I think that “hate” – that is, in the sense of sports fanaticism – can definitely be a useless emotion.
Take me, for example. I can say, with certainty, that I have had my share of loathsome times as a sports fan. If you’re as passionate for sports as I am, it almost comes with the territory. And, if you didn’t know from the many articles I have written in the past, I am a passionate San Francisco 49ers fan.
So, you can imagine the absolute seething rage I felt after this year’s Super Bowl – one that me and some of my close friends still refuse to acknowledge in social circles. For as long as the 49ers-Seahawks rivalry existed in its current form, I hoped and prayed that the hated franchise in the Pacific Northwest would never sniff a Super Bowl title – especially not before the 49ers experienced their sixth.
You can also imagine the hateful resentment I had for the team’s secondary star – one Richard Sherman – from how I saw him initially: the pompous blowhard that, as a 49ers fan, I felt deserved a slap in the face.
And, honestly, that’s all I saw him as, especially after this year’s NFC Championship game. I’m sure we all remember the aftermath – the Sherman soundbite heard ’round the world. I thought that, after the Super Bowl win that I still have a hard time acknowledging, I would hate Richard Sherman and his “Legion of Boom” forever – and be among the many bitter 49ers fans who, I’m sure, felt similarly.
And, today, that same player was rewarded for his services with the team, by becoming the highest-paid CB in the NFL. Sherman finalized a four-year contract extension with the Seahawks for a whopping $56 million, making them both the highest-salaried secondary players in the league.
It’s not like, by any means, he doesn’t deserve it – after all, his 8 INTs in 2013 led the league this past season; while playing on 98% of the secondary’s snaps, he held opposing offenses to a 45.5% completion percentage, or 9.3 percent less than the league average; and he led a secondary that held all-world QB Peyton Manning to a QBR of 24.4, and only 1 TD pass long after the game was decided.
But, today, even with the pit in my stomach that is the constant reminder of the Seahawks’ first championship in February, I saw the recent headline about Sherman, and couldn’t help but be a little happy for the man.
Not Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawk and loathsome nemesis to my beloved 49ers.
I feel happy for Richard Kevin Sherman – the overachieving, chip-on-his-shoulder DB who came from the mean streets of Compton, California to be an All-American WR and CB at Stanford, all while attaining a Communications degree.
The man who recently wrote a thought-provoking piece defending childhood friend DeSean Jackson amid accusations of gang ties.
A thoughtful scholar who used his most infamous episode as the platform to discuss race and stereotyping in Americana.
And the nice guy who has been using his platform as a Super Bowl champion to slowly change his public perception.
Take this commercial for Oberto Beef Jerky (of all things), for example. Before I knew this was a commercial for a dried beef snack, I thought it was a great ad about perseverance and brotherhood on the eve of the NFL Draft. And, coming from Richard Sherman, it certainly comes off as such:
Again, forgetting that it’s an Oberto Beef Jerky commercial, Sherman evokes the kind of appreciation that can only come from a man with humble beginnings (and a fifth-round pick), to where he is today. The thoughtfulness, alone, makes me see him in a different light.
On top of all that, I watched him this morning on “Numbers Never Lie,” before the deal was finalized, and the 49ers fan in me was half-expecting me to rub it in co-host (and fellow 49ers fan) Jemele Hill’s face when she brought up his rivals’ ongoing offseason issues, asking how significant it will be on them during the upcoming season.
Then, in another example of Richard Sherman being full of surprises, he said the following:
I don’t think it’ll be significant at all. I think a lot of it’s been a little bit blown out of proportion – especially the thing with Kap. He really did nothing wrong in the situation–from what most people can get from the situation, and to have his name slid through the dirt like that is kind of messed up. But, I think, at the end of the day, ball players are ball players, and they’ll go out there and be fine in the football field … I don’t think it’ll create much of a rift, at all.
I mean, after that, it might be enough for me not to hate the Seahawks as much anym–
–Oh, man. I’m just kidding. I’ll always hate the Seahawks.
But, I’ll say one thing, for sure: No matter what, I respect the hell out of Richard Sherman.