Saturday, February 8, 2014

Fury and Sound

"We ought to call ourselves Homo clamorans.
Noisemaking man."
-Stephen Baxter,
The Long War

In the immediate aftermath of his team's defeat of their arch-rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, in the NFC Championship Game on January 19th, Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks became an "overnight sensation".  The vehicle he rode all the way to global fame and fortune?  An emotional, angry rant directed at 49er receiver Michael Crabtree and shared live and unfiltered with the rest of the planet courtesy of Erin Andrews and her employers at Fox.

For a lot of us - including those of us who live in a time zone far, far away from the Pacific Northwest - who were not overly familiar with Richard Sherman prior to that particular Sunday night, it became easy for us to draw a conclusion as to what type of man he must be.  Typical of the society in which we live today, where the combination of instant internet access and wide-flung internet anonymity creates the elixir of Faux Courage, it became too easy for too many people to decide that those thirty seconds taught them all they needed to know - and would ever need to know - about Richard Sherman.  

The abuse to which Sherman was subjected by those protected by the relative remoteness of their tablets, keyboards and iPhones said more about the purveyors of it than it did about its recipient.  In the two week interlude between the Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl, the media did its due diligence to ensure that Sherman's 30-second conversation with Andrews remained an above-the-fold headline.  It was as if the collective pledged, "We the media, entrusted with the responsibility of selling this game care not whether this one-note representation of this young man is a fair one.  We care simply that it is the one that we can sell.  And sell it we shall.  Over and over and over and over!" 

Not surprisingly, because they were neither words spoken in anger nor spoken in a loud tone, much less was made of Richard Sherman's post-game comments following the 43-8 demolition he and his winged friends from Seattle delivered of - and to - Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  Sherman had injured his ankle in the second half and ended up in the Seattle locker room before the game ended, getting changed and getting fitted for a boot for his injured ankle and a pair of crutches.  

By the time the game ended, Sherman was back on the field so he could enjoy a moment he had been instrumental in helping attain.  According to Sherman, Peyton Manning made it a point after the game to track Sherman down simply to check on the condition of his injury and to wish him well:

"When I was limping up to my press conference and trying to make it up the stairs, somebody taps me on the shoulder and extends their hand and asks if I'm all right.   My eyes try to make it up to see who it is, and it's Peyton ... fully dressed in a suit and obviously very concerned about my well-being.  You know, after a game like that, biggest stage ever -- to ask how you're doing and really be generally concerned about an opponent, that shows an incredibly different amount of humility and class."

Thus, when fans of the Seahawks took to Twitter post-game to pile on Manning for his awful performance, Sherman defended the Broncos quarterback far more vigorously than his offensive linemen.  

He also continued to defend his vanquished rival against the slings and arrows of the press, reminding one and all of Manning's resume, "He is a Hall of Fame player, he's a living legend, he's a record-holding quarterback, he's a Super Bowl champion, he's been a Super Bowl MVP.  I think if you want to criticize his play on the field, that's fine. But don't call some of the things that they were calling him."

We the people of these United States are drawn to bright, shiny things.  It is our fascination with them that helps explain why the average person is more likely to be able to name a Kardsashian Sister than a Founding Father and to vote for the next American Idol than the next President of the United States.  It also helps explain why "Sherman's Rant about Michael C." is surpassed only in the annals of American History by "Sherman's March to the Sea" for notoriety and "Sherman's Defense of Manning" is a below-the-fold, after-the-commercial-break item.  

Kudos to Richard Sherman for doing what he did and for saying what he said.  He did not need to say it any louder.  We just need to start listening better.  


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