The interview heard 'round the world. We all saw it. We've heard the countless debates, read the millions of tweets, and we will continue to be bombarded by the spectrum of extremity until the Super Bowl. While much of this is overwhelming, this case brought a very important issue to the forefront, a topic that should be discussed in all circles.
Greg Howard, a columnist for Deadspin, recently wrote an article titled, "Richard Sherman and the Plight of the Conquering Negro." His article forces the issue of race onto the Richard Sherman interview with Erin Andrews following the Seahawks victory in the NFC Championship Game over the 49ers. Howard initially describes the Sherman interview as being, "... a triumphant moment, and still to a lot of people there was something viscerally ugly about Sherman standing over a pretty blonde woman, yelling into our living rooms..."
Pause. Is that really what went through the mind of Americans at that very moment? Richard Sherman yelling into a microphone after a gladiator-esque battle invoked a sense of race driven hate?
Howard continues to push the issue of race to the forefront. "All this is based on the common, very American belief that black males must know their place, and more tellingly, that their place is somewhere different than that of whites. It's been etched into our cultural fabric that to act as anything but a loud, yet harmless buffoon or an immensely powerful, yet humble servant is overstepping." Here Howard eloquently defines the term "closet racism" and dresses it upon the image of not only white America but non-black America as a whole. Yet again, what does race got to do with it?
We all understand Deadspin and the countless journalistic enterprises who write pieces with captivating titles and an extreme position in order to increase the "page hits" and their name. Expectedly, Howard has received a plethora of criticism as well as support by many including our very own Brandon Spano. While admittedly Howard does make some strong relative points about the issue of race in America, this issue has nothing to do with race in America.
It is simply a case of paralysis by analysis.
This issue does, however, have everything to do with professionalism in sports. When Richard Sherman was taken by Erin Andrews following arguably the largest moment in Seahawks franchise history and Richard Sherman's career, I don't believe the majority of Americans were or are "closet racists" who had an issue with a black man being emotional after a historic victory. It is simply not true and a disservice to the fellow citizens of this country.
I have spoken with a countless number of fans, friends, and family since that moment on Sunday night, and none of them once mentioned the word race. When I asked them to define the issue in one term, the overwhelming response was "class".
What ever happened to the unwritten rule of sportsmanship? What ever happened to leaving it on the field? What ever happened to class?
That interview in that raucous Seattle stadium on that Sunday night, my friends, ushered in a new era in American sports: the death of class.
We've all witnessed trash-talkers throughout our career as sports fans. From the egotistic Deion Sanders to our very own Shannon Sharpe to Michael Jordan, athletes have always honored trash-talking as a part of the game. While the aforementioned all so to say "walked the walk and talked the talk," most athletes understood that once the clock hit 0:00, only respect and responsibility remained.
However, there seemingly is a new revolution in American sports by this new generation of athletes. Talented figures such as Johnny Manziel, Bryce Harper, and Russell Westbrook, infamous for their frequent unsportsmanlike antics, are sabotaging the infrastructure of class that was built by so many greats before them. We have never before seen such lack of professionalism to this magnitude across all of sports. This is not to say that the new generation does not carry class. Young stars like Russell Wilson, Mike Trout, and Sidney Crosby are just a few that do. However, these sportsmen must take it upon themselves to speak out and defend the little professionalism that remains. For if they are not actors, they will never be a factor.
Class is a variable that separates boys from men, professionals from legends. Athletes too often forget that they represent much more than their own interests. They represent an alumni, a franchise, a city, a fanbase, and a league that supports their endeavors. As an example, Duke Ihenacho, our own Broncos safety, recently tweeted before the AFC Championship Game, "This ain't about y'all." On the contrary my friend. This is all about us, the fans. Without the fans, your job as an athlete and entertainer would simply not exist.
At the end of his article, Greg Howard of Deadspin claims, "And in two weeks time, in the year 2014, too many of us will be rooting for the Denver Broncos for no other reason than to knock Richard Sherman down a few notches, if only to put him back in his place." If anyone has seen the recent polls done by ESPN on the question, "Who Do You Want To Win The Super Bowl?", you know that Howard's statement, or understatement I should say, is incredibly valid. This Superbowl is already being catalyzed by the MSM into a battle of good versus evil. Regardless of how the storybook matchup is portrayed in the coming weeks, I have never been more proud of my franchise than I am today. The Denver Broncos are and have always been synonymous with the very thing that is now being destroyed. I only hope that the viewers around this nation, especially young sports fanatics, observe and remember the likes of Peyton Manning and Champ Bailey, and carry their light into the future.
Call it "coach-speak". Call it "kissing ass." Class and professionalism is a dying breed. The future integrity of sports is now going into the very same place where trash talk was conceived. And that's just a damn shame.