I promised myself I wouldn't write about Richard Sherman and his off-field behavior again this winter.
Honestly, I promised.
Even after I first saw Sherman bickering with ESPN's Skip Bayless, I still felt the urge to resist. The whole incident was embarrassing for all parties and why add more gasoline to the fire?
Besides, by last Thursday night, John McGrath at The News Tribune brilliantly questioned whether Sherman was a victim of identity theft:
It was eerie, Sherm. Here was this jerk on ESPN, purporting to be Richard Sherman, and as expertly as he mimicked your voice, it was obvious he wasn’t the real Richard Sherman, the product of a hardscrabble neighborhood in Compton, Calif. who earned a scholarship to Stanford, graduated with a communications degree, and went on to become the kick-butt cornerback acknowledged as the heart and soul of the Seahawks’ defense.
That Richard Sherman is an authentic wonder — a role model for kids, and an inspiration for their parents. That Richard Sherman makes me proud to be a sportswriter. There aren’t many occupations affording rumpled old duffs like me a chance to converse with some of the best and brightest young talents in the land, and I’ve got one of them.
In two short paragraphs, McGrath gives you everything you need to know.
Yet the more I thought about it, I started to wonder not whether Sherman was a victim so much as someone testing the limits and boundaries of the universe, much like...a toddler.
For anyone who has experience raising small children, the year roughly between age two and three is a revelation for both you and your child. There are highs and lows of epic proportions that periodically defy all logic and lead you to question your abilities as a parent and the sanity of your child.
In short, the "Terrible Twos" isn't some old wives tale or urban myth, it's very, very real.
So how does this apply to arguably one of the NFL's up and coming stars?
Sherman, after his second year in the league, is all over the place this winter in both good and bad ways. One minute, he's having a pillow fight with Darrelle Revis on Twitter, the next, he's speaking to kids at his old high school in Compton, California.
It's funny to think that everyone was all in an uproar about his appearance on "First Take" on Thursday, when just the day before, Sherman visited three high schools in Los Angeles, including his alma mater in Compton to promote Students With a Goal (SWAG), according to Clare Farnsworth at Seahawks.com who reported:
Sherman feels it’s his place – his turn, his obligation – to give back. Whether it’s time, advice, even equipment, he wants to be there for these students that now are where he once was.
“They know I’m tangible, they know I’m here,” Sherman said. “I’m not hard to find, I’m not hard to reach. Any chance I can get to give back – whether it be cleats, helmets or just someone to speak – anything I can do to help I try to get done. Because without this place, I don’t think I’d be the man or the player I am today.
“When you feel like you owe people things – in the same sense with your family and your parents – you want to give and reward them or repay them for everything they’ve done for you.”
For months now I've been struggling to find the proper way of digesting all of this.
Right here before us is one of the more intriguing people you are ever going to find in professional sports and I can't tell whether I love him or loathe him on any given day. Unlike Russell Wilson, who you could basically set your watch to, Sherman is a runaway train. One minute, you want to hug him for his work with school kids, and the next, you want to send him to his room for acting like boorish brute on TV.
Through it all, you question everything and then wonder if you're looking too closely at things or not examining things closely enough.
His on-field play is other-worldly, but did he do it while taking PEDs?
He managed to successfully defend his innocence against the NFL, yet why flaunt it?
Meanwhile if he's so smart off the field, then why is he wasting his time fighting with Skip Bayless and Darrelle Revis?
Is this winter about self promotion or self improvement?
John Boyle at the Everett Herald offers his take and makes some solid points:
As far as any of us know, Sherman isn't breaking the law, he isn't being a jerk to his fans, he isn't out getting drunk and making a fool of himself at clubs—he's talking. OK, he's talking a lot, but if anyone is being hurt by this, it's Sherman, and he's smart enough to know what he's doing, so if his goal is to get attention by being a villain of sorts, why do any of us really care if he's playing at an All-Pro level?
Boyle then helps provide us with an answer to arguably the biggest question about Sherman for 'Hawks fans:
So is Sherman a role model or a trash talker? Well he's both, and there's really no reason for him to choose one or the other.
When Sherman is on a Twitter rant, or making news with outlandish TV interviews, you'll hear people say, "He's better than that." No, he isn't. He is that; it's part of him. He doesn't want to be "better than that," because that Ali-esque persona is just one part of who Sherman is, as is the big-hearted part that gives back to this community at his home town. It's not an either-or with Sherman. It's the whole package, take it or leave it. And as somebody whose job involves talking with athletes, I'll gladly take it, and if you're a Seahawks fan, you sure as hell should too.
Understand that I'm willing to accept the whole package, just as any parent does with their child. That is especially true in Sherman's case as he holds so much promise that it's hard to deny him the attention that he continues to crave.
Deep down though, I want the very best for Sherman and I also want him to continue being honest. But is being too honest, hurting him?
I honestly don't think he knows anymore than the rest of us as Boyle believes and that concerns me.
No matter what age we are, we think we know it all. Yet the harsh truth is that wisdom is often gained through hardship and struggle over time as we evolve. While Sherman no doubt has endured many hardships building up to this moment in time, it seems now that he's creating demons of people he need not bother both on the field and off it.
Sherman isn't competing against Darrelle Revis, he's competing against wide receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, etc.
As for debating Skip Bayless, I think we can all agree that's just foolishness in more ways than I care to list out here.
Finally, what concerns me perhaps more than anything is that in a strange way, it almost feels like Sherman is working on borrowed time given how much he's done this offseason both good and bad.
Why is he in such a rush to take on the world?
Before our eyes, he's grown in leaps and bounds, yet the chip on his shoulder keeps getting bigger as he seemingly can't let a day go by to give his own shoulders a chance to catch up. Perhaps he believes that the world is filled with villains—both real and imaginary—for him to conquer?
I suppose all we can do is watch and wonder from the sidelines while remaining optimistic and patient. One minute beaming with joy, the other cringing in horror as Sherman finds his way through the world.
While we wait though, I see no harm in making one small request. All I want is for Richard Sherman is to not only be true to himself, but with each and every kid who looks up to all 6'3" inches of him.
If he continues to do that while living up to a standard of excellence he has set for himself both on the field and off, those kids he spoke to last week will respect him far more for his honesty and integrity than all the pairs of cleats money can buy.
Even Skip Bayless would probably have a hard time arguing with that.
Fingers crossed that Sherm figures that out sooner rather than later.