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Blather. Rants. Repeat. - The "T" Word, the "B" Word, and while we're at it, the "G" Word....
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The "T" Word, the "B" Word, and while we're at it, the "G" Word....
For the most part, I stop paying attention to professional football in this country once the Buffalo Bills are eliminated from contention. That generally occurs sometime between late October and, this year for most purposes, mid-November. But the game goes on for the rest of the country through this month and into next, and the most controversial moment of this past weekend's Conference Championships wasn't the pretty-white-boy matchup between Manning and Brady, but rather an unscripted moment from one of the defensive players in the later, more competitive game, one Richard Sherman of Stanford and Seattle:



I wasn't watching the game, nor did I see the video of this, but I heard the audio of it, and also heard about some of the player's antics following his game-changing interception- where he "bullwhipped" his opposing receiver and made choke signs at the 49er quarterback. And yes, based on that evidence, I was one of many people who responded by calling him out as a "thug" that the league should be reining in, to preserve whatever remnants of sportsmanship remain in this day and age.

It's now four days later, and the player has now suggested that my assertion of him being a "thug," and that of hundreds if not thousands of other commentators, is a dog-whistled substitute for dropping an N-bomb on him:

"The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays," Sherman said during a press conference on Wednesday. "It's like everyone else said the N-word and they said 'Thug' and they're like, 'Ah, that's fine.' That's where it kind of takes me aback and it's kind of disappointing."

This comment from the player himself follows numerous articles and comments which note his rising from the poverty of Los Angeles's Compton neighborhood, his excellence at Stanford, and his support of various good causes.  Based on all of the above, I accept the assertion and withdraw the "T" word from my characterization of the man.

However, I reserve the right to substitute the "B" word for it- for when you look at his entire course of conduct in the moments following the amazing sports play, his lack of sportsmanship was not the mark of a thug, but rings truer as the mark of a bully.

The facts make it clear: Sherman was better, stronger, faster than his on-field opponent.  He could not let those facts speak for themselves, but he resorted to visible signs of humiliation- whipping and choking gestures, followed by the content of his now infamous post-game interview- to assert that superiority over his opponent.  It wasn't about his team being better, it was about his victim being vanquished. And that's the behavior I find offensive, which is just as offensive no matter what the color or lexicon of the bully.

"What's the definition of a thug really?" Sherman asked reporters on Wednesday before comparing his antics to those of players involved in the recent NHL line brawl between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. "Maybe I'm talking loudly and doing something I'm not supposed to. But I'm not ... there was a hockey game where they didn't even play hockey. They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that and said, 'Oh, man. I'm the thug? What's going on here?'"

I'd heard about that imbroglio before hearing or thinking much about Sherman's planetary meltdown.  The NHL has always permitted, even glorified, fighting among players, just as onfield trash talk, per se, is an accepted part of the NFL landscape. But when those on-ice NHL fights degenerated into attacks on opposing players' locker rooms (as they did during that particular lily-white Vancouver-Calgary contest), the league responded by suspending the locker-room instigator without pay for a near-record 15 games.  Nobody's suggesting that Sherman be suspended from the Super Bowl for his antics, but if it's cleaner to classify him as a bully rather than as a thug, I'm down with that. First down, anyway.

----

Perhaps to distract from all this flak, the NFL commish dropped a minor bomb the other day by suggesting that the league might change or even eliminate the utterly boring procedure for kicking points-after following touchdowns.  As it now stands, a run or pass into the end zone gets an NFL team six points; they can then elect either a near-automatic kick for one point, or run a play from scrimmage to net them two.  NFL coaches, being generally more conservative than Rush Limbaugh, almost universally opt for the former, until and unless the score is nearly out of hand in the waning minutes of the game.

The various ideas under discussion would give a team seven points automatically; a run or pass play would present a true gamble, as a successful try would add a point to the touchdown, but a failed attempt would roll the TD back to six.  And that is why it is not likely to happen.

Why? Point spreads.


I'm sure the NFL is shocked, SHOCKED to find out that there's gambling going on in connection with their games. It's a major business in Las Vegas, and less but significantly so among wise guys everywhere.  The whole system depends on reliable mathemetics; under the current scoring system, it's rare for final scores to be separated by anything other than four out of ten digits: three (the margin of a field goal), seven (the margin of a touchdown), or either ten or four (derived from those two numbers being added or subtracted).  Yeah, once in a blue moon there's something called a safety, and in an even bluer moon there's a missed point-after or a two-point conversion, but the wise guys depend on those four digits to uphold their entire system.  If you start giving coaches the option of turning those sevens into eights or sixes, it's the equivalent of adding four cards- elevens of clubs/spades/hearts/diamonds- to a blackjack deck; it will totally gork the odds and the whole illegal betting process will become untenable.

So I'm betting against this change ever seeing the light of day- and I'm taking the points on that.

This entry was originally posted at http://captainsblog.dreamwidth.org/184975.html. Please comment here, or there using OpenID.
Comments
puppy_ciao From: puppy_ciao Date: January 24th, 2014 11:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't agree about Sherman- there is a history between him and Crabtree, and then if you listen to the audio from that moment (Sherman was mic'd up), you'll hear him saying "hell of a game" to Crab, who then shoved him in the face. Whether Sherman was sincere about the "good game" or not, meh. NFL players get hyped up a lot and trash talk. If someone shoved me in the face and I had a mic in front of me moments later, I'd rant too. I don't think he's any more of a bully than all the other players; the game kind of lends itself to that.

Side note, I do know some (thankfully few) people who are pretty thinly veiled racists and "thug" is definitely coded language for those people. I totally agree with him about that.
snowy_owlet From: snowy_owlet Date: January 24th, 2014 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree. There's a video as well - Sherman went for a handshake, saying "good game," and Crabtree shoved his face mask. The choking gesture came after that. It was an un-classy moment on both their parts from the shove onward, but I thought Sherman's published response was really thoughtful.
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: January 24th, 2014 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree that there's a lot more focus on the post-game remarks than on the on-field conduct, and that's too bad. I also didn't catch (until someone pointed it out in a comment somewhere) the dog-whistle effect of his interaction being with Erin Andrews- invoking the whole "gotta protect the pretty white woman from the scary black man" trope which still pervades among a portion of the country's white male population.

Missing from the discussion is anything about the hand-signals of bullwhips and chokeholds- except as to the latter, which Sherman later refused to apologize for. The league penalizes taunting, but even if they'd called it on him in this game-ending moment, all it would have done was move the final kneel-down by 15 yards. I wouldn't be surprised if the NFL eventually starts taking plays and even points off the board when players behave this badly within the lines.
onlyonechoice From: onlyonechoice Date: January 24th, 2014 12:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
If Chase Utley can say "World F*CKING champions" on live TV, WELL after the adrenaline of the game has worn off, and have it waved away, but Sherman can shout a few adrenaline-charged words and everyone loses their racist shit over it because he should KNOW better than to celebrate his victory? It says something more about us than about the players.

As another blogger said, shit-talking in sports has a long history, and even Hank Aaron tweeted support for Sherman in the face of the death threats Sherman was receiving.

It was a few sentences shouted on camera by a black man whose team JUST won their way to the Super Bowl. When SHOULDN'T someone feel good about themselves if not then?
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: January 24th, 2014 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
As Peter King pointed out, there's a reason they keep reporters out of locker rooms immediately following games, and it's not just to make the players stink less. It also gets the hormone levels down. But providing sideline reporters with such close access in that heated of a moment seems to run against that thinking. I wonder if the result will be reducing access (or at least tape-delaying the reactions).
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