JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Shermanship Lacking

I’m gonna write something here that might sound like grandstanding, but it’s 100-percent true. I swear.

I love NFL games. I love the action, I love the sweeps around end, I love the deep throws and the tough tackles and the drama. I love it all. Truly.

However, the moment that does it for me—that really, really does it for me—comes after the final whistle, when the two teams walk onto the field and shake hands. I especially dig it when—having just spent 60 minutes chasing him down—defensive linemen approach quarterbacks and offer a hug. Or when wide receivers and defensive backs acknowledge one another with a pat on the helmet and a kind word or smile. It’s cool seeing two coaches compare notes; two quarterbacks chatter about this or that.

I can’t quite explain it any better than that. I’m a peaceful dude, and I dig peace.

Which makes the actions of Richard Sherman from the aftermath of tonight’s 49ers-Seahawks clash hard to digest. If you somehow missed it, watch the clip above: Having made the game-winning play for Seattle, Sherman—a fantastic defensive back—is approached by Erin Andrews. Here it is, HIS moment. The NFC title. The Super Bowl. Confetti and hugs and cheers and … he uses the time to tear into Michael Crabtree.

God, did I hate that.

H-A-T-E-D it.

Why? Because sportsmanship matters. It matters more than winning. More than losing. It matters because kids are watching and learning, and taking cues from the professionals. It matters because, right now, Crabtree feels like shit, without being told that he is, well, shit. It was lowly and unnecessary and oozed classlessness.

Also, it’s painfully shortsighted. Athletic ability—like all abilities—does not last. It’s terribly fleeting, and in a blink of an eye Richard Sherman will find himself, oh, 31-years old, minus a step or two, the young hotshot receiver eating him for lunch. He’ll realize, at some point, that the shit he spewed as a youngster no longer applied.

It’s inevitable.