Every year I wish the Super Bowl could just be about football. I wish it could solely revolve around three hours or so of mashing on a Sunday evening, and the analyzing and scrutinizing which comes with that.
This isn’t a remotely realistic thought, of course, because – for better or worse (mostly worse) — football has become America’s gathering place, and its shared nationwide barber shop to discuss the matters of the day. That became evident last year when in the wake of Jovan Belcher’s murder suicide, Bob Costas used his Sunday Night Football platform to champion gun control. Costas did nothing wrong, as the guy who’s asked to give his opinion on the pressing issues of our time did just that. Still, it was a little unsettling going from a gun discussion, to caring about a football game seconds later.
Each year through one avenue or another, that same feeling arises during the Super Bowl buildup. But instead of being that barber shop, football gradually becomes a town hall prior to the Super Bowl, with the requisite loud opining which sometimes drifts into impassioned screeching. Often it still stays within the confines of football, like during media day last year when Randy Moss said he’s the best receiver of all time. Is he? We asked that question for a whole entire news cycle, and the discussion was engaging.
But we also went through a similar exercise while Ray Lewis was being asked one last time to re-live his past and maybe tell the truth, and again when Chris Culliver was not-so kindly reminding us the same day that homophobia is alive and well in NFL locker rooms. Those two conversations are far worse than anything Richard Sherman will ever say or do. But this year, he’s already becoming the bridge to something larger.
There’s audio now documenting his interaction with Michael Crabtree (see below), but we can and we will continue to disagree on Sherman’s conduct during his Erin Andrews interview. However, usually by the time we reach Thursday of any other week, a conversation like that as grown tired. This two-week stretch is not at all ordinary.
Yesterday Sherman’s first post-practice press conference following Sunday’s events was carried live by both CNN and Fox News. To us, he’s the best cornerback in football who just happens to not shut up at times, and the former should come far before the latter. But now that he’s entered the mainstream under the intense magnifying of the Super Bowl, he’s either that guy who ranted like a lunatic…
How CNN handles coverage of an NFL press conference: pic.twitter.com/OQlscofS8b
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 22, 2014
Or that guy who ranted like an explosive lunatic…
Fox News doing the same thing. “SHERMAN RESPONDS” pic.twitter.com/jUZK1lrYMc
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 22, 2014
As his ranking on the nana index (refresher: ask your nana if she knows who Richard Sherman is) climbs, this is the expected process of mainstream exploring. Who is this crazed man? Oh, he went to Stanford and maybe that was just a heat of the moment thing? Cool, but still why? Oh, he’s from Compton? Interesting.
There’s a natural and organic feeling out process. But it takes an ugly turn when we get to this question, one which will surely be repeated in some form next week: is he a thug?
He isn’t, for the record, but it doesn’t matter. That’s where this discussion begins to go beyond Richard Sherman, and we’ve found our much larger societal talking point. On Monday, the word “thug” was used 625 times on American television, more than any single day in the last three years. It’s a word which carries racial connotations, but it still feels safe. There were other not-so safe and disgusting words directed towards Sherman on the Internet, with the web’s seedy underbelly exposed. It can go away, thanks.
That surge of racial language prompted many an online writer to explore said connotations, most notably Deadspin’s Greg Howard.
When you’re a public figure, there are rules. Here’s one: A public personality can be black, talented, or arrogant, but he can’t be any more than two of these traits at a time.
When Sherman himself was asked about being called a thug yesterday, he said what most sane-minded folks were already thinking.
“The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays. Because they know.”
“I know some ‘thugs,’ and they know I’m the furthest thing from a thug. I’ve fought that my whole life, just coming from where I’m coming from. Just because you hear Compton, you hear Watts, you hear cities like that, you just think ‘thug, he’s a gangster, he’s this, that, and the other,’ and then you hear Stanford, and they’re like, ‘oh man, that doesn’t even make sense, that’s an oxymoron.’
“You fight it for so long, and to have it come back up and people start to use it again, it’s frustrating.”
And so began the mainstream exploration of Sherman, one that will surely continue next week when he’s asked many non-football questions, and he’ll respond again and again with an articulate answer.
But really, it won’t be an exploration of Richard Sherman at all. We’ll be exploring ourselves.
More notes, reading, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
What Sherman really said to Crabtree
He was mic’ed up throughout the game Sunday, and he knew it. Last night we heard exactly what was said after Sherman broke up that final Colin Kaepernick pass…
There’s a reason why demonstrations of good sportsmanship usually wait until after the game. The guy who was just beat — or in this case, the guy who just lost a chance to go to the Super Bowl — doesn’t at all think it was a good game in that specific moment. Say what you will about Crabtree here, but if I’m him I have no desire whatsoever to shake Sherman’s hand.
That said, I expected a more sarcastic tone coming from Sherman, because the douchebag “heyyyyyy man good game hahahahaha” taunt was among the first written into the book of smack talk. But he just says “helluva game” twice with nowhere near the anger he had with Andrews moments later.
It’s still a little odd to run up to Crabtree in that moment. But with the audio, the entire sequence is growing increasingly “meh”.
Denver doesn’t like Sherman
Since I know you need more Sherman this morning, Broncos fans are all about classy comparisons.
Just driving around Denver, taking in some sights. pic.twitter.com/zpFxQYMSpA
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) January 21, 2014
Mike Pettine is the new Browns head coach?
Yeah, I think I’ll wait to give a full analysis of this one, seeing as half of the American population has been interviewed for the Browns head coaching gig by now, and last night there were wildly conflicting reports, including Josh McDaniels re-entering the mix. But for the record, reports now indicate Pettine is maybe and probably the guy.
Be uplifted by the spirit of a child
Usually when I need to feel happy about the world, I watch a video of a dog realizing his dream and being confronted with raining tennis balls. But right now, this is much, much better…
— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) January 22, 2014