The Sherman Effect

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks

You Mad, Bro?

By now you all know about Richard Sherman’s outburst on Sunday night.  The past week has been a saga of half-hearted apologies and critiques of interview ethics.  However, while most people tossed this news aside with the Sunday paper something happened.  Reaction to Sherman’s behavior became so vitriolic that his words were silenced by hatred.  There are a lot of thoughts I have about Sherman, but most of what I’m going to say here addresses a social condition that is troubling to me and my future kids.

Hatred is a harsh word.  I remember using it once against my mother when I was twelve and I was swiftly put in my place.  My father taught me that night that hate is a four letter word.  By now, all of you have drawn your own conclusions about using the word hate in your own vocabularies.  I still subscribe to the four letter approach.  After Sherman’s angry comments about Michael Crabtree his twitter feed was hit with a deluge of outrage.  Among the choice words tweeters used were “Thug” and “Monkey”.  I assume the N word was used as well, but I hope most of the people who will read this agree with me that the N word is inexcusable in any context.  Therefore, I’ll confine my comments to “Thug” and “Monkey”.  But, the larger context of those words falls within the lens of racism, intolerance, polarization and arrogance.

“Monkey”.  I get it.  This word is loosely connected to racist epithets.  Let’s just agree that when you call someone a monkey it certainly sounds bad enough to receive a slug in the face.  On the other hand, “Thug” is less egregious.  In my opinion, “Thug” has been adopted by gangsters and twisted into a racial slur.  Let me be clear, it is not a racial slur.  Thug has been used to describe corrupt politicians more often than describe African-Americans.  Tu-Pac glamorized the term “Thug Life” to endear his music and lifestyle to the  American public.  In fact, he had it tattooed across his abdomen and drew copious amounts of attention to it in his music videos.

“Thug” is a double entendre.  Most of us learned that some words can have dual meanings  when we were in third grade.  I remember my father saying I was acting stupid.  Here, he addressed my behavior and instead me personally.  Of course, I tried to contort his words into an indictment of his parenting skills and love for me.  But that was a nine-year old talking.  Most well-adjusted adults, and Richard Sherman unequivocally pronounces himself to be, understand the distinction.  Unfortunately, Sherman’s pride has clouded his ability to recognize how he acted thuggish in that interview.  Or, maybe he’s just not as intelligent as he considers himself to be.  Alternative explanation, Stanford hands out 3.9 GPA’s like physicals.

The true Sherman Effect that I’ve witnessed is best illustrated through a string of Facebook comments I participated in.  I will leave out the names of people to protect anonymity.  Most of you are probably muttering doubts under your breath or sighing and shaking your head about a reference to Facebook.  Any of you who know me understand that I’m virtually absent on Facebook and tend to rebel against the sprawling digital culture.  However, the Facebook platform allowed many voices to chime in on a few thoughts.  So, here’s the story.

A friend of mine posted a link to the CNN press conference Sherman gave in the middle of last week.  Sherman addressed the firestorm of anger unleashed on him and almost apologized for being immature and betraying his intelligence.  My friend posted “Love it” above the article.

I couldn’t tell whether he was being snarky or whether he genuinely liked Sherman’s comments.  I posted the following:

This guy is so proud of Stanford. I wonder if Stanford is equally as proud of him[?]  And, I’d love to see if he graduated, what his degree is in and his GPA.

Before you all go running to the comment section and blast out a note condemning me to the snark penalty box, read it again.  Would Stanford or any institution of such high academic caliber be proud of the way Sherman portrayed himself?  Furthermore, would they welcome the free press Sherman gives them?  Sherman does an excellent job of reminding anyone who challenges him that he went to Stanford.  The rest of us should feel intellectually overmatched.  Evidence of this, watch his interview on First Take with Skip Bayless.  Even if you’re not a fan of Skip Bayless, just listen to Richard Sherman.  He personifies almost every stereotype of elite school students, except he’s not quite as eloquent.

And, the GPA question.  I admit, I could have easily done a Google search and found this information.  But, my good friend obliged my torpid tendency and answered that question for me.  Sherman is a member of the academic honor society, earned a 3.9 GPA and graduated with a degree in Communications (congratulations, but Andrew Luck graduated with an Architectural Engineering degree.  Even still, I’d respect your braggadocio a lot more if your degree was in Faulknarian Literature,  the Classics, Public Policy, Theatre, Education or even Underwater Basketweaving).  He even returned for a semester of master’s work.  Yet another notch on his academic belt.  But, I’d like to remind everyone of Myron Rolle, the Florida State Safety who delayed a massive pay-day and a professional  football career to accept a Rhodes Scholarship to study Medical Anthropology at Oxford.  Not Oxford, Mississippi.  Oxford University in England.  You know; Shakespeare, Oscar Wiled, John Locke and William Penn, Oxford.  I could go on about the Harvard graduates, Matt Birk and Ryan Fitzpatrick but I think I’ve made my point.  So, let’s not plan the ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes for Stanford graduate, Richard Sherman yet.

Later, a post by a friend of a friend boiled my blood for three days and encapsulated the malice behind the Richard Sherman phenomenon.

He’ll always have to prove himself to guys like Matt, and that’s a shame.

He continued,

The kid is the total package.  We would all be proud to have our kids end up like him.  He made a mistake, he acknowledged it.  that people question his authenticity is nothing less than bigotry.  Move on.

In my anger, I fired back a response asking whether he would be proud of his kids if they acted the way Sherman did in the interview and poked holes in his “apology” defense.  But, after I took some time to think deeply about these comments I found the stinging hypocrisy in his first statement.  This guy was judging me based on one response and categorizing me into, I assume, his bigotry list.

I had to exercise severe restraint to shoot back another question asking him, “What kind of guy am I?”

I’ll never know for sure, but I guess he thinks I’m a racist and a bigot.  I don’t feel the need to defend myself here.  Anyone of you who know me understand the racial struggles I deal with on a daily basis as a teacher in a highly diverse school.  Although I will admit that I struggle with separating the actions of few from the masses, I am galaxies away from a racist, bigot or ethnocentrist.  It’s a daily struggle to deflect the venom from those who attack your integrity without distinguishing the action from the soul.  I guess I know what it feels like to be Richard Sherman.

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