He heard the question from Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews, responded with a torrent of rage, screamed into the microphone, then spewed inflammatory rhetoric and denigrated 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree during an outrageous post-game rant on national TV.
Richard Sherman, arguably the best defensive back in the NFL, made sure he would have the last word, shocking millions watching at home and becoming the trending topic on Twitter — following the Seattle Seahawks 23-17 victory of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field. The world is undoubtedly, by now, talking about Sherman’s brash interview, and because he was a blowhard, combative and defiant, his controversial tirade might have just moved from the realm of sports and to the realm of pop culture. As a collective unit Sunday, the Seahawks proved to the world they are remarkably capable of beating the favored Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in two weeks.
It wasn’t unusual, but certainly was breathtaking, that the Seahawks bounced back from deficits of 10-0 and 17-10. There was a general feeling that this would happen, too, kind of like how the Seahawks mounted dramatic comeback victories all season long against the Texans and Panthers — and lastly — staged the biggest come-from-behind victory in franchise history at home to defeat the winless Buccaneers. It should surprise no one that Seattle battled back from a slow first-half at home in front of its raucous, energetic crowd. It should surprise no one that these tenacious, thunderous Seahawks turned it around and seemed to have gained control during a relentless fourth quarter.
As he has quite often in his lustrous career, Russell Wilson has fought hard to ensure that his team would have bragging rights and come out on top as the best West Coast team in the league. If there ever were a time that Seahawks quarterback convinced enough people that he’s a superstar, it came Sunday when he overcame a rough start and led a comeback, finishing 16-for-12 for 215 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He has done nothing but elevated his game to the next level, displaying his talents by scrambling in the pocket to keep plays alive, throwing the ball downfield and running for it if he can’t find an open receiver.
With the clock dwindling down in the second quarter, he lofted a 51-yard completion to wideout Doug Baldwin that set up Steven Hauschka’s 32-yard field goal. At the half, the Seahawks trailed by only a touchdown. These, mind you, were the Seahawks we were used to seeing, and by the third quarter — assuming that running back Marshawn Lynch ate Skittles in the locker room — they tied it at 10 when he went into Beast Mode and ran 40 yards for the score. Toward the end of the game, the Seahawks seemed inexorable and everything was going their way.
The world’s loudest NFL fans showed their passion, especially when the Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor had a fourth-quarter interception on a sideline pass that was intended for 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin. The pick set up Hauschka’s 47-yard field goal that gave Seattle a six-point lead with 3:37 left. With two timeouts remaining and just over 30 seconds left, San Francisco had the ball at the 19, and was one play away from completing an incredible comeback.
If only 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who threw for 153 yards and ran for 130, wasn’t victimized by the Seahawks’ stingy defense late in the fourth quarter when the season was on the line. The night was almost perfect and he gave the Niners a 17-10 lead on an unbelievable 26-yard jump pass to connect with Boldin in the end zone. The last crucial play of the game didn’t work out too well, and that one mistake ended the 49ers season. He handled the pressure in the pocket, stepped back, and delivered a quick throw to Crabtree deep toward the back line of the end zone.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, are built on the strength of their defense, which is the league’s most ferocious and intense defensive unit. But it was a night that was, nonetheless, a defining moment for Sherman, and afterwards, he emerged as the most polarizing figure of the Super Bowl. Sherman, known for his trash-talking and superior defensive abilities, was intent on getting his hands on the ball, and sure enough, he made an action-hero play late in the fourth quarter. His game-saving tip in front of Crabtree sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl with 22 seconds remaining, and as the most bankable NFL defensive back — love him or hate him, he won’t stop trash talking and won’t ever back down.
With the ball spiraling down toward the end zone, Sherman leaped and flicked it away from Crabtree with his left hand and into the hands of linebacker Malcolm Smith, who hauled in the game-clinching interception. After making a game-changing play of an epic game, Sherman and the Seahawks made a loud statement — louder than the 12th man crowd. And while the Seahawks celebrated a game-winning interception collectively, Sherman got in Crabtree’s face. With very little time remaining, he taunted and mocked 49ers star receiver, making it all about him, and right then and there, the referees threw the flag for a personal foul.
It is to our knowledge that he was enraged by something Crabtree had said while at a charity event, where he tried to fight Sherman, according to Sherman’s older brother. So now, whether he is a villain or a flamboyant narcissist, Sherman will pose an existential threat to Peyton Manning, a future Hall of Fame QB who will be tested by Seattle’s fierce and forceful defense.
But since Sherman acted like an insane, mentally unstable person Sunday night, many believe he was classless and labeled him a thug and characterized him with the usual racial epithets used to describe young black men in the United States. His words and actions are blown out of proportion, and because of people’s sensitivity and insensitivity, he was attacked relentlessly via social media, as these trolls were quick to judge the mouthy, outspoken Seattle cornerback in the aftermath of the interview.
Crazy as it sounds, Sherman’s verbal attack on the 49ers provoked a social-media firestorm as he faced criticism and personal attacks. The public outrage over Sherman’s taunts not only fuels the rivalry between Seattle and San Francisco but changes the narrative of Super Bowl XLVII, and while the Broncos will face the Seahawks on America’s biggest national holiday, Manning vs. Sherman is billed as the greatest individual matchup in Super Bowl history.
But Sherman is suddenly America’s public enemy, the meanest villain the league has ever seen. The critics of Sherman’s rant ought to realize that this by now is overblown and hypocritical. Understand that he is who he is. He’s a trash talker who has every right to speak his mind, especially if he and his team can back it up.
He did just that. He backed up his talk.