Once Richard Sherman propelled the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII with one of the coolest plays imaginable, then went on a rant for the ages, we knew that stupidity was sure to follow. But did we expect this much of it, even from ourselves? Let's recap.
It bears repeating: what Richard Sherman did, from start to finish on Sunday, was one of the coolest things we've ever seen in sports. He was so good at his job that his opponents threw the ball in his direction two times, the second of which resulted in him bending the laws of gravity to punch his team's ticket to the Super Bowl.
As if that wasn't cool enough, he then cut his now infamous, WWE-esque promo during his postgame interview with Erin Andrews. It was the most ballsy, entertaining thing possible. But we couldn't just enjoy that, could we?
Having all just said "HOLY SHIT THAT WAS COOL," everyone rushed to Twitter to make jokes and revel in a rare time where an athlete in a sport that pretends to care about decorum and class to pander to potential Ford F-150 buyers said "fuck this, guys, I'm going in." And it was funny. And we had some fun for a little while, until the dipshits of the world found a way to ruin it.
But God forbid we inject a little bit of fun into a game where players are fined for not wearing the right color socks, or some other dumb shit. So football purists had to rush to the scene to ensure that the sanctity of the game was preserved!
They called Sherman classless, though many of them stayed quiet when Brett Favre used to sprint around the field after throwing a touchdown pass. They said that he lacked discipline. They said that these things would prevent Sherman and the Seahawks from winning a championship, even though their brash defense and third most penalized team has done better than 30 teams already this season.
But what about CLASS? What about SPORTSMANSHIP? What about the CHILDREN!?!? Just seconds after one of the coolest things in sports happened, people found a way to suck all of the fun out of it. Even Tom Brady took a shot at Sherman, extolling the virtues of the Patriot Way, even though Rob Gronkowski has a goddamn touchdown celebration named after himself.
Already, Sherman and the Seahawks have had to come out and admit that, despite Sherman not actually doing anything wrong, that he shouldn't have done what he did. We may never see that kind of emotion from him again as a result. These people have effectively ruined Richard Sherman for the rest of us.
Somehow, though, these people managed to not be the worst people in this situation!
We've all saw the racist garbage that came after the Coolest Guy In Sports did the coolest thing in recent sports memory. Sherman was labeled a thug, or way worse. And while some of these buffoons claimed that they weren't trying to be racist, it was pretty easy for us to call a spade a spade. While this wasn't fun, it was important, which lead to some actually positive dialogue to occur.
Now, before we get too far into this, allow me to acknowledge that no amount of dialogue will change the minds of some people who are too stupid to shed their prejudices. But, despite there being no cure all for issues like this one, plenty of people realized that their blanket statements about Richard Sherman were just plain stupid.
People who called Sherman "just another dumb athlete" were made to find out that he was a charitable, well-spoken guy, and were reminded not to judge a book by its color or, in this case, an athlete by its skin color. Grantland's Rembert made a great point in mentioning that just looking at where Sherman went to college didn't tell the whole story. Iron Mike Gallego talked about how this is more than just a way for sports talk personalities to fill a few segments during a slow sports week. Greg Howard reminded us that we as a society have a problem with seeing a black man showing that kind of emotion in the face of a petite, blonde, and most importantly, white woman.
The best of these dialogues happened when, who else, Richard Sherman stepped to the microphone during a press conference and dropped more knowledge on people about the use of the word thug when talking about him. He couldn't have been more spot on in his assertion that "thug" has become the new n-word in a way.
Did these things end racism in America, or anywhere else? Of course not. Idiots are going to be idiots. But we were having legitimately constructive dialogue about a topic that a lot of people like to ignore and pretend isn't an issue in this country, and that was refreshing. It was also short lived.
In Howard's piece about Sherman, he embedded a tweet from Fox Sports' Kayla Knapp.
While a tweet like this could clearly be construed as racist, sexist, or something else, it never gave off that vibe to me. Either way, it helped to illustrate Howard's point, and he understandably used it to do just that. As a result, Knapp has been labeled a racist by many. Others have derided Howard for using it and putting her in a position to be branded that way.
Regardless of where you stand on that debate, the subject had been changed for many. The constructive dialogue about racism in an allegedly post-racial America was over, and some were back to talking about journalistic ethics like we were before the weekend started, when Grantland's Dr. V story caught heat for its questionable ethics.
If it wasn't that, it was something else. Either way, we changed the subject again. As Iron Mike Gallego said in his piece, most white folks will forget and move on like we always do. For people who are consistently affected by this societal ill, that's not such an easy task.
On Sunday night, we had just seen one of the coolest things in recent sports history from the coolest guy in sports. By midweek, we were having healthy discussions about a real problem in our world. By Thursday night, we've done a pretty good job of ruining both.