If you haven’t seen Richard Sherman’s post-game interview with Erin Andrews from seconds after the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship, do yourself a favor. Watch it. Right now.
This had me smiling ear to ear. I didn’t watch it live. I don’t even really watch football except when it’s forced upon me by my friends. I’d almost always rather be in the ocean on Sundays or just spending that precious 3-hours being self-involved like usual.
But not after Richard Sherman’s post-game interview. That got me interested. Because it was raw. Unscripted. (I think.) Honest. And the earnestness with which Erin Andrews asks, “Who was talking about you?” is brilliantly hilarious.
Point is: It got people talking, and I think that’s as much as you can ask of a professional athlete in a post-game interview. The conversations that followed represent the full potential of a veritable media orgasm.
That’s just a representative sample of the gift-wrapped, thought-provoking headlines that have appeared around the Internet in the past week. From Gawker to Huffington Post to Deadspin to CNN to the Boston Globe, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure it lit up your Facebook news feed the same way it did mine. People have opinions about this. Strong ones.
And it’s glorious.
Sometimes it takes an arrogant, impassioned Stanford graduate from Compton to kick the apathy right out of American consciousness. Kick it! Kick it again!
Zealous reporters painted his outburst with shades of racism. More measured pundits predictably exposed their bigotry. Then they dug into Sherman’s past. They made his early graduation from Stanford a chest-beating nod to not judge a book by its cover. They unveiled his blue collar upbringing. They uncovered emails from his freshman college dormitory. They examined who he is more closely, because the outburst required further scrutiny. That’s the highest compliment an athlete can receive from a news cycle fixated on the superficial.
When the eyes of the world watch football (or sport) for entertainment, they deserve entertainment. Richard Sherman, knowingly or not, provided that in its greatest form. What’s more, he ignited insightful discussion among Americans far and wide about important topics. His raw, emotional outburst challenged people to examine their own beliefs about race in America, grace, etiquette, entitlement, stereotypes – the whole gamut. We should be thanking him for that. It wasn’t a war that opened up meaningful dialog. Or a public policy issue like immigration or health care. Nope. It was just a dude who’s worked very hard at his sport who vindicated a personal vendetta and threw it in his nemesis’ face by yelling into a microphone. Pretty harmless stuff. News organizations should DEFINITELY be thanking him. But the general public too. Because he gave everyone something interesting to discuss for two weeks.
Surfing (and all professional sports) could learn something from this.
I would love to watch John John Florence rip the microphone from GT’s hands at Pipeline after claiming the Triple Crown, grab the camera, stare square into the lens and ask where Kolohe is now before dropping the mic into the sand and pushing the camera out of his face. Ask if Dane had enough t-shirt scribbles and teen angst surf films to last him for another decade. John John couldn’t keep track while weaving through another buzzer beating Backdoor death trap. Too busy winning.
Not to say I don’t value sportsmen. I do. Honestly, I much prefer them. That’s why I love Greg Long and Kelly Slater. But I also appreciate entertainment.
To that end, I’d love for more athletes (and surfers) to boldly champion outlandish causes after they win titles. Then we could search through their college emails (if they went to college) and get to know them better. The highest form of flattery. And Richard Sherman’s interview evolved into an American race discussion, because much of America is still racist and Richard Sherman is black. Aside from tensions between Brazilians and Hawaiians, the World Tour isn’t quite so socio-politically explosive, so we would need to force those issues into the dialog.
IE: I would like to overhear one of the following hypothetical conversations in the lineup after Snapper:
Man, that’s messed up that Kelly Slater thinks America should more openly embrace Communism, because self interest and greed have openly and ironically destroyed the fabric of our nation.
Dude, did Joel Parkinson really say that abortion is the same as murdering your neighbor after he comboed Taj in the final? That’s crazy. Would you be okay with your girl having an abortion?
I had no idea that Mick Fanning’s uncle was gay and nearly committed suicide as a kid from homophobic bullying. Crazy how boldly he believes in gay marriage. What do you think of gay marriage, bro?
That would be fun. Uninteresting people would say, “Just do what you’re paid to do: Surf and keep your mouth shut.” Interesting people would not. They’d mull it over and discuss with their friends because athletes they admire expressed strong opinions about important issues when the spotlight shone brightest. And, in that case, everyone wins.
The athlete is more relevant. Suddenly, he has substance and opinions. And new endorsements – arguably making him a more attractive investment than ever before. Ask Dustin Barca about this phenomenon. The public has meaningful conversations that challenge their beliefs. The media gets to turn it over as only the media can. The sport becomes a focal point like never before.
So there’s my challenge to the winner of the Quik Pro this March when the ASP fires back up again. When you get a mic shoved in your face and you’re tempted to brush it off with a dull, apathetic platitude, think better of it. If you’re not sure what outlandish cause to champion yet, I’m happy to build out a detailed campaign full of shocking, thoughtful messages that are guaranteed to keep you relevant for years to come. I’ve got lots of ideas.
I think it was Bonnie Raitt who said it best: Let’s give ’em something to talk about. Thanks in advance.