On Criticizing a Black Man for Speaking His Mind during the MLK Celebrations…

ImageI was horribly sick this weekend, epic bouts of puking and stuff; so in my feverish miasma of torment I missed a few things. It seems that one of my biggest misses was named Richard Sherman. SI did a great article on Sherman back in December. The guy is a fun player: the kind you want on your team and the kind you hate when he’s on your opponent’s team. He talks a lot but he also seems to make plays. Case in point, the NFC Championship Game, last play of the game is a throw into the end zone and Sherman easily bats it away. Cue the media and cue the epic soundbyte… because… well… Sherman has a mouth on him (it’s why he was mic’d for the game… you know he is going to feed the beast). He said the player he was matched up against was sub-par and had no chance. Evidently the world went crazy. But honestly he was right. Crabtree is the 49ers 3rd best option in the passing offense (maybe even 4th) and it’s not like the 49ers passing offense is something to brag about. Yet there he was matched up with the player many think is the best match-up corner in the game. He didn’t have a chance. You know it. I know it. I think the only people who thought otherwise were Crabtree and the 2nd year QB from Nevada who thought throwing that pass was a good idea. But if you got them drunk I bet both would admit that… well… the play never had a chance. If i supplied you with the Stone IPAs I have in the fridge, you would too. Maybe even before we cracked the first tasty beverage even.

So what’s the point. Why did so many people get so mad at Sherman for pointing out the obvious. Nobody gets mad at Jim Croce for reminding us not to pull on Superman’s cape; so why the hate for saying when the game’s on the line find Sherman and then throw it to the other side of the field?

Around the same time that SI’s article on Sherman came out; someone interviewed Alabama’s star QB and asked him about the upcoming national championship game featuring Alabama’s rival (who had beat them on a last second TD). The blue-eyed stud responded that no one in the nation thought the best team in the nation was going to win that game. Where was all the hate for this little dozy of a comment. Granted not as many people read articles about the Sugar Bowl as were watching the NFC Championship but still. Was this not as brazen a comment as Sherman’s comment. I was asked if I thought he was an arrogant little thing for saying and I said… “Well, He may not have been wrong.” And besides isn’t this the kind of confidence that you want in your team. Don’t you want players who think they are the best, and match that tongue-flapping with their play on the field. Granted Alabama did lose, but on let’s admit it a kind of a fluke play.

The point is this why did my Alabama-loving neighbors and friends eat up the words of one guy and pull out the pitchforks for the other guy? OK so one of these guys was their guy; but still. What makes this OK for one person and not the other?

You can’t help but wonder about the optics of the situation. One of these players is white with a buzzed conservative preppy look about him hailing from the deep south; and the other is a black guy with dreads straight outta Compton. Did it seem odd to anyone else that on the day when we were celebrating Martin Luther King; we were also crucifying another black man for speaking the truth about his work performance.

One of my social network friends said this was all because Sherman is an a**hole. But let me ask this, who defines a**holeness? Sure if my play had just won the Seahawks a berth in the Super Bowl my press conference would sound a lot more like Peyton Manning’s post-game than Richard Sherman’s post-game did. But Peyton and I are both white kids raised in suburban homes in Deep South cities. Peyton and I both attended a Southern land-grant university in the pride of the South’s SEC football conference. Sherman grew up a black man in the slums of a Western city. He went to school in another conference. Of course he is going to act different than Peyton or I. Life has taught him to be different. When Sherman talked what you heard was a man being true to the culture that made him. Listen to any of the greats: Tupac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Kanye…. In the world of rap. In the world of Compton. Saying I beat you fair and square is nothing to be ashamed of saying. Celebrating your virtuosity at a skill is to be expected. Crabtree got beat and Sherman gonna let him know about it. If the shoe was on the other foot, if the pass had landed in Crabtree’s hands, if the 49ers had won, Sherman would have been mad; but he probably wouldn’t have been mad at Crabtree for celebrating about it.

This is what has always struck me about sports. I have never understood it. it has always seemed to me  A lot of the frustration expressed about showboating gets laid in the laps of black players and hardly ever gets tossed at white players. That white dude from the Patriots can trash talk and be considered ‘passionate.’ That white QB from Alabama can do so and just be telling the truth. But a black guy who gets excited, a menace.

So the question is: to be accepted by me does Richard Sherman have to change who life made him to be? In order to be deemed acceptable does he have to suddenly approach life and sound like a white man raised in the Suburbs of the South?

If he dresses and talks like a man raised in Compton and weaned on the milk of Tupac and Biggie, is this a sign of being a you-know-what? Let’s suppose that tomorrow he starts talking like a man weaned on the milk of Alabama (the band) and Hank Williams; would that make him more acceptable?

And if it does, what does that say about you? What does that say about me? About our society?

I would venture a guess that such a fact means that we are still an embarrassment to the dreams of Martin Luther King. The point of white kids and black kids playing together in the hills of Georgia are not so the black kids start acting like the white kids. It’s so the white kids start learning that the black kids are people too; regardless of the differences in how they act.

If we can’t do that in the games we play; is there is any hope for the rest of our society?

So the next time a black player gets cocky, you can throw a fit or do what I did and go the bathroom to throw up. But both will not make you feel any better, regardless of what your mom might say. Perhaps we might just listen to the comment and ask, am I upset because this comment is wrong (factually or otherwise) or because it is not the answer I would have given. If the answer is B; maybe you might take a chill pill or an antacid or a cold shower.


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