Richard Sherman, Trash Talk, and Why We Idolize Athletes

Raw emotion can be a good thing.  It shows our humanity and our vulnerability.  It opens us up to the world, showing our own flaws and imperfections.  It mirrors our true selves.

However, raw emotion can be turned into a bad thing, especially when it’s done in a post-game interview right after you’ve beaten a huge rival to get a shot at a Super Bowl title.

Seattle Seahawk’s cornerback Richard Sherman basically ranted his way through a very brief interview after yesterday’s win over the 49ers.  He essentially let the world know that he was the absolute best player at his position in the entire league.  Now that is a point that really can’t be proven, but it’s his right to say it.

The social media world was set on fire however, as if Sherman had strangled a puppy on live TV.  There was shock and awe that a professional athlete would dare get on camera and proclaim his awesomeness unashamedly.

The tone for some unfortunately turned into ignorant diarrhea of the fingers, typing away borderline (and some full-on) racist tweets and posts, proclaiming Sherman to be a “punk”, “idiot”, and “thug”.  I wonder if those people knew Sherman graduated second in his high school class and went to Stanford?

Regardless, Sherman rubbed many the wrong way.  But why?

We’re in a world where celebrity is king.  Where athletes get paid annually the total GDP of some small third world countries.  A world where millions of dollars are spent buying tickets to see actors on a big screen pretend to be someone else for two hours.  A world where social media users will “follow”, “like”, and beg for retweets from nearly anyone with a fancy verified check by their name.  We are in a world teenage girls will weep uncontrollably at the sight of Justin Bieber or a kid from One Direction.

Perhaps in the world we are in, celebrities and athletes aren’t king.  Maybe they’re gods.

When we willingly put time, effort, and money into something, we’re showing it’s true value in our lives.  Take (gasp!) college football, for instance…

Let’s say you’re a fan of a typical SEC, ACC, or whichever divison 1 school you may root for.  Let’s say the average ticket for a home game is $50.  That may be conservative, but let’s go with it.  In addition to the $50 for a ticket, you also spend about $20 on concessions.  There are also 7 home games a year, so multiply the $70 spent per game by 7 games.  That totals $490 annually.  Then there are the cable or satellite packages you purchase so you can watch your team play away games and possibly bowl/playoff games.  That costs roughly $75 per month, or $900 annually.  And what about your gear?  You gotta have shirts, hoodies, and hats.  That’s another probably $200 annually.  So $1590 the average fan likely spends on their favorite team.  And that is a very conservative estimate, not including time we spend watching games, talking about games, tweeting about games, etc.

When we as normal Americans willingly invest so much time and money into these athletes (or celebrities), why are we surprised that any of them would act cocky?  

Cam Newton pretends to rip open his jersey like he’s Superman.  Colin Kaepernick kisses his biceps after a big play.  Dikembe Mutombo does a finger wag.  Jordan glorifies himself in his Hall of Fame speech.  The batter stands and stares at the home run that just rattled off of his bat.  The college player does a Heisman pose after a touchdown.  

Arrogance is entertaining.  It’s applauded.  It’s brushed off and laughed at.

Unless you’re Richard Sherman.

Was it his directness?  Was it that he called out a player by name?  Was it that he came across harsh to a female reporter?  Was it his dreadlocks and death cold stare into the camera?

I don’t know really.  But when we treat athletes the way we do, can we really be too critical over their behavior?

Two of my favorite basketball players of all time were Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, who were both teammates for the now defunct Seattle Supersonics.  Kemp was called the “Reign Man”, a play on words that related to the often rainy city he played in and the fact that he dunked better than anyone ever.

Payton was a small point guard who played with nearly as much ferociousness as the trash he talked on court.  He was nicknamed “The Glove” because he played defense so well on opponents that he covered them like a glove.  Both were arrogant and sometimes crass players. 

I liked them because they showed confidence.  Was it cocky a lot of times?  Sure.  But it was real, and they were great players.  Arrogance is to be expected.  

I have a feeling that if Richard Sherman played for our team, we would’ve either A) laughed off his comments, or B) defend them and proclaim him as great.

I can see the view point of disgust at what Sherman said.  Anyone who has read comments from Sherman in the past knows that’s how he is.  Cocky, arrogant, and not afraid to show it.

How would you be if you were paid millions to do your job?  How would you be if people bought jerseys with your name on them?  How would you be if thousands of tweets were sent daily talking about you and the job you’re doing?  

It’s tough to even put ourselves in that position.  but let’s be careful before we throw too many stones at Sherman, because the guys that play for the team we root for may say some of the same things, and we love them for it.

 And really, we’re partially to blame for making them arrogant to begin with.