RICHARD SHERMAN IS A LOUDMOUTH JERK
The above is an opinion shared by seemingly thousands of Internet commenters and not an insignificant number of sportswriters. Remember that time Sherman went off about how he is the best cornerback in the league after the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers last year? Yeah, people didn't like that.
It was pretty easy to drag a net blindly through the Internet and fish out a column decrying the death of sportsmanship, or something Jason Whitlock tooted out, or whatever. Truthfully, the sports columnists who decried Sherman seemed more like echoes of the cacophony from the truly base places of the Internet, and even that wasn't necessarily representative of broader feelings about Sherman. It was just loud, and then amplified by the many who made the correct point that Sherman didn't do anything wrong, but probably overstated the problem in the process.
Tom Brady is all that is good
If not for DeflateGate, Sherman vs. Brady might have been sucking up our oxygen instead. Once again, we can use Whitlock as a barometer of what the rabble is saying. From last June:
Brady is fearless. Two years after the knee injury I thought would undermine his pocket toughness, Brady is back to being Brady, a courageous, unflappable pocket passer.
Words bolded for emphasis. Arrange those in whatever order you'd like and go to town in the comment section below. Prior to the mystery of the deflating balls, mashing things about Brady's courageous unflappability and tough fearlessness wouldn't have met much opposition, or at least not well-substantiated opposition.
The straw man version of Brady was the perfect foil for the straw man version of Sherman, and Sunday would have been the perfect denouement (or at least another chapter) of a feud that began in 2012 when Sherman chirped at Brady after the Seahawks came back to beat the Patriots, and sent out the meme that launched perhaps the first of many major waves of sports takes aimed squarely at Sherman.
DeflateGate ruined the matchup in two ways: 1) By providing a bigger, more immediate storyline and 2) Casting Brady as a sinner. Sherman vs. Brady isn't the easy bill it once was, not like when their places along the good-and-evil continuum were more clearly marked. What's interesting is that the murkiness makes the matchup even better.
TOM BRADY IS A LOUDMOUTH JERK
The above is an opinion espoused by Sherman for more than two years ago. Brady threw a third quarter interception to Sherman, then, according to the defensive back, went up to Sherman and safety Earl Thomas:
"I kept saying I'm going to get that next time. Every TV timeout, I went up and said it right to [Brady]: 'Please keep trying me. I'm going to take it from you.' That was when they were winning. He just gave me that look and said, 'Oh, I'll see you after game.' Well, I made sure I saw him after the game."
The Seahawks trailed 23-10 after a Stephen Gostkowski field goal with 9:25 remaining, then they scored the final two touchdowns of the game to eke out a 24-23 win. Since then, Sherman has made it a point to needle Brady and expose him as an unabashed shit talker.
Sherman tweeted this immediately after the game:
And a year ago conspicuously left Brady off his list of the top-five smartest quarterbacks in the NFL.
And rehashed "U Mad Bro" with reporters last week:
"I think people somehow get a skewed view of Tom Brady," Sherman said. "That he's just a clean-cut guy that does everything right and never says a bad word to anyone. We know him to be otherwise.
"In that moment of him being himself, he said some things and we returned the favor. Unfortunately, he apparently didn't remember what he said. I'm sure also in those moments when he's yelling at the ref, he's just saying, 'Good job. You're doing a fantastic job. Keep it up.' "
And released a commercial for Neff sunglasses that was a little more passive-aggressive in that he let a llama do the talking for him:
Brady hasn't taken any of Sherman's bait before this year's Super Bowl, but that doesn't mean he isn't still salty as hell. Before last year's Super Bowl -- more than a year after the 2012 game against the Seahawks -- Brady went on Boston radio and commented on Sherman's rant against Michael Crabtree after the NFC Championship:
"I don't know him at all. I've watched him play. He's that kind of guy," Brady said. "So, you know. I approach the game -- and I have respect for my opponents. That's the way our team always plays. We win with graciousness, and when we lose, we could do better. Some teams don't always do that, or that's not their program."
Of the easy tropes people apply to Brady, "unflappable" may be the most out of place, given how many times we've seen Brady lose his mind. He yells at coaches, and at refs, and sometimes just into the ether. Brady is ridiculously good at what he does -- hence, six Super Bowl appearances -- but he is certainly flappable. He flapped against the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional round, tossing a terrible interception one drive after getting poked in the eye and screaming at everything in earshot.
Brady gets mean on occasion, and most certainly hold grudges. And that's fine. The silly thing is pretending he doesn't have the elements of a human being that we all have in some quantity. That may be Sherman's biggest point, and the fact that he's relentlessly stating it makes the forthcoming Super Bowl much more fun.
Richard Sherman is all that is good
The Patriots were taken out of their comfort zone last week. Brady was unconvincing as he denied DeflateGate accusations. Bill Belichick was angry he had to do something other than prepare for the game. Sherman seized the moment and introduced a little more discomfort, calling Brady, essentially, a two-face.
SUper Bowl 2015
SUper Bowl 2015
We know Brady cares about his image. A New York Times profile published Monday described Brady's big picture thinking, how he describes his need to win "in notably desperate terms" and how Brady's own father believes "it will end badly" when the Patriots decide, one day, that they are a better team without his son under center. Brady isn't a copy/paste of Johnny Unitas, he's a feral goddamn animal still clawing for survival though he's done as much or more to secure his place in history as any player ever.
Sherman is good, perhaps better than anyone, at agitating his opponents' basest instincts. He already knows that he can make Brady snap. He understands as well as anyone who Brady is. More than 10 years separate the two players in age, yet they're unified by the belief that they're the absolute best at what they do despite going overlooked upon entering the NFL (Sherman was selected 154th overall in the NFL Draft, Brady 199th).
Only, one of those players is made more vulnerable by the fact he has to give diplomatic answers. We can be fairly certain that the Sherman we see and hear is actually who he is, and he has raised the tension of an already impossibly big matchup and helped us appreciate the rivalry for what it truly is -- a feud between two impossibly motivated football players hellbent on winning and thus the absolute destruction of his counterpoint.