Richard Sherman introduced himself to America on Jan. 19 and it scared the bejeezus out of folks.
By now, everyone has seen the clip of the Seattle Seahawks player putting opponent Michael Crabtree on blast. A few seconds of bluster and bravado made him public enemy No. 1. People can't wait for the Denver Broncos to shut his mouth in Sunday's Super Bowl.
Since then, I've spoken to a number of parents who were furious.
"How could he act like that on national television?" "What sort of message is he sending to kids in pee wee football?" "Doesn't he know children look up to him?"
This line of reasoning has been omnipresent ever since Charles Barkley infamously uttered the phrase "I am not a role model" during a Nike commercial. Fans idolize athletes in our culture, but when one does something that doesn't sit well with us, we lose our collective minds.
Well, at least in some cases.
People didn't seem half this upset when Kobe Bryant cheated on his wife. Or when Ryan Braun took performance-enhancing drugs and lied about it. Or when Jim Brown was arrested for slapping his girlfriend. Again. Or when Tiger Woods slept with countless women behind his wife's back. Or when Riley Cooper uttered a racial slur.
Are any of these offenses more offensive than Sherman's remarks? I would say absolutely. America was quick to label him a thug, but Justin Bieber fits that description far more than Sherman, who graduated from Stanford with a 3.9 grade point average. And I would much rather have Sherman's poster on my kid's wall than the Biebs.
Sports serve as the ultimate reality show. There is endless unfolding drama, huge personalities and an undeniable connection to real life. And just like our reality, mistakes are made and people's true colors are exposed.
But what's with this vitriol toward Sherman and his smack talk?
We want our athletes/role models to be sanitary, vanilla. I told my friends that, like most instances, they could have used the Sherman incident as a teachable moment. A time to have a frank conversation about what they consider to be good sportsmanship. A chance to show children that perception can become reality in a hurry, so choose your words wisely.
Or maybe point out how Crabtree didn't shake Sherman's extended hand after the play.
But as for hating this guy and hoping Peyton Manning shreds him on Sunday?
Nah. I'll be pulling for him. And taking whatever he says after the game with a grain of salt.
Brandon Wright is a married father of one who lives in Seffner.