Friday, January 24, 2014

Why Must Pro Athletes Be "Classy"?

After Sunday's 23-17 victory in the NFC Championship, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman let his opinion be heard. In his post-game interview with Erin Andrews, mere minutes after he made one of the biggest plays in his franchise's history, he shared his opinion about how his skills contributed to his team's victory:

Sherman: "Well, I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like [Michael] Crabtree, that's the result you're gonna get. Don't you ever talk about me."
Andrews: "Who was talking about you?"
Sherman: "Crabtree. Don't you open your mouth about the best, or I'm gonna shut it for you real quick. L.O.B."

Let's say the transcription is much less exciting than the video. Here's the interview as it appeared on Fox.
What followed on in the media (both social media and on TV) was a narrative about how Sherman is a thug and should act with class in victory (more on this shortly). You'll also notice in the video that Andrews seems to be cut off right before she's about to ask a third question. I read that the Fox production told Andrews to end the interview due to Sherman's rant. With a little context, we find that this is untrue. Watch this video and you'll see Sherman walks off after he yells "L.O.B.!" (whatever that means)...

What most interested me about the public backlash against Sherman was the narrative that professional athletes must be "classy" in both victory and defeat. These guys play a game for a living! Why must they be classy!? Take a look at your own reactions to winning and losing in competition. Have you ever...

  • Spiked an Xbox controller on the floor?
  • Talked smack to your friend after scoring in Fifa?
  • Pouted after giving up a huge kickoff return in Madden?
  • Spiked a pool cue on the ground after scratching on the 8-ball?
  • Been on the verge of physically assaulting your friend who made a cheap play?
  • Tomahawked a golf club across the fairway?
  • Given somebody the bird after intercepting a pass in backyard football?
  • Crushed a ping pong ball in your hands after losing game point?
If you've answered "yes" to any of the above questions, then you are guilty of the same things Richard Sherman is guilty of. We all react in "classless" ways when we win and lose (mind you, not every time); Sherman just did it on a bigger stage. I realize that his previous actions and attitude have fueled the narrative that Sherman is a dick, but this seemed to push it over the top. We scream for entertainment. It's why we watch sports every weekend. But when somebody gets a little too entertaining, the public freaks out. I don't get that.

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