The Sherman Effect: The Proof Is In The Pudding 

Richard Sherman.

If you’ve had enough, or aren’t interested in yet another Sherm discussion, feel free to take a pass on this blog post.  Countless media outlets have covered some angle relating to the Seattle Seahawks cornerback’s on-field interview with Erin Andrews following the NFC Championship game over the last several days, so I fully intended on staying out of the cluster.  Why bother, right?

Well, I now feel compelled to jump in on the action for two reasons. 

A) new “evidence” has emerged as to what exactly went on between Sherman and 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree on the last play of the NFC Championship game, prompting Sherm’s jacked-up mini-rant, and

B) the vocabulary used to describe Sherman says a lot about our country in general and specifically, certain individuals who used such words.  

The above video comes to us care of NFL Films and NFL Network.  As you know, NFL Films places microphones on coaches and players during games throughout the season, creating a “Sound FX” segment that gives viewers a great insight as to what really went down between the hash marks.  

If you start 40 seconds into the video above, you’ll see that Sherman approaches Crabtree after the game-ending play, pats him on the butt and says, “hell of a game.”  Crabtree’s response was to shove his hand in Sherman’s face.  

Someone in Crabtree’s corner knows a hell of a lot about excitedly greeting an opponent after you’ve beat them.  Remember when 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh gave then-Lions head coach Jim Schwartz a bit of an aggressive good-game-smack on the chest back in 2011?  If your memory of the ensuing brawl is a bit fuzzy click this link to watch the video.

Many, many things were said about Harbaugh and Schwartz after that debacle, but one word I don’t recall hearing about either coach was “thug.”  

Sherman, on the other hand, has been absolutely hammered for his excited utterance into the lens of a Fox camera within seconds of earning his first trip to the Super Bowl (to be played against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2).  

Thug, as defined by Merriam-Webster is “a violent criminal,” and “a brutal ruffian or assassin.”  

Deadspin posted a story showing usage of the word “thug” on television went through the roof on Monday, following the NFC title game Sunday evening.  The article even broke down usage of the word by television market.  In the least surprising part of the story, Boston led the nation in “thug” chatter, with WEEI radio’s good’ol boys Dennis & Callahan dropping a thug-bomb assault on their listeners during a discussion about Sherman.   Those dudes…SMH.  

So…. Harbaugh and Schwartz are jerks, loud mouths, out of control, etc.  Sherman is a thug (which by definition, is a murderer).  Why the distinction?

Common sense tells us that two of these things are not like the other.  The aforementioned coaches are white, and Sherman is black.  It’s a fairly simple (and upsetting) truth. 

Richard Sherman agrees with that assessment and pointed out the hypocrisy in a recent press conference. 

Sherman said that some folks are now using “thug” as a substitute for the N-word, and by golly, he’s right!  When Sherman retires from football, he should immediately jump into the sports media business because he’s entertaining, intelligent, and comes up with great talking points.  

"There was a hockey game [Flames vs. Canucks] where they didn’t even play hockey,” Sherman said on the subject of his new “thug” label during the press conference.

"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?’"

Sadly, I think we all know the answer.  

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Dear Chris,

Hey man, how’s it going? I would like to sugar coat the meaty contents of this letter by first saying congratulations on making it to the Super Bowl, as you and your 49ers teammates have made the city of San Francisco beam with football pride for the first time in many years.  That is wonderful.

More importantly, I have a personal favor I’d like to ask of you.  Please don’t apologize for your homophobic comments, attempt to rephrase or claim your words were taken out of context. 

I’m not sure even the best and brightest of the PR world could find a way to spin this (courtesy of the Mercury News):

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver said. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.

“Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah … can’t be … in the locker room man. Nah.”

Culliver suggested that homosexual athletes keep their sexuality private until 10 years after they retire.

Oy Vey. 

Apparently, Artie Lange is the new Oprah, getting guys like you to open up about such controversial subjects.  Impressive!

Here’s the thing Chris.  Personally, I respect your right to freely discuss your opinions, any time, any place. I’m sure the majority of San Franciscans agree, given the Bay Area’s storied history of the peace movement, freedom of speech and gay rights activism. 

This is why I implore you not to attempt to color these comments as something other than what they are; the dark truth that homophobia and strong anti-gay views remain deeply rooted in the world of professional sports.

Sure, there are other guys sprinkled throughout pro sports, for instance, your fellow NFL pals Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe and Scott Fujita, who are openly supportive of civil rights in this country, including LGBT rights.  But clearly the movement is not yet powerful enough to have impacted you, despite your own team’s efforts to join the cause

While it was a poor business move to publicly reveal your feelings about gays as a member of a San Francisco-based organization, there is no going back so you may as well resign to moving forward.

Should you apologize for hurting people’s feelings or offending them?  That seems fair.  You can stick by something you say while feeling bad that others are hurt by it.  In a weird and twisted way, I actually respect Lance Armstrong for a non-apology he gave Oprah in their sit-down interview.

