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Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman celebrates after the NFL football NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 23-17 to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Monson: Richard Sherman’s rant isn’t cool, it’s sad

NFL » Candor can be refreshing, but you don’t have to be a fraud to be a good sport

First Published Jan 21 2014 11:51 am • Last Updated Jan 21 2014 11:23 pm

Richard Sherman has said he’s sorry for his behavior.

Aren’t we all.

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When he squandered his victorious moment at the end of the Seahawks-49ers game Sunday night, and then a postgame television interview, by taunting Michael Crabtree, a couple of raw thoughts, some of them conflicting, fired through my brain.

First, he wasted the best seconds in all of sports, the ones that come immediately after a huge win. That’s the purest thing left, the happy emotion that spills in every direction when grown men exult together, when they act like boys again, when they celebrate a goal achieved, when they dodge agony and relish the thrill of victory. It’s suhhhweeet.

Sherman made it sour.

He turned his team’s qualification for the Super Bowl into his own little sideshow. And we all bought a ticket. The TV cameras focused in, the microphones were turned up, the televised panel discussions ensued, the talk shows joined in, and social media went berserk. We discussed this at length on my radio show and I’m writing about Sherman right now, not the Seattle Seahawks.

There’s something captivating about a great athlete who blows a gasket, especially in a big moment like that. It happens only occasionally, and this is where this conversation gets complicated.

A lot of us tire of the modern athlete’s fake demeanor, the façade he puts up to avoid controversy, to avoid hurting his status with his coach, with his team, with his opponents, with his fans, with his agent, with his marketability, with corporate America. Guys are coached on how to say a lot of things without saying anything. This has resulted in a majority of athletes talking like coaches. Which is to say, they lie. They don’t say what’s really on their minds because they don’t want to reveal the wrong things, the right things, the truth. Instead, they wrap themselves in plastic and conceal who they really are, what they really think.

That’s why when Sherman blasts through all that and allows what he’s actually thinking to surface, straight for an entire nation of football fans to see and hear, the tendency in this corner is to double clutch before criticizing him. Are we supposed to yearn for the truth, through some athlete’s prism, and then rip him when his candor doesn’t line up with our own sensitivities?

Yeah, I guess we are.

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Sherman, a smart guy, explained his version of the backstory to what happened with Crabtree in a column he wrote that was posted at Monday Morning Quarterback and SI.com. Later, he apologized for taking attention away from his team and steering it toward himself. Maybe some marketers somewhere will consider his move brilliant, garnering more attention for a cornerback than he ever could have gotten if he had simply made the great play and let it be.

Instead, he chose Door No. 1. But he did something else, as well. He laid down one more eulogy on sportsmanship in America. A million kids watched Sherman speak his mind, and a million kids will at least consider doing something similar themselves in their own more modest realms, if they get a chance. I’m not into the whole role-model thing that a lot of people mistakenly want to drop on modern athletes. Just because they can throw a football or shoot a basketball doesn’t mean they should be put on a pedestal away from the arena. But when that bad behavior occurs right down on the field, during or after a game, it’s difficult to dismiss or erase.

Raw "me-ness" seems to be something to aspire to these days. Just like Sherman’s rant, it’s seen as authentic, as unvarnished, as true. It’s down and dirty, but at least it’s real. As opposed to all that fakeness that must be required to show some class and win with a bit of grace.

I’m not sure I’m buying it, though. Nobody has to be a fraud to be a good sport. And barking like a dog after a big play and a big win, pointing at the name on the back of the jersey so everyone will see, can be every bit as disingenuous as the other.

Some people say pro football players have to be selfish, to be on the verge of rage in order to do their jobs. They’re trained and coached up to be aggressive, to be combative, to be violent. This ain’t Sunday School, they say. I don’t know. I never played high-level football. But I have talked to a whole lot of guys who did and do, many of them immediately after they made a huge play and won a huge game.

Based on those experiences, I know this: Acting like a jerk isn’t required.

It isn’t fresh or cool. After a while, it might not even be interesting. It might just be sad.

Sherman apologized because he knew he should, or was it because he was told to? Either way, here’s one universal truth: Any athlete can say or do what he wants. In this country, any person can say and do that. But consequences come, too, some of them with adverse effects on more than just "me."

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.

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