The Sherman effect in sports journalism


As most know, last Sunday the Seattle Seahawks emerged as Super Bowl champions, manhandling the AFC champion Denver Broncos, 43-8. The win was largely thanks to the defense, particularly the secondary, nicknamed the Legion of Boom (L.O.B). The unit has been touted recently as one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. However, arguably the best player on that defense, CB Richard Sherman, is also undoubtedly the most controversial figure in the game today.

Sherman made national headlines due to his postgame interview following the NFC Championship game, an event in which he made a game-saving play to help the Seahawks defeat the San Fransisco 49ers. When Erin Andrews asked Sherman to analyze the final play, he forcefully yelled at the camera, “I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get! Don’t you ever talk about me! … Don’t you ever open your mouth about the best, or Imma shut it for you real quick! L.O.B!”

Obviously, this response is not typical for a professional athlete in a post-game interview. However, it raises the question, should it be? Most players are taught by their organizations to speak to reporters in near clichés and give simple answers that are seen as more professional. For example, a more common answer to Andrews’ question would be, “I was just trying to make a play and I’m glad my teammate was able to come down with the interception. We played a great game today and the 49ers are a great team.”

Although something to that effect would be a typical answer, it is questionable whether that is all that the player would really like to say. The reason that sports in general, and the NFL in particular, are so popular and exciting to watch is the intensity and passion displayed by the players during every single play. When you think about it, it is a weird concept to ask the players to shift out of hyper-competitive mode into interview mode so soon after the game is over.

Would the game not be that much more interesting if more post-game interviews were honest and candid like Sherman’s? It would add a whole new element to the game for the fans, who are rarely really able to see the trash-talking and personal interactions between opposing players that go on between the lines.

Even Andrews herself, who many thought would be troubled by the incident, was very supportive of Sherman, saying, “I wish more athletes would be like that. We want someone to lose their minds like that.”

Although it is unlikely that most coaches, particularly old-school coaches like the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, will allow their players to speak this way to the media, it will be interesting to see if there are any even minor changes in the way that players handle reporters next season. If there are, and fiery interviews like Sherman’s become more commonplace, we could be seeing the start of a completely new style of sports journalism.

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