Like many of the millions who tuned into the NFC Championship game between the San Francisco Forthy-Niners and the Seattle Seahawks I was initially stunned by Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman’s in-your-face interview right after his outstanding pass defense on SF receiver Michael Crabtree sealed the Seahawks’ win.
Sherman was, needless to say, pumped – his team was going to the Super Bowl and had earned the trip on the backs of their archrivals from the Left Coast. And he and Crabtree have a history of animus, which he demonstrated in vocal fashion to Fox News on-field reporter Erin Andrews. She clearly expected the usual Bull Durham banalities, and instead got this in high volume:
SHERMAN: “Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you EVER talk about me.”
ANDREWS: Who was talking about you?
SHERMAN: “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best. Or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.
Even in jacket and tie after a shower, at the podium in front of the press, Sherman was barely more contained, repeatedly calling Crabtree “mediocre” and telling him he’d haunt the receiver the rest of his career.
Which of course set off an avalanche of social media scorn, with armchair critics – the same folks, like me, who root these players on to greater efforts to beat the living hell out of each other – calling Sherman “disgraceful” and “unsportsmanlike” and calling for fines or even a suspension.
How about calling him honest?
And more than that, how about appreciating that brutal truthfulness as much if not more than the on-field pieties that have become so commonplace in the NFL? Just look at all the post-game prayer circles and the tributes to God and Jesus that reached their apotheosis in the “Tebowing” phenomenon – the end zone genuflection trademarked by devout Evangelical Christian and sometime quarterback Tim Tebow.
The reality is that football – and I love it, God help me, though my Giants aren’t within praying distance of this post-season – is a smashmouth game predicated on violence, and one that has become increasingly dangerous, and increasingly marked by showboatsmanship more than sportsmanship. (I found Sherman’s “choke” sign to SF quarterback Colin Kaepernick more offensive, and he was penalized for it, for whatever that’s worth.)
Just read Peter Beinart’s essay in the Atlantic on the “questionable ethics” of teaching his son to love football.
Bottom line: It’s hard to extrapolate anything inherently Christian about the game as it is played today at the highest levels in college and the pros, nor is it easy to see how any of the braggadocio and whining (see “Harbaugh, Jim”) and brain-damage – as well as other devastating health effects – glorifies Christ. This is about the Colosseum, not the Cross.
Cornerback Richard Sherman was simply honest enough not to try to bracket off the game from the rest of life. Call it “Shermaning.”
Check out his column explaining why he said what he did — he’s not trying to put some spiritual gloss on what he did, nor is he trying to excuse it. It’s his job, we fans pay him to do it, and he did it well. Count me in this cornerback’s corner.
Proclaiming one’s faith in the safety of the end zone or as soon as the whistle has blown on 60 minutes of brutal one-upmanship and constant trash-talking is just an example – just more obvious – of the way so many practice their faith on Sunday mornings in church and then leave it behind by Monday morning at the office.
Worse than that, however, is the American penchant – backed by a new poll – for believing that God actually cares about who loses and who wins these games.
If that were the case, then why was Richard Sherman celebrating Sunday night while Tim Tebow wasn’t even in the league?
That said, I think I’ll be rooting for the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Not because they got rid of Tim Tebow – that was just a smart football move. Nor are the Broncos any holier than the Seahawks. It will just allow me to root for a Manning at quarterback, even if his name isn’t Eli.