Don't judge a book by its cover. I know, it's a cliche thing to say, but when the subject is Richard Sherman, it's really the only phrase you can use. On Sunday, Sherman played both the role of the hero and villain in the Seattle Seahawks' 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game with a tip ball in the endzone which resulted in a victory-sealing interception by teammate Malcolm Smith. The 25-year-old cornerback followed up that incredibly clutch play by ranting about how the Niners' Michael Crabtree is a "sorry receiver," among other things, in his postgame interview with Erin Andrews.
Nearly 24 hours later, Sherm decided to apologize for comments directed towards Crabtree, saying "I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates." But rest assured, this isn't the last time he will end up making headlines for some boisterous remarks. The tug of war between being perceived as the good and bad guy has surrounded his brief yet successful three-year career. So, it should no longer come as a surprise that people will focus more of their attention on the negatives than the positives on the field.
We just got set back 500 years...— Andre Iguodala (@andre) January 20, 2014
Richard Sherman definitely in the coon hall of fame— Smallz (@iAm_AJ) January 20, 2014
@WhitlockJason Dick Sherman is a dumb fool. Anybody with 1/2 a brain can do well at Dominguez HS and go to Stanford on athlete's standards.— Brown Backstrom (@ButteredScone15) January 20, 2014
We've seen this narrative time and time again. In 2012, Sherman established himself as one of, if not the best cornerback in the NFL with eight interceptions, one less than the league leader. But when he proclaimed himself as being the best, Richard was seen as an asshole or arrogant. Why? His behavior is what attracts attention.
Think back to your elementary school days for a second. Remember when that first impression dictated what your classmates thought of you? One odd interaction, you're weird. You do something badass, you're cool. There's no need for your peers to know anything else about you because that singular moment has defined you for years to come. Similarly, people see the trash-talking and/or the choke gesture and they have already developed an opinion on who Sherman is.
Full of adrenaline and wildly emotional after getting the best of someone who, according to Sherman himself in Sports Illustrated's The MMQB, "said something to me this offseason in Arizona," the cornerback got caught up in the moment twice. Right after the game and during the postgame press conference where Sherman called Crabtree "mediocre." Following the first interview, FOX conducted two more discussions with Sherman because the network was looking for a ratings gold, encore performance. But Sherman foiled their plot and came across as a normal, well-mannered guy. Even when given the opportunity to prematurely talk trash about how his team's defense would dominate Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense during his interview with Michael Strahan and the rest of the FOX Sports crew, Sherman decided to go with a "guess we'll just find out" approach. But no one is talking about that.
In response to that initial interview, people developed their own conclusions about Sherman, calling him a thug, dumb and other negative terms we will not repeat. Little do they know, or even care to know, that while at Dominguez High School, Sherman maintained a 3.9 GPA. Or that Sherman graduated with a degree in Communications from Stanford University, which is the fifth-best school in the nation, according to U.S. News. Sure, you can say that he may have had certain privileges as an athlete, but then maybe you should delve deeper into Sherman's upbringing.
Sherman grew up in Compton, Calif. where he came face-to-face with "thug" activity. However, his parents wouldn't allow him to slip through the cracks. And those same gang members who could've lured him in, wouldn't allow him to get involved out of respect for his parents. As a result, Sherman focused on two things: football and school. "It got to the point where I'd bring home a B in middle school, even in a tough class, and get stern looks, like, That is not acceptable," Sherman wrote in TheMMQB.com. "But our parents always kept us involved in sports, kept us busy. In such a bad neighborhood, they always wanted us doing something constructive." Hardly the work of a so-called thug, or even someone dumb.
Sherman will work towards not only proving that he was right all along, but you're going to hear "I told you so" whenever possible.
Since he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Sherman has felt as though he was overlooked by many teams, which caused him to develop a chip on his shoulder. Since that day, he's out to prove everyone, including his former Cardinal head coach and current 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who allegedly bad-mouthed Sherman during the draft causing his stock to drop. So, whenever he's faced with adversity, which happens often since people don't consider him to be the best in the league, Sherman will work towards not only proving that he was right all along, but you're going to hear "I told you so" whenever possible.
But does it have to happen with all the trash-talking? Why can't he be more like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? You know, that type of player who analysts applaud because they "play the game the right way?" You've heard that phrase before. It's the type of player who aggressively competes, succeeds, and yet stays humble. When it comes to athletes, if you don't embody that old-fashioned, cookie cutter idea of the "perfect" player, then you are perceived to be the extreme opposite. Not every player can or will fit that mold.
For someone who has been consistently overlooked, Sherman will never be that guy and that's perfectly fine. Because as long as you understand who the real Richard Sherman is, why should it even matter?