by Jack Bechta
January 29, 02014
Growing up in Philadelphia I pretty much hated everyone who played for the Cowboys, Mets, Celtics, Islanders, and, did I mention the Cowboys? As sports fans we learn to love but we also learn to hate. And sometimes the hate lingers and is amplified when it’s a player who may not be your same color or from your state.
Being passionate about a team can bring out the best and worst of us. It gives us an excuse to hate a person just because, by no design of their own, were drafted by a rival we love to hate. I am certain most Niners’ fans hate Richard Sherman. I am sure that most any white people, with even a tiny ounce of prejudice in their DNA, hate Richard Sherman. Yep, I said it. I am sure when he rants and talks trash on TV that there are some racial slurs being tossed around freely in the privacy of many living rooms.
I know when I was kid going to an all white elementary school, I was a little nervous about merging with African American students in the seventh grade. However, after playing sports and growing up in locker rooms with African Americans, the color and the baseless fears of the unknown faded away, as did all of the stereotypes that were filtered into my head. Without sports, many whites, blacks, and hispanics would have never shared so much time together along with common goals.
I think when most white America sees Richard Sherman they first see the dreadlocks, the tattoos, the facial hair, the earrings, and the brash personality. Is he this generations Muhammad Ali? Ali scared the hell out of white America in the 60s.
I do believe there are still some naïve and twisted stereotyping going on in our society. However, Richard Sherman, who is highly intelligent, has a Stanford degree, writes, and has straight-armed the lure of gangs and hustling to make himself the best educated person he can be, can be a game changer.
There are many who may not like his “in-your-face-style” but if you peel the onion on the guy you can’t help but appreciate the man and his story. I know it has been told a hundred times so I won't tell it again. But his story needs to be told over and over again so we all learn not to judge a book by its cover. And actually to learn to just quit judging the cover all together.
Sherman is liked by his Seahawks teammates and was liked by his teammates at Stanford. As a matter of fact, he was a very influential guy in the Stanford locker-room with both white and black players. And as the media keeps telling his story and opens this guy up from the inside out, we get to see what makes him tick. We get to see all of him because his story will be hammered into our association with the player. This is good for everyone and the NFL.
Who knows what it's like to see friends and family shot. To have to make sure you don’t wear a gang color when you are getting dressed each morning for school. That going out in your neighborhood is a life and death decision. Growing up in this environment, as Richard did, most likely instilled some survivor skills we see at work when a microphone is put in front of him.
If you appreciate work ethic, discipline, education, creativity, drive, determination, leadership, confidence and the ability to overcome ones dismal surroundings, then we all should appreciate Richard Sherman.
This may surprise you but the NFL is full of Richard Sherman(s). And just maybe this time, the fans rooting against the brash young corner of the Seahawks, the fans on the opposite side, will cheer for what this guy has done with his dynamic life and appreciate and judge him by what’s on the inside and thus help eliminate our tendencies to negatively judge someone by their uniform (or skin, dreads, tattoos etc..).
Richard Sherman is good for the NFL and our understanding of each other.
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