How Richard Sherman Played the Media
Much ado about little today as the entire nation homes in on some impolite remarks made by Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman about an opposing player in yesterday’s game. At first glance this seems a little out of character for both him and the Seahawks, who are usually pretty good about not saying things that can incite a media frenzy.
But methinks there is more to it than that. Methinks he did it on purpose.
Let’s back up a bit and consider some facts. For one, Richard Sherman is undoubtedly a very intelligent man. Stanford does not recruit players of low intelligence. When he was in high school, he evidently let (at the time) USC coach Peter Carroll cool his heels on a recruiting visit because Richard did not wish to miss an Advanced Placement class. At that time USC was in the midst of a 33 game winning streak and Pete Carroll was arguably the most important college coach in the land. And a high school student thinks more of a class than Pete Carroll’s time. I think that probably impressed Pete Carroll, now his pro coach, more than it might have miffed him.
Secondly, the media packs that follow pro football (and pretty much everything else) arevultures. They’ll swoop down on fresh meat in terms of rash statements and masticate on them until the matter is ground to dust. They go into a feeding frenzy over any potential controversy, and prefer the spectacular to solid reporting. This sells their product, which is ink, or air time, depending on the media. The Seahawks are now en route to the Super Bowl, where this sort of thing reaches an annual peak. The weeks before the game are more of a media circus than anything the Seahawks have ever seen.
Some of the players on the team, most notably Marshawn Lynch, are not fond of media interviews and media attention. They have a history of preferring to focus on the job at hand, and would rather avoid controversy and empty rhetoric can spectacle. Richard Sherman knows all of this.
Third, he has history with the player he insulted. Richard Crabtree is not an innocent in all of this, and deserved a bit of payback for his own statements and actions, both in the past and immediately after the play in question. Most importantly, he will not be on the field in the next game, and will not be a consideration until the next time the two meet – which will be next fall at the earliest. In fact, Sherman may have totally taken the wind out of his sails.
You may recall years ago in Moto GP when Valentino Rossi, at that time at the top of his game as Sherman is now, got angry at a competitor who was challenging him for the Moto GP title. Rossi felt the guy was a dirty rider, and prophesied that the man would never again win a Moto GP. In fact, he did not, and I bet you cannot recall his name by now.*
In an ironic way, Sherman has taken one for the team. From now until the Super Bowl game, and probably continuing on for some time after, every time Richard Sherman makes any statement on any topic, it will be reported and dissected and probed for any and all possible meanings. This will allow many other players to get on with the job of preparing for the biggest game of their lives and will lessen, to a degree, the distractions they have to deal with.
It will also affect the other team. Denver players, the cast of one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history, will need to field literally thousands of questions about how they plan to deal with Richard Sherman. This will affect their thinking and their planning.
They may choose to respond to the challenge in two ways; a challenge not directed at them but a total fabrication of the media. They may deliberately throw more passes into Sherman’s coverage area than they would have otherwise. He is the best defensive back in the league, and doing this would probably be a good thing for the Seahawks. He is certainly aware of the potential for this, and is mentally prepared. Or, they may be affected by the hoopla and attempt to keep the ball away from him, allowing him to use his incredible speed to come the aid of others. He may be the wrecking ball, in this scenario, that topples the air offense of Denver. In either case, as long as he’s prepared for the mania he has created on purpose, the outcome will favor Seattle.
Most players worry about how to deal with the media vultures, and what they can and will do to boost or destroy a career. They may feel powerless to affect what the media can and will do. Richard Sherman, on the other hand, has seized an opportunity. Rather than being played by the media, he’s taken the offensive and played them.
His reward will be a Super Bowl ring.
*It was Sete Gibernau, and I could not remember it either. Thanks to my friend David whose memory is better!
Copyright 2014 David Preston