Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sports, Humilty, and Trash Talk

Richard Sherman and his comments following last Sunday's 49ers vs. Seahawks game have been one of the major topics of discussion in the sports world this week.  While every side of the story has probably been analyzed multiple times, I would like to add my own point of view on the situation.

1. Sports - What are sports, especially professional sports?  I would argue that their main purpose is entertainment.  It is a multi-BILLION dollar enterprise that frankly has way too much money involved when we have hungry and homeless people around.  However, with moral problems aside, most of us enjoy a good sports contest.  We watch and hope that our favorite team wins.  Admittedly, many people allow sports to reign a bit higher in their lives than entertainment (this Auburn fan has been guilty of that), but ultimately it is a show whose purpose is to entertain fans.

After Sunday's game, I was disappointed that my favorite NFL team, the 49ers, had lost the game, especially on a play that was so close to being the winning touchdown.  However, a guy named Richard Sherman made the play of his life to tip that ball and his teammate intecepted it to end the game.  I was not happy.  I was mad at the referees for all the bad calls.  And then they let Sherman have a microphone...  He called Michael Crabtree a "sorry" receiver and bragged about being the best corner in the game.  This brings me to my second point.

2. Humility - Most of us appreciate and expect humility from sports figures when they give interviews.  I appreciated this year when any Auburn player or coach was interviewed about his success, he immediately gave credit to his teammates and coaches for his own success.  I believe that is the Christ-like thing to do and in most cases the right thing to do.  I was not happy with Sherman's comments and I quickly joined the bandwagon that said Sherman had no class and was a thug.  Most people don't like trash talk.

3. Trash talk - I know from hearing players and coaches talk that trash talk happens quite often on the field, most likely every single play.  And we are okay with that.  It's part of the game, right?  But when those players have a microphone shoved in their faces only minutes after making the biggest plays of their lives, which also involved a player on the opposing team putting his hand to your facemask and shoving you backward, then maybe some of that trash talk bleeds over to the interviews, and suddenly it is not okay.  He crossed a line.  He was supposed to give everyone else credit.

I used to watch the WWF (yes it was WWF back then).  The best wrestlers were not the strongest or fastest but the ones who could trash talk the best.  Think about it.  The Rock, Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Mick Foley... all masters of the mic and trash talk.  Why are we okay with our favorite professional wrestler making a career out of trash talk, but we want our favorite NFL player to give Tim Tebow answers?  Ultimately, Richard Sherman is like a WWE wrestler.  He understands that if he wants the most attention, then he needs to trash talk the best and then back it up on the field.  So far he has done it.

I switched sides on the Sherman debate when I read about who he really was.  He's a very intelligent guy (degree from Stanford), very generous guy (runs charities and donates generously to them), and his teammates love him.  I think Sherman is an actor playing a part to increase his popularity.  As an entertainer, isn't that what he should be doing?  If he is then giving more and more to good causes, then why should we be concerned?  I know there are many viewpoints on this issue, but this is mine.  Richard Sherman is a professional entertainer who uses trash talk as a means to improve his brand, and by the way he backs it up with his play on the field.  If you don't like it, then as a wise man once said, "Don't hate the player, hate the game."