Thursday, November 03, 2016

Why Richard Sherman Is Wrong

Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks has caused a stir with his October 27 piece at the Players Tribune site attacking the NFL over cracking down on endzone celebrations. His epistle warrants response.

The NFL is cracking down on endzone celebrations because they are immature, they reflect that players lack focus on the game, and it's an attempt by players to portray themselves as something they are not - more important than the game. Sherman ignores examples where players failed to score because they were more worried about what celebration they would undertake - the funniest example was Cris Dishman of the 1990 Houston Oilers running back a pick six, then starting to hotdog it and thus getting the ball swatted out of his hand.   Sherman refuses to get it - the players are supposed to grow the hell up; maturity matters more than emotion.   The way to celebrate is exactly as Barry Sanders did it - you've been there before, so act like it.   And Sanders made giving the ball back to the ref the most memorable celebration of all.   Players who put more thought into celebrations instead of focusing on winning the game have no case for not being punished for it because they need to grow up and become adults.

Sherman's comparison to cheerleader dances is insulting and merely shows more graphically he doesn't get it.

He also refuses to get it about the league's reaction to domestic violence issues - the league's initial handling of the Ray Rice issue was the correct one based on the objective information; it was the ass-covering double jeopardy in reaction to a video - that verified everything Rice told all investigators - that was the real problem.   We also now know the league's one-game suspension of Josh Brown was over one incident of grabbing his now-ex's wrist - in short, an incident that in sober fact does not constitute abuse, yet media anger over information released after the fact once again led to double jeopardy.   Sherman should be angry at the media's endless advocacy of double jeopardy and the hideously dumbed-down definition of "domestic abuse" more than the league.

Certainly Sherman is right about how the league strives to phrase itself so it gives itself wiggle room to make things up as it goes along - even to misquoting its own rules.

"The commissioner simply has too much power."   Sherman is only half-right, for he's ignoring the behind-the-scenes undercutting of Goodell by the owners and the subtle but growing strength the players are getting against him.  

Sherman also ignores why fans love the game - for the athleticism, physicality, strategic planning and execution, scoring, and the spectacular plays.   A league of Barry Sanders-type players who make amazing plays without strutting or showing off (see for instance the 1972 NY Jets at Colts Game Of The Week where Joe Namath would score touchdowns without reacting) is a league more appealing than the fake attitudinal one Sherman pretends people somehow prefer.   The NFL is not enforcing a policy against fun - it is enforcing a policy for maturity and focus. Sherman thinks the crackdown on celebrations is somehow a reason for the drop in ratings - here are the real reasons -

There is now popular recognition of what players like Drew Brees have said for some time - Roger Goodell is maliciously ignorant of his game and does not deal in any kind of sincerity or faith with anyone - "It's very difficult to have a genuine, authentic disagreement with Roger," as lawyer Peter Ginsberg has put it.  The issue of what constitutes a catch is Goodell's league office refusing to give receivers benefit of the doubt.

It is now a transition period for star power in the league. Peyton Manning's retirement has been a strikingly important loss in terms of star recognition for the league, and young players like Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, etc. have not established enough success yet to become true stars, while more veteran players like Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan have not won enough to become stars. Dakota Prescott and Zeke Elliott of the Cowboys are farther along in that category. The league needs time for these and other players to become true stars

There is still a perception that there is no upward mobility in the league - the same teams will win the conferences and win the Superbowl; there will be no more worst-to-first stories or comeback teams akin to the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland's other pro teams (Lake Erie Monsters and the AHL's Calder Cup, and of course the Cavaliers in the NBA).   This unfortunately is buttressed by some hard facts -  the last twenty-one Superbowls have had only seven AFC teams and thirteen NFC teams - Pittsburgh, New England, and Denver have accounted for fifteen AFC Titles (with the Ravens and Colts adding four more) while the Packers, NY Giants, Seahawks, Panthers, and Rams accounted for thirteen NFC Titles.   One-shot Superbowl teams in that span like the Titans, Raiders, Cardinals, Saints, and 49ers have been rare and with 2016 underway, despite numerous formerly 1-3 teams clawing into playoff contention too many teams such as Miami, the NY Jets, the Rams, the Browns, and the Bucs are realistically eliminated from playoff contention as of Week Eight.    

The league thus needs a resurgence of worst-to-first teams and comeback teams, plus its young stars and potential veteran stars need to win more and thus establish some level of star power.

In that sense Sherman is missing the point - the league's real problems are problems time needs to address.   Players need to grow up, not strut up and down.   And Sherman needs to better analyze what's really going on.  "This isn't politics.....This is entertainment."  No Richard - it is competition, and competition is life, and life is focus.

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