Instead of taking the apology bait when Oprah asked him if he felt remorse, Armstrong’s response was, “everybody that gets caught is bummed out they got caught.” Finally, he was honest about something.

Chris, you are strong enough to take the Lance route on this one. 
Don’t be like your Super Bowl opponent Terrell Suggs who, after verbally decimating the "arrogant prick" Patriots, received a talking-to from teammate Ray Lewis, and consequently changed his tune to, “people don’t like them because they win,” in hopes of avoiding backlash.  That’s weak sauce.  Super weak. 

Stick to your beliefs.  Only if you mean it, say you’re sorry for offending anyone and then keep your mouth shut regarding this issue for the rest of the week.

And don’t worry about being excluded or treated as a leper back home in San Francisco after the Super Bowl.  Most of the folks in the Bay are much more accepting than you, so you need not worry.  It’s all good.  In fact, I bet you’ll be even more popular upon your return, as the locals will surely stop you on the street for a quick chat from time to time, in hopes that maybe, just maybe their open-mindedness might rub off on you. 

Sincerely,
Jackie

UPDATE:  Well, looks like Chris didn’t read my letter.  Bummer.

49ers statement, on behalf of Chris Culliver:

"The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel. It has taken me seeing them in print to realize that they are hurtful and ugly. Those discriminating feelings are truly not in my heart. Further, I apologize to those who I have hurt and offended, and I pledge to learn and grow from this experience.”

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Emotions ran high after the Baltimore Ravens earned a trip to the Super Bowl with a 28-13 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. 

While the Ravens celebrated their victory with tears, chanting, laughter and even some post game trash talk, there were those on the losing side also experiencing a host of emotions, theirs, of the less joyful variety.

A screen shot of a status update posted on the Facebook page of Anna Welker, wife of Patriots receiver Wes Welker, went viral after the game Sunday as the post took aim at the personal life of Ravens team captain Ray Lewis.

Anna Welker tells PepperOnSports.com exclusively,

"I’m deeply sorry for my recent post on Facebook, including comments about Ray Lewis. I let the competitiveness of the game and the comments people were making about a team I dearly love get the best of me. My actions were emotional and irrational and I sincerely apologize to Ray Lewis and anyone affected by my comment after yesterday’s game.  It is such an accomplishment for any NFL team to even make it to the playoffs, and the momentary frustration I felt should not overshadow the achievement of these amazing teams."

 

I’m torn.  The Patriots are good for football.  I think they have become what the Dallas Cowboys used to be; America’s Team.  Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s hoodie make for great drama and top-notch TV ratings.  Behind Tom Terrific, the Pats also have the second most entertaining offensive player in the league in tight end Rob Gronkowski who makes experts marvel and fans drop their jaws to the floor with every catch.  Oh ya, then there’s Aaron Hernandez, tight end/running back extraordinaire.  On the other side of the AFC you have the Ravens with one of the league’s top defenses.  Probable Ravens lifers Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs have yet to win a ring, each missing out on Baltimore’s championship year by two and three seasons respectively.  One of the league’s best rushers and nicest guys, Ray Rice deserves to play in a Super Bowl game.  Then there’s the other Ray.  Ray Lewis, the medicine man-like spiritual leader of the team who has waited so long for another shot at a title. 

In a land far, far away from Foxboro, MA, the 49ers and Giants will duke it out in San Francisco for a chance to represent the NFC in the big game.  What’s not to love about the comeback-kid 49ers?  The young and intense rookie head coach finally gets a talented defense to play to its potential and turns a draft bust into a respectable, winning quarterback after six seasons of misery.  The Niners would be headed to their first Super Bowl in 17 years.  In the New York Giants, you have a team led by a guy who has been bullied and picked on by pundits as he was overshadowed by his superstar older brother, until now.  Eli Manning has finally proved that he is on the doorstep of being an elite quarterback and could very well finish his career with more Super Bowl wins than his brother Peyton.  Who ever would have imagined that? Eli and his receivers aren’t even the talk of the town as the Giants defense has been stellar, providing what could be an epic duel of the defenses at Candlestick. 

Each matchup on Sunday looks fantastic on paper, and every potential Super Bowl pairing is likely to yield a fantastically exciting contest. 

I’ll pick the Patriots with some degree of conviction, and the Giants, but barely.  Here’s why:

Ravens at Patriots

I trust the Patriots offense at home versus anybody.  Bring in the ‘85 bears, put them on the field against this Pats offense at Gillette and I’m taking New England.  I know the Pats lost a game at home to the Giants during the regular season, and the picture of Ray Rice running wild on them in the 2009 playoffs is fresh in my mind, playing like an scratchy home movie on a projector as the lights flash and the film pops.  But I still can’t bet against the Pats at hoe. 

This game is Brady or Bust for the Patriots.  This season the Pats are 8-1 at home, averaging a healthy 30.7 points per game… that’s an AVERAGE.  The Pats shoddy defense (I say their worst in 10 years, as the current D is ranked 31st in the league) is giving up 19.2 points per game at home.  By comparison, the Ravens are 4-4 on the road, scoring 19.9 points per game and the defense is allowing 18.4 points per game.  Obviously if the law of averages plays out Sunday, it’s a no-brainer Pats win. 

