Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Richard Sherman's Freak-out: Frankenstein's NFL?

By now everyone's heard about the Richard Sherman freak-out after an NFL playoff game. Soon after it happened, it became a hot topic on Twitter and people started throwing around accusations of racism at anyone who criticized the guy; others criticized him mercilessly. Sherman tried to play the incident down by L-O-ELLING about it on Twitter.

The long and short of it is that the guy acted like an ass on national television. He flipped out so severely that it left Erin Andrews blinking with the ancient fear-response. 

The problem is, almost everyone is attacking the guy for what he did: he acted like an ass. On the flip, people are defending him: "Well, remember, he is a Stanford grad and he talked real nice afterward."

Why, in this increasingly tolerant society (one that, in my opinion, might sometimes tolerate too much bad behavior) do we want to sum up this guy by the way he acted after a playoff win? 

I repeat: he acted like an ass. He should be embarrassed. But does that make him a piece of garbage?  Of course not.

He's a young man in his twenties. He has a lot of growing up to do. That's for sure. As far as I am concerned, no male is a "man" until he reaches his forties. The lot of us are idiots until some time around then, give or take five years. 

But take a guy in his twenties and drop him into an environment where bragging and dancing in celebration and trash-talking are considered manifestations of passion (even if they were once considered evidence of a lack of gentlemanly restraint), and what do you expect to happen? 

I had a discussion on Facebook once with some of my young recently graduated students and many of them asserted that they like the end-zone celebrations that I hate so much. They see it as a sign of a player's investment in the game. I may see it as asinine and unmanly behavior, but I am a voice in the crowd -- the crowd that completely disagrees with me. 

I still feel like it is cooler to cross the end zone line and hand the ball to the referee as if what you did is easy for you. To me that is evidence of grace and it sends a message of strength and ability. In the words of the exceptional coach of the football team in the high school in which I work: "Everyone in the stands can see that you just did something good. You don't have to tell them, afterward." 

Sadly, Coach Sacco is a dying breed. He believes in self-discipline and sportsmanship. 

How hard are we going to be on Sherman? He's still a kid and he is raised in an environment that tells him not only that it is okay to act that way but that it is laudable to be so "passionate." He acted like an ass; that doesn't mean he is an ass. (God knows I never acted like an ass in my twenties. How about you?)

If we want this sort of thing to stop, we need more Coach Saccos on the high school level. As long as the lower-level coaches allow the kids to buy into the hype, we are going to continue to see this kind of foolishness.

Do I absolve Sherman? No. The kid needs to get a hold of himself and behave like a gentleman. He is too smart and too talented to act like a moron. But he is not a villain. If it is anyone's fault, it's ours, for investing our time and money into a sport that crackles with ass-like behavior. 

It's why I don't watch any more. For me, sports are maybe a little too metaphoric. I don't watch hockey because I think any sport that includes fighting as part of its strategy and culture is ridiculous; I don't watch football because I can't stand the on-field behavior of the players. I still watch baseball, because at least there is a semblance of sanity to the game. Sure, there are a million things to criticize: guys are getting caught doing steroids and the money is out of hand but at least the rules and complexion of the game, itself, lean toward gentleman-like behavior. 

We can't be Dr. Frankenstein and create a monster to whom we refuse to be a proper parent. You hate Sherman? You love football and you watch it and buy tickets and merchandise? You made him. 

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