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10 Things I Learned After America Learned About Me

Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB (2)

Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated/The MMQB (2)

Crabtree and Sherman in the NFC title game, just moments before Sherman gave Colin Kaepernick the choke sign, for which he was fined. (Robert Beck/SI/The MMQB)

Robert Beck/SI/The MMQB

1. No one has ever made himself great by showing how small someone else is. That’s not mine. It belongs to Irvin Himmel. Somebody tweeted it at me after the NFC Championship Game. If I could pass a lesson on to the kids it would be this: Don’t attack anybody. I shouldn’t have attacked Michael Crabtree the way I did. You don’t have to put anybody else down to make yourself bigger.

2. This stage is bigger than I thought it was. How much does America love football? My one little rant made it onto CNBC and CNN. I heard my name on The View. I got tweets in English, Spanish, French, Italian, Czech and Arabic. People identify with the struggle and the battle of a football game.

3. When to look away. I have always had a good sense of this, but there came a point in the aftermath of the NFC Championship game when I had to cut off the attention. The incident was so polarizing that you had to pick a side. You either hated it or you loved it. I looked at Twitter and I saw two guys having a conversation about me in Spanish; I was going to Google translate it, but I just decided to let it go.

4. I’m lucky to have detractors. You have to take a step back and understand that you’re playing a game and the people who say disparaging things online and on television are trying to take you off that game. I’ve had my fair share of controversial moments and backlash and critics, and I’ve learned not to take it personally. That’s the only way you can look at it. You have to accept it and not have a negative attitude. I appreciate them because they’re so passionate as fans.

5. It’s not all black and white. Race played a major part in how my behavior was received, but I think it went beyond that. Would the reaction have been the same if I was clean-cut, without the dreadlocks? Maybe if I looked more acceptable in conservative circles, my rant would have been understood as passion. These prejudices still play a factor in our views because it’s human nature to quickly stereotype and label someone. We all have that.

“You’re anonymous until you put yourself out