Bob Lutz: Sherman’s rant shows candor all too infrequent

01/20/2014 3:41 PM

01/20/2014 10:34 PM

Richard Sherman just became the most interesting man in the world. Sorry Dos Equis guy.

The Seattle Seahawks cornerback went on a verbal rampage minutes after knocking down a Colin Kaepernick pass in the end zone, one intended for 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. Sherman got his left hand on the football and tipped the ball in the air and it was intercepted by teammate Malcolm Smith.

Game over. Seattle wins, 23-17.

Here’s what he said to Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews. Please turn up the volume in your head to 10 before reading.

“I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me.… Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”

Sprinkle in a hundred-or-so exclamation points in those 46 words and you have an idea of just how amped up Sherman was.

The immediate reaction to his tirade was all over the place. Some winced and called him a jerk. Others thought it was refreshing to hear a professional athlete actually say what was on his mind instead of the canned quotes often produced by a cooling-off period.

Sherman, a graduate of Stanford and one of the best cover corners in the NFL, plays with a chip on his shoulder. But obviously not with a filter on his tongue.

Before he gave Andrews the interview of her life — which Fox producers cut short — Sherman taunted Crabtree after the interception, patting him on his back side. Crabtree then pushed Sherman’s face mask. Then Sherman gave the choke sign to Kaepernick, later saying it was because he was in disbelief the 49ers QB tried to get a pass to a receiver he was covering.

The reaction from many journalists was to support Sherman. Why? Because his quotes were out of this world.

Those of us who talk to athletes for a living dream of quotes like this. Normally, nothing comes close. It’s our job to attempt to get the people we’re writing about to tell us things they normally wouldn’t tell us. We use our charm and our powers of persuasion to get coaches and athletes to open up. We almost always fail because the machine is powerful and difficult to penetrate.

The machine tells coaches and players to watch what they say. To give credit to the opposition. To not gloat. To praise teammates. To not look too far ahead. To take it one game at a time.

All the boring stuff that does nothing to liven up stories or videos.

Most speak without much inflection. By the time we get to speak to these coaches and athletes, they are mostly emotionally withdrawn from the moment, more analytical than apocalyptic.

In other words, we hardly ever get the good stuff.

But the good stuff — and Sherman’s stuff was definitely good — might not sit so well in Sunday school. Or in a youth sports league where part of the mission is to teach sportsmanship and recognize its place in humanity.

If everybody was going crazy like Sherman was after Sunday’s game, what would this world look like? Would it be inhabitable? Would we want it to be?

So in the short term, while guys like me think it would be great to get the real emotion of a moment caught on tape, there’s a deeper context. Sherman going bananas makes for great television.

But as he was ripping into Crabtree and telling the world how great he is, I wonder what his parents thought. I wonder if they enjoyed Sherman’s rant as much as the rest of us who aren’t connected to him.

Something tells me they didn’t. Something tells me they were relieved later on Sunday, after Sherman had time to regain his senses, when he backed off from all the bravado, hushed his tone and wrote a Sports Illustrated online column.

“It was loud, it was in the moment and it was just a small part of the person I am,” Sherman wrote. “I don’t want to be a villain, because I’m not a villainous person. When I say I’m the best cornerback in football, it’s with a caveat: There isn’t a great defensive backfield in the NFL that doesn’t have a great front seven.… To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on the football field — don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.”

With time to reflect, Sherman went all boring on us. It’s what most of us do with time to reflect. It helps keep the world civil.

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