In the interest of disclosure, before I get too far into this, I jumped on the Richard Sherman bashing bandwagon. He came off very aggressive, and more than a little immodest, and that rubbed me the wrong way. As the days passed afterward the obvious was presented to me by others: this was a man just coming off an adrenaline rush in a particularly heated game. Emotions were running high, and frankly the fact that they did not need the delay in the broadcast to bleep out his words shows how restrained he was being. Really though, why should he have been restrained?
Much has been made of the inherent racism in folks expectations of Sherman’s behavior. I have to say, even though I prefer the stoic heroes who quietly accept their accolades while honoring their opponent, I accept that part of my initial reaction was probably due to the racism that our culture has conditioned into me, attitudes that I try to scrub away but honestly still lurk in the dark corners of my mind. So I take a step back, acknowledge this, and make a point to reflect on that, and to do a better job in the future.
I know many people reading this will get defensive. They do not want to think that their white privilege had anything to do with their reactions. For those folks I propose a mental exercise. Name me one white athlete who reacted the same way Sherman did that you were angry with for it. Just one. Consider the conditions too. Had this athlete accomplished what Richard Sherman has (second most INT’s this year, led in Forced Fumbles, yeah, he’s that good, oh and while playing he is working on an advanced degree from a good school) or played under the circumstances he was on Sunday? I know a lot of old school fans my trot out another former Seattle player, Brian Bosworth, but he was not one tenth the athlete, and certainly not accomplished in other areas.
No, I suspect many (not all, so let’s keep the white whine to a minimum) folks are just fine with bombastic players so long as they are white. The same older, white men bitching about Sherman now probably loved Joe Namath and (the slightly less grandiose) Terry Bradshaw. They only get angry at the Sherman’s and the Lewis’s. Most will not take the time to reflect on how they have allowed themselves to be led by the nose by a cultural narrative that portrays any aggressiveness by a black man as inherently bad, while aggression by white men is good.
I will still be rooting for the Broncos in two weeks. I still prefer the quietly magnanimous winner to the over the top competitor. I will be watching the game, however, with a more open attitude about Richard Sherman, without any judgement for his being himself and enjoying it.