If Terrell Suggs can get to Brady and the Ravens sack him four or five times, that will be huge.  If Ed Reed - who was injured in the final minutes of last week’s game in Houston - can get his sticky fingers on a few footballs, watch out Boston!  If the Baltimore defense is playing at that level Sunday, they have a chance.  Last week I picked the Saints over the 49ers because I figured at the end of the day, the league’s best offense would beat the league’s best defense.  Clearly, I was wrong, which is why I won’t completely count the Ravens out. 

Last week, only three of the Ravens 20 points scored were generated solely by the offense as the other 17 points came on possessions as a result of Texans turnovers.  Points were tough to come by  in that contest, but Joe Flacco and Ray Rice should have an easier time against a New England defense that is far less intimidating than that of the Texans.  It’s still crazy to me that the Pats defense is ranked so poorly with guys like Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Patrick Chung and Kyle Arrington.  Injuries have hurt the defense, but I think these guys will be fired up and playing with a chip on their shoulder come Sunday. 

Should the Ravens defense find a way to grind Gronkowski, Hernandez will pop up instead.  Should the Ravens D somehow hush Hernandez, Wes Welker will be hot on the screen game.  Should the Ravens D weaken Welker, Deion Branch will run the dink and dunk.  And should the Ravens D bother Branch, Robbie McCullough from Southie will jump out of the stands, take the field and find a way to catch a pass from Brady.   



Giants at 49ers

I’m picking the Giants because I feel like the stars are aligning for a Giants/Patriots Super Bowl rematch.  I wrote an article about it last week that provides a few legitimate reasons for why it’s bound to happen, citing some strange similarities between the Giants 2007 season and this year. 

I won’t place too much importance on the fact that the 49ers already beat the Giants at home because that was all the way back in week 10, which at this point, was a football lifetime ago.  The Giants were a different team back then, period.

As for the playoffs, I went with the Saints last week; fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.   Logic tells me the 49ers should win this game.  I would love for them to win it.  I think the rise of he 49ers from the depths of the NFL underworld would be one of the best story lines the league has seen in a long time.  But sometimes magic just happens… How can one explain the success of Tim Tebow and the Broncos despite having a deplete offense run by a quarterback who Brian Urlacher referred to as a running back? Sometimes magic just happens, which is exactly what I think we’ll see Sunday as I predict the Giants will beat the hot-like-fire 49ers in what will be a classic game.  Should the Niners win, shame on me!

Last week I wrote that the Saints vs. 49ers had the potential to be the best game of the playoffs, and as it turns out, I was right.  I think we could see a similar product this week between two well-balanced teams.  Heading into last week’s game, I expressed little faith in the 49ers offense, but I learned my lesson and I’m calling them legit.  I still can’t get over the last 5 minutes of that game… wow. 

Meanwhile the Giants threw the book at the defending champion Packers in impressive fashion as the G-Men have outscored opponents 61-22 in the playoffs while the defense has racked up six sacks (and 17 sacks in their last four games), two fumbles and one interception.  Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul… these guys have everything working for them and I expect Sunday to be no different.

But damn, the 49ers defense was even better than New York’s throughout the season!  Until last week’s wild one against the Saints, San Francisco gave up only 10.9 points per game at home, the team didn’t allow a rushing touchdown until week 14 and until Marshawn Lynch got ‘em in week 16, the Niners had not allowed a single rusher to gain 100 or more yards in one game.  Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Aldon Smith (the rookie has 14 sacks this season), Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson and the rest of the 49ers defense run like a well-oiled machine where rarely does a guy take a play off.  The unit plays with the intensity of its head coach Jim Harbaugh, which says a lot.  

I won’t count on the Giants running game to be very helpful on Sunday, but I am counting on Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham to produce.  I think Eli is good for two interceptions Sunday, seeing as he has 16 picks this season and the 49ers defense has picked off opponents 25 times. 

Don’t let the Giants’ win over the Packers fool you; I don’t expect this to be a high scoring game for either team.  Yes, the Giants scored 37 last week against one of the league’s worst defenses.  In the final five minutes of last week’s game, neither the 49ers or Saints played a lick of defense, accounting for the higher-than-anticipated score, but the Saints did turn the ball over FIVE times in the game, thanks in large part to an outstanding defensive performance by San Fran. 

Although Alex Smith and Vernon Davis played wonderfully against the Saints, those two alone accounted for so much of the offensive production (Frank Gore followed with 89 yards rushing and 38 yards receiving ) with makes me nervous.  If the Giants defense plays Davis tough enough to make him a near-non factor, who is going to step up and do the damage through the air?  Michael Crabtree? Tedd Ginn?  Davis is the Niners only consistent threat in the passing game, so that leaves Gore and Kendall Hunter to take over on the ground.   I can’t envision those guys getting past  this Giants defense. 

This game has all kinds of possibilities, so here’s my take on the Saints at 49ers game, posted on smacchat.com.  Click the heading above to read the article.