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First of all, let me begin by stating something that sometimes goes under the radar in the debate of Richard Sherman. Michael Crabtree started it. All season long, Crabtree has been talking about Sherman and about how overrated he is. He was never quite blatant about it, and most of his comments were said when few people were watching. He surely never said anything on the same stage that Sherman did. But he said it nonetheless, and it was a chip that Sherman carried on his shoulder all season long.
Then after all that, Sherman still went to congratulate Crabtree on “a hell of a game”. After the final whistle, Sherman went to shake Crabtree’s hand, but his olive branch was met with a hand in the face. Crabtree might be more quiet and passive-aggressive about it, but the unsportsmanlike conduct went both ways and started with Crabtree’s “DeMarcus Cousins-esque” rejection of civility. Imagine what Crabtree would have said about Sherman if Crabtree wasn’t a loser this season.
So after that, Sherman was a little fired up. He has just made the game-winning play, sending his beloved team to the Super Bowl. The adrenaline was still pumping, and Sherman’s eyes had a fierce, hungry look in them.
He had just proved all his critics wrong, yet, again, but there was still unfinished business to attend to. He wanted it to be perfectly clear to the whole world that his Seahawks were not the underdogs against anyone, including the red-hot 49ers and the mighty Denver Broncos.
Sherman has had to defy the odds and make his statement through actions his entire career. Crabtree was a first-round draft pick, Sherman was a fifth-round pick. Crabtree is making top-ten-pick money, while Sherman is making the league minimum.
Crabtree is being labeled as having the best-hands of all-time, a distinction that completely disrespects previous 49er legends such as Jerry Rice, while Sherman was still an unknown entity to NFL fans even this season. Yet Sherman has been to multiple Pro Bowls and leads the best defense in the NFL, while Crabtree is just a good player on an average offense.
Even Crabtree’s after-the-fact retort was weak. After the game and the interview, Crabtree tweeted “Film don’t lie. Show me the tape where the guy is the best.” Well Mike, we could show you that tape of the final play of the game a thousand times, and you still won’t get the picture. The fact that there is no other tape besides that play is a testament to the extent of which your quarterback fears Sherman Island.
Which begs the question: Who do you want on your team? Seattle fans and Sherman’s teammates alike adore their star cornerback. He has demonstrated loyalty, intensity and excellence ever since he came to Seattle, and his trash talking is funny and endearing to everyone who isn’t on the receiving end of it. Pete Carroll approves of Sherman’s aura and believes it inspires the rest of the Legion of Boom.
Sherman backs up his trash talk on the field and is a well-spoken, respectful, interesting dude off the field. I don’t think any “thugs”, as Niner fans refer to Sherman, have graduated from Stanford with a GPA hovering around 4.0.
There is no doubt that Sherman is the best cornerback in the game, and if his intensity and trash talking in the game are part of what makes him the best in the world, that’s just something fans must live with. The 12th man is behind Sherman every step of the way and love who he is on and off the field.
While Sherman’s postgame interview might have been a little off-putting to some, it was an extreme and highly publicized moment. It was the culmination of years of adversity being overcome, expressed in the heat of the moment after a positive gesture was rejected. Crabtree needs to shut his mouth and hit the practice field if he wants to say anything about Sherman in the future.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 29, 2013′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Art by Amy Chase of The Daily Nexus.