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Outspoken Sherman, Hawks? Gotta love these guys | Beckley
I should probably start this column by clearing the decks in the form of full disclosure: As an import to the Pacific Northwest, I am not a true, dyed-in-the-wool Seahawks fan.
It's true. My sports affiliations lie with the City Of Brotherly Love, as Philadelphia was my home when those connections were made, sitting with my grandfather and watching the Phillies all summer and the Eagles in the fall.
There was a time in the 1980s, however, when the Eagles were just terrible and no fun to root for among the sea of Giants fans in which I lived (it was the Bill Parcells, Phil Simms years and the G-Men were every bit as good as the Eagles weren't).
At that time, I started rooting for the Seahawks, who under Chuck Knox were the single most fun team to watch on Sundays. I distinctly remember that team faking field goals and punts, running trick plays like the hook and ladders or Statue of Liberty.
Though the Eagles remained my main team.
That said, I am 100 percent rooting for the Seahawks this year. Holy cow, what an exciting team. I have been out here for more than 10 years now and while most Seattle fans are fair weather at best, Seahawks fans have been dedicated and loud every year, good, bad or indifferent.
This area loves its football team, especially this team, this year. And how could you not? I got on this bandwagon back in August though I would never consider myself "12th Man," I have been loudly and proudly touting this team to all of my East Coast friends. And, like you, I spent Sunday afternoon pacing around my living room feverishly rubbing my hands together and yelling at my television when it was necessary.
Also like you, when Richard Sherman tipped the ball away from Michael Crabtree and into the waiting hands of Malcolm Smith (just like they drew it up!), I yelled in relief and jumped up and down in celebration.
I love Richard Sherman. He's the best in his position and not only did San Francisco know it (they didn't throw in his direction all day), he proved it when the on the only pass going his way he launched himself into the air and made a game-saving tip, punching the 12th Man's ticket to football's promised land.
Or, at least in this case, New Jersey.
Then came the now world-famous Sherman "rant" with sideline "reporter" Erin Andrews in which Sherman proclaimed himself the best and the receiver he just beat "mediocre," adding "Don't talk about me!"
Again, I love that guy. I loved the interview. I love the energy. I loved that it wasn't the standard cliches.
But then I was also not surprised when a whole bunch of people freaked out.
However, the vitriol aimed at Sherman this week has been ridiculous and stupid. The man had literally just made a play that sent his team to the pinnacle of their sport, besting a receiver with whom he has had issues in the past.
Then, and this is what they didn't show on television, he patted the receiver on the butt and stuck out his hand, saying "good game."
That's when Crabtree pushed Sherman right in the facemask. You can watch it. There's gifs of it, there's video, there's photos. Google it. It's a fact.
At that point, by Sherman's own admission, he "went off" and threw a "choke" signal at the San Francisco quarterback, who, let's be honest, choked, and was promptly hit with a taunting penalty.
Thirty seconds later, he was talking to Andrews and the instant punditry of Twitter and Facebook lit up with the n-word and, as captured so perfectly in that headphones commercial they played during the game, the word "thug."
And I laughed and laughed and laughed.
See, I had a chance to meet Richard Sherman earlier this year at an event at Foster High School in Tukwila. Sherman was a surprise guest at the school's homecoming pep rally and arrived bearing brand new cleats for every member of the relatively poor high school's football team.
He talked to the kids, judged a dance contest, and then headed over to a second event at the school, put on by his Blanket Coverage Foundation.
At the event, Sherman and his foundation provided about 100 kids with backpacks filled with school supplies and other things, like socks. But Sherman, who grew up in poverty in Oakland, was quick to say it was not "charity" but an "investment" in the kids, all of whom he made sign a contract to get a backpack.
The contract states that every kid who got a backpack has to keep their grades up and stay out of trouble. If they do, they get another pack full of supplies next year.
In between events, I had an opportunity to talk to Sherman. I found him to be friendly, intelligent, well-spoken and truly dedicated to helping kids get out of poverty.
Richard Sherman was his high school salutatorian and went on the graduate from Stanford with a degree in communications. The man is very smart, very driven and very personable.
Like a lot of people, I had a preconceived notion of Sherman based on his antics on the field and around game time. But I have to say, I was instantly made a fan and I realized that the persona of Richard Sherman on the field and the actual person Richard Sherman off the field were somewhat different guys.
The country will realize that this week too. Richard Sherman is great for Seattle and great for the game of football.
If he wants to go on TV and proclaim himself better than some other dude after making a play that kind of proves it, I am all for it.
And I can't wait to watch him prove it again against Peyton Manning.