Monday, January 27, 2014

Sherman’s NFL Fine the Right Thing (for the Wrong Reason)

              It’s disheartening to witness NFL player Richard Sherman being raked over the coals on TV, radio and in print. His offense? Being human. Most pro football fans are aware of the cornerback’s in-the-heat-of-the-moment bravado. It happened immediately after the last play of a recent game in which he played a key role. Winning that contest secured his Seattle Seahawks a slot at the Super Bowl.

              Now he’s been fined nearly $8,000 by the NFL for unsportsmanlike conduct. That in and of itself was not a bad thing. After all, taunting an opposing player after the game and clutching your hands to your throat in a choking gesture is well, unsportsmanlike. Problem is, it remains unclear if the NFL brass is punishing Sherman for what he did on the field or off.

              “He’s a professional and should know better,” say armchair quarterbacks. I say he’s a human being, not a robot. It’s not easy to gear up mentally and emotionally for the mayhem we call football, then at game’s end instantaneously shut down all that intensity. Remember, this isn’t arguing over the last cup of java in the office. We’re talking a vocation in which physical pain and injury (sometimes broken bones and concussions) happens with great regularity.

              In an arena where the object of the game for most latter day gladiators on the field is to hit someone, it’s unreasonable to accept physical and verbal violence on the part of the players during the game and then expect them to be humble and always say the right thing after. It’s insane. It’s also dishonest, which is part of what irks me during those player interviews.

              A lot of us forget that the young men playing this game are paid, in some cases quite well to hurl their bodies into each other. Oh, football aficionados will tell you the elements of brutality on the field are byproducts of the game, rather than its goal, and a compelling argument can be made in that regard. At the same time, it’s interesting how so many plays exhibiting the greatest carnage seem to be replayed in sports highlights and You Tube.

              For his part, Sherman appreciated the implications of his actions. According to a news report he said, “You're constantly learning and growing as a person, learning about how the world works and how what you say and do affects people and affects kids, especially. It's fun to learn new things about people, the bad, the good, and to have that open dialogue.”

              In the end, it’s hypocritical what happened to this young man after he ‘lost it’ briefly following the game. After all, minutes later when he was on camera again, he was completely composed and gushing the boring complements and canned platitudes expected from our gridiron gladiators.

              Do I condone Sherman’s conduct immediately following the game? No. Do I understand it? In the context of a 25-year-old in heated competition, yes. What’s harder to swallow were the assorted race-tinged posts and tweets Sherman received in the wake of his short on-camera rant.

              Sherman never once cursed during his tirade and had appropriately recomposed himself lightning fast. However, comments from disgruntled fans and others were less poised; they hurled bigoted insults in his direction, using the N-word, likening the ballplayer to a monkey and branding him a thug for his emotionally charged statement. Funny how our deepest regard for people who are different from us surfaces in times of high emotion or stress.

              Too bad Twitter, Facebook and the like can’t fine us when we ourselves cross the line in social media and in public.

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