As Isaac Saul wrote, in a particularly insightful Huffington Post piece, "could you imagine if this generation had to deal with Muhammad Ali?"
Race, as always, plays an outsized role in the reaction to Seahawk defense back Richard Sherman's post-game exclamation that "I'm the best corner[back] in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you going to get."
Sherman was called arrogant, classless (classless in football?), thuggish, and so much worse.
Travis Waldron points out that "the day after the interview, the word 'thug' was used some 625 times on television, more than it had been used on any single day in the past three years, according to a Deadspin analysis. And most of it was used with the same connotation that racist terms like the n-word would have been used once. Sherman is too loud. Too boisterous. Too…black."
As Ta-Nahisi Coates said, "there's some weird notion in our society that holds that trash-talking is for the classless and stupid. I don't know what it means to be 'classless' in an organization like the NFL. And then there is the racism from onlookers, who are incapable of perceiving in Sherman an individual, and instead see the sum of all American fears—monkey, thug, terrorist, nigger."
Richard Sherman grew up in Compton, finished second in his high school class and then graduated from Stanford with a 3.9 GPA, before becoming the best defensive back in the game. Oh, and he started his own non-profit, Blanket Coverage, whose mission "is to level the playing field for children enrolled in grades K-12 who have a strong combination of potential, goals and a desire to make the most of their education."
As Saul put it: "This is a guy who represents one of the best kinds of sports stories there is in the world: the rise from the bottom, the profound destruction of obstacles, the honest success story built by a foundation of hard work and loving parents. If anyone with a brain took the time to learn about Richard Sherman, and then put him in the context of the rest of the National Football League, he'd be a pretty hard guy to bash."
Saul notes that 31 NFL players were arrested last off season for everything from gun charges and driving under the Influence to murder. The NFL, where recently at least one team paid bounties to players who caused injuries to opposing players. But it is Richard Sherman's post-game reaction that offends our sensibilities.
What Sherman taught us, Isaac Saul writes, "is that we're still a country that isn't ready for lower-class Americans from neighborhoods like Compton to succeed. We're still a country that can't decipher a person's character. But most of all, he taught us that no matter what you overcome in your life, we're still a country that can't accept someone if they're a little louder, a little prouder, or a little different from the people we surround ourselves with."
Not to mention that Richard Sherman is a proud Black man.
Unfortunately, Greg Howard is right:
Too many of us think that one ecstatic, triumphant black man showing honest, human emotion just seconds after making a play that very well could be written into the first appositive of his obituary, is not only offensive, but is also representative of the tens of millions of blacks in this country. And in two weeks time, in the year 2014, too many of us will be rooting for the Denver Broncos for no other reason than to knock Richard Sherman down a few notches, if only to put him back in his place.Go Seahawks!