Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Seahawks star Sherman proves complicated but entertaining

NEWARK, N.J.

The cameras were prepared to dislike Richard Sherman at the first sound bite. After all, that was where this latest mess began, with Sherman glaring into a camera and speaking his mind.

And so, on Media Day, row after row of them lay in wait, hundreds of them, all ready to capture America's newest villain.

After all, these days, he is Richard the Loud, the guy who said too much, the guy who talked too loud, the guy who was so annoying in the echo of victory that you probably had a fit. He bragged. He crowed. He stole the spotlight.

Across America, a lot of people could not forgive him for it.

Now, here he came, approaching his podium as if it were a boxing ring, trailing the security guards who made a path for him. His long dreadlocks trailed behind him. His cap was pushed down over his face.

And then Sherman did the darndest thing.

He smiled.

For an hour Tuesday, Sherman charmed the socks off the media. He was friendly. He laughed. He was humble. He was, in short, Richard the Fun. He tried to sing, badly, and he made fun of himself for it. He advised a child on his schoolwork. He tried to speak in Spanish. He praised one Bronco after another. He pondered a question about Justin Bieber, and another about Ben Affleck.

So this is America's villain?

Really?

Beware of snap judgments. Be careful when a player turns out not to fit the image you might have drawn from him.

This is Sherman, who is a better guy than you think, a guy with a lot more get-it than you suspected.

"I think people think I'm a loudmouthed, angry guy who just calls people out," Sherman says quietly. "That's the biggest misconception about me. If people took the time to get to know me, they would learn that I'm not that. There is nothing about me that is a thug."

His eyes sparkle now. Sherman, 25, is enjoying the debate. In some ways, he is far beyond those moments after the NFC title game when he ripped into San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. In some ways, it continues to trail after him even now.

Social media was not kind to Sherman that night. People ripped him, and they called him names, because America has never been fond of a big talker. But there was an undercurrent of something dark at the belly of the backlash, something hateful.

"I think image has a good amount to do with it," Sherman said. "If you saw a picture of me, and you didn't have any background information, how would you caption this picture? I think people would pass judgment.

"But the discussion has begun. People are trying to get past it and break those walls down. You should try to get to know someone before you pass judgment."

Ah, you ask him. But would it have been a different reaction if he had blue eyes and blond hair?

"It may have been a little different," he said, grinning. "There might have been some different words used."

So who is Richard Sherman? Oh, he's loud, all right. Just ask the Bucs' Darrelle Revis, whom Sherman will not leave alone on Twitter. Ask Crabtree. Sherman's idol is Muhammad Ali for a reason. He does not enter quietly.

On the other hand, Sherman is also a player who graduated from Stanford with a 3.9 GPA. He's a player whose Blanket Coverage charity helps buy clothes and school supplies for children. He is a guy who speaks endlessly about this teammate and that.

Yeah, he's a little more complex than some people admit.

"Race has played a role," Sherman said, talking about the backlash. "It has played a role throughout society, especially right after the game. People had time to contemplate their statements thoroughly and understand the message they were putting out there. I had maybe a minute or two to think about what I had to say right after a big game. I understand the mistakes I made there. But it's hard when people have time to think about it and say some of the things some people did.

"I felt they were misguided. I felt sorry for the people who said them. But I also appreciated them. It gave me a chance to mature and grow as a person, to accept the criticism. It was a learning moment for me."

Looking back, Sherman said if he had had more time before his rant, the message would have been better.

"It would have been better articulated," Sherman said. "A lower volume. It would have been a clearer, more concise message. And I think the criticism would have been less. The way I treated the situation would have been different.

"I definitely took something away from my teammates. Maybe that's me. Maybe that's my mistake.

"I regretted just attacking a man. You never want to talk down on a man to build yourself up. That's one thing I wish I could do again."

From time to time, this game provides an antagonist. Over history, that guy has been Kansas City's Fred Williamson, or Denver's Bill Romanowski, or Dallas' Erik Williams or Pittsburgh's Greg Lloyd. Now, there are those who will pull against Sherman, too.

For an hour, Sherman went on, loving the cameras, daring them to love him back. He smiled. He joked. He relished the attention.

On the other hand, not once did he proclaim himself to be the best cornerback on the planet. Not once did he beat his chest.

"I think I might be letting some people down," Sherman said, laughing. "I didn't go controversial. I don't play to anyone else's drum. I'm not anyone's puppet. You're not just going to get controversial things. I'm going to be myself.

"It's not always going to be entertaining. It's not always going to be the sound bite that you want. Sometimes, it's going to be intellectual. Sometimes, it's going to be something you can think about, something that makes you go to a dictionary. Some people might not understand that, but some parts of me aren't going to be understood that easily."

Oh, let's face it. There are plenty of people who want to see Sherman toasted on Sunday, as if every pass Peyton Manning completes on him will be a tiny victory. A man doesn't live down his reputation all at once.

Still, there is more to Sherman than a 20-second rant. There is substance there. There is a love of the game.

In the end, there may also be a bit of noise.

. Fast facts

Super Bowl XLVIII

Who: Denver Broncos (15-3) vs. Seattle Seahawks (15-3)

When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.

TV/radio: Ch. 13, 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

Line, O/U: Denver by 2; 47

Official website: superbowl.com

Weather: Current forecasts call for a high of 39 degrees with a 20 percent chance of precipitation. Expect temperatures to drop during the game, with wind at 5-8 mph. The overnight low is expected to be 26.

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