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January 29, 2014 at 8:55 AM

Richard Sherman: Agree or disagree, Seahawks fans should support him

By Robbie Wiley

The Take 2 blog, a forum for readers and fans, is taking a timeout for Super Bowl. We’ll post 12th Man essays on the Seahawks blog’s Fan Zone. Look for them all week.

Robbie Wiley, 32, has been a Seahawks fan since he was 8. Here he writes in support of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman

We’re one of the 10 unlucky and tortured fan bases that have never experienced the thrill of seeing our team hoist a Lombardi Trophy. But with the Seahawks taking on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday, many of us believe that this is our year. Whether or not most of America cheers with us is irrelevant. It’s Peyton Manning and the Broncos, a team that, if you believe the masses, has more class in one of Manning’s fingers than the entire Seahawks teaM.

That perception is largely because of guys like Richard Sherman. In all my years of loving this team, I have never seen a player like No. 25. He’s arguably the game’s best cornerback and he will be the first, second, and third person to let you know about it. To play cornerback, you have to have attitude and arrogance, and he lacks neither. He’s brash. He’s cocky. He’s not afraid to speak his mind.

He’s everything mixed in a blender, and for many football fans across our nation, the final concoction is sour.  If you’re not a Seahawks fan, chances are you don’t like Sherman.  He talks a lot — maybe a bit too much for my liking — but one thing that you won’t find anyone say is that the man’s elite level of play on the field fails to back up his mouth.

He gets into the minds of his opponents. For him, the mental side of the game is every bit as important as the physical. He’s a man with an enormous chip on his shoulder. He’s also a very smart guy — born in Compton, educated at Stanford. His intelligence, coupled with a Compton-earned street education, make him a different kind of guy, and a lot of fans across the country can’t handle it.

We all know what happened immediately following the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. Erin Andrews snagged Sherman for a postgame interview immediately following the biggest win in Seahawks history. He had just made the biggest play of the game in the biggest game of his life against a player that he admittedly does not like. It went viral very quickly and everyone has an opinion. Many Seahawks fans vehemently defend him. Many call him a thug.

While I definitely cringed during his explosive outburst, I understood. At the time, I didn’t know the history between him and the target of the verbal assault, 49ers’ receiver Michael Crabtree.  I understood because I have played sports competitively for most of life, and while I was never the athlete that Sherman is, I can appreciate the heightened emotional state he was in. He took it personally that 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick would be crazy enough to throw to his side when a trip to the Super Bowl was on the line. He let everyone know that and gave a vitriol-laced opinion on Crabtree’s abilities — not his character — during the tirade.

As painful as it was to watch and hear, I actually kind of enjoy rooting for a player that puts very little, if any,stock in what people think about him when he gives interviews.

Here’s the thing, though—Richard Sherman is not a 30-second interview. He’s not a handful of press conferences. He’s not even his antics on a football field. He does great things off the field too, but that’s not all of him, either. He, like the rest of us, is a flawed human being that had an emotional outburst aired on national television and gave millions of people an opportunity to form a mostly negative opinion of him. I’ve had some not-so-too-proud moments in my life as well, and thankfully I didn’t have a camera in my face when I lost my cool.

We root for our teams to win games. We want blood. We cheer for big hits and love when players on the opposing team fail. We know these men put the health of their bodies — and their lives — on the line so we’re entertained. We love it. We live for it.

We demand that these players give 110 percent of themselves to a violent game — to our team — while caring at least as much as we do. When the final whistle sounds, we want to take these players and put them back in our own perceived morality box and have them be men that give scripted, cliché answers that sound “classy” to questions that often aim to bait them into saying something that will produce a big or controversial story. We are asking them to be fake, to abandon or hide who they are while pandering to us. For as passionate as so many of us are, we’re also unfair in our expectations of the different collections of men that play a violent and emotional game.

I wish he said something different. I wish he could have found a way to stay true to himself while not making my team look bad. I wish he could have put the emphasis on his team and fans rather than himself. You know, scripted and robotic. Lacking passion. When I’m honest with myself, I care what people think about me and my team. Sherman doesn’t.

He knows his teammates and his fans have his back and most everyone else doesn’t. Seahawks fans are mocked for defending him while everyone else slays his character. As 12th Men, that’s what we’re going to do. We have his back, for better or worse.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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