Act like you’ve been there before — a simple notion that when applied to sports means to show class while basking in the glow of glory.
Barry Sanders is my favorite example of this. Sanders is arguably one of the best running backs of all time, and after he was done leaving defenses dazed by his seemingly magical moves and had tallied six points for his team, he would toss the ball to the referee, embrace his teammates, and that was it.
Sanders is in a group of former superstars that helped keep the balance between modest men in pro sports and the showboats who do all they can to grab individual attention for simply doing their job.
While the scales have drastically tipped in the last decade in the showboats’ favor, the All-Pro Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s need to individualize his team’s win and at the same time demean an individual on the other team, left my jaw wide open.
Sherman is a wealthy, Stanford-educated, superstar athlete. The man has the whole world in the palm of his hand. Widely considered the best corner back in the NFL and in the waning moments of the NFC Championship made the game’s winning play, sending him and the Seahawks to beautiful New Jersey, where they will face the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
But when asked after the game about his game-winning play, he chose not to credit his team, thank the fans, give all the glory to God or say hi to his mom. He chose to proclaim he is the best corner in the league, then put the 49ers’ Michael Crabtree on blast.
“I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman said on the field. “When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you going to get.”
Obviously, Sherman had never been ‘‘there” before and acted like an arrogant 13-year-old who just beat his older brother for the first time.
Later, when addressing the media a second time, Sherman again promoted himself and denigrated Crabtree.
“I was making sure everyone knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver,” Sherman said. “And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that’s what happens. I appreciate that he knows that now.”
Sherman is self-centered and classless, but we already knew that.
Starting with youth sports, young athletes are taught sportsmanship. At first, how not to be poor sports. If you lose, go back to the drawing board, train harder and give it another go. We are also taught to win the right way by being gracious and humble in victory — a lesson obviously lost on Sherman.
Someone who didn’t miss that lesson is Peyton Manning. Let’s take a look at his statements after the Denver Bronco’s 26-16 win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
“For me personally, it’s very gratifying. It’s been well documented what all I’ve been through. Our team has been through a lot, so it goes hand in hand,” Manning said. “We just overcome obstacles. We’ve rallied and used the guys around us. It’s really been a collective group effort.”
That’s how someone who understands the idea of “the team” answers a question that started out about him specifically.
So why did Sherman feel the need to bash Crabtree, after proclaiming in emphatic fashion directly into the camera that he was the best?
Simple answer, I don’t know. But it did get me thinking: What are some of the other instances where a winning moment made you want to cringe? There aren’t many.
The most recent instance was Michael Jordan’s 2009 Hall of Fame induction speech, where the greatest basketball player of all time spent less time thanking those who helped him along the way and more time shooting jabs at past adversaries.
For the most part, even the most conceited athletes show grace in victory. It’s a time of celebration, not a platform for your bravado. You proved you’re the best on the field. No need to let your mouth and elevated sense of self detract from that.
Could you imagine if Meryl Streep got up for her Oscar acceptance speech for “Iron Lady” and screamed, “I’m the best actress in the world. That’s what you get when you put a sorry actress like Viola Davis up against me.”
That wouldn’t happen because Streep’s got class. But you get the point.
And here’s my point, when you accomplish something great do it with humility and perspective. Act like you’ve been there before, don’t act like Sherman.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.