who earned a degree at Stanford. He's invested so much into developing his talents that he's grown from an unheralded college player to one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
That is worthy of celebration and respect for the character, work ethic and perseverance it took to defy such odds. That isn't negated because his braggadocio bubbles over into the public domain. Don't confuse the performance with the person. Where he's from, people sell drugs, rob and kill. But he rose above it. He isn't a dumb jock who rode the wave of his athleticism. This dude is an intelligent, thoughtful man.
Monday in Tacoma, Wash., his Blanket Coverage Foundation gave out children's books, educational toys and shoes to underprivileged kids. He's no menace to society, just to NFL offenses.
That guy you saw giving the epic postgame interview/monologue is a professional athlete. He's playing football in the way that's fun for him, probably the way he learned to compete growing up.
It's a bit hypocritical to attack him for playing the antagonist in a show he didn't create.
Sherman didn't start the trend of promoting individuals over the game, marketing personalities along with the play. He didn't create television channels and websites to chronicle every storyline, or create the appetite for information about pro athletes' hobbies, girlfriends and fashion.
Sports has morphed into a year-round, multibillion reality television show because of fans' insatiable appetite for genetic marvels to perform heroic feats of athleticism. The Truman Show with athletes. And he's great in the black hat. That perspective should be maintained.
Perhaps this whole situation underscores the need to revisit long-held notions of class and professionalism. Handshakes and polite words about your opponents are indeed sportsmanlike gestures. But they are inherently superficial.
Is Sherman more unsportsmanlike for speaking bluntly than Jim Harbaugh is for regularly going ballistic on the sidelines? Why is the latter passion and the former disrespectful? Is it because society is still grappling with young, African-American athletes bringing urban life to the mainstream?
Yeah, his choke sign is no longer PC. And he may have violated the NFL fraternity bylaws by making a private beef with Michael Crabtree public. But those are misdemeanors at most.
Players such as Sherman -- talented, brash and liberated -- bring some extra flavor to it all. Like hot sauce on fried chicken.
That's the irony of it. So many claim to prefer people to be themselves. But in sports, many want athletes to be cut a certain way or it's a problem. But who wants every player to be like Tom Brady? What would be the appeal if all the interviews were handled like Peyton Manning's?
Sherman was raised in a different environment around different people and took a different route to the NFL. He shouldn't have to shake off the culture that made him who he is, suppress the edge and arrogance that got him this far. It only adds to the overall appeal.
Who among us can't wait for the next 49ers-Seahawks, Sherman-Crabtree matchup?
It requires knowing Sherman to draw conclusions about his personhood, to estimate his worth.
If he has children he refuses to raise or he was involved with drugs, if he stopped playing hard and wound up on the police blotter, then all bets are off.
But as long he's just talking trash and being his wild and crazy self, he's fine. It's hilarious. It adds a layer of drama and intrigue. And if he winds up an all-time great, he'll earn a spot next to Muhammad Ali, Deion Sanders and Gary Payton.