No my loyal readers, this isn’t a history lesson about Civil War leadership or even the story of a wise cartoon dog. Instead, this is a football story and commentary on modern culture, altogether appropriate on the eve of the big game. By now, I imagine most of you, football fans or otherwise, have seen the video clip of Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s post game rant recorded by former Gator Erin Andrews following the Seahawks victory over the 49ers. Now, you might think that I’m going to condemn Sherman, but (surprise) I’m not. Instead, I’m going to defend him (sort of) and try to explain what was happening. Richard Sherman is Seattle’s best defender for the league’s best defense. He might be the best cornerback in football. If not, he thinks he is which, in his business, is very important. He had just broken up a pass in the corner of the end zone with 22 seconds left in the game which was intercepted by a teammate and sealed Seattle’s victory and a trip to the Super Bowl. He was feeling very exuberant which he expressed in Andrews’ brief interview. Football is a team sport … with the possible exception of the cornerbacks on defense. The corners are lined up against the opposition’s wide receivers. They might get some help every now and then from a safety, but basically, they’re on an island, one-on-one, mano-e-mano. Even the wide receivers they’re paired against have the advantage of knowing the play. Richard Sherman, just 25 in his third year of professional football, rarely gets any help. He’s in a reaction mode and his team depends on him to never let up and shut-down their opponent’s best receiver … every play. In the NFC championship game, he was usually paired against Michael Crabtree, San Francisco’s best receiver. Had Sherman not defended Colin Kaepernick’s pass to Crabtree, San Francisco would have won the game. A cornerback like Richard Sherman is somewhat like a fighter pilot. He might have a wingman or even be in a flight of four jets, but in the end, whether he’s rolling in on a target and lining up the enemy in his sights, it’s one-on-one, just like a cornerback. How good is he? Is he better than his opponent? You either win … or die. Now, there’s something else you should know about Richard Sherman. He might look or sound a little like a thug … but there’s much more to this young man. He was born and raised in Compton, Calif. If you know the cities and neighborhoods that make up Los Angeles, you know that Compton is the heart of “the hood.” The violent crime rate is really high. For a young black male to grow up in Compton, and not only survive but succeed, is a remarkable achievement. Many of his contemporaries do not. Richard Sherman succeeded, not only as an athlete (football and track), but in the classroom as well. He was an honor student and received an athletic scholarship to Stanford. He was changed from offense to defense and overcame a season- ending knee injury, either of which would be a severe setback for mere mortals. He also starred in the classroom and graduated with a degree in communications (which will probably come in handy as he learns from the Andrews episode). Richard Sherman is always being overlooked. When he was eligible for the NFL draft, he wasn’t chosen until the fifth round. Now fifth-rounders are advised to buy roundtrip tickets because they are frequently cut during tryouts, but Richard Sherman never doubted himself, never lost faith in his abilities. Now he’s headed for the Super Bowl, the world’s premier sports contest. He will defend the left side of Seattle’s defense and be paired against the Denver Broncos’ best wide receivers, either Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker. But Denver has several great receivers for Manning’s quick passes, and Richard Sherman can only cover one at a time … I think. Now, before you get the wrong idea, I’m pulling for the Denver Broncos. They’ve been my team for more than forty years. I’m hoping that Peyton Manning has a great game and he throws plenty of passes … away from Richard Sherman’s side. Just as we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we should avoid judging Richard Sherman based on a single, immature rant. I expect there are many chapters to his book, and they are most interesting. Above all, don’t ever underestimate Richard Sherman. He is a young man to be reckoned with. Just ask the 49ers. Better yet, ask Michael Crabtree.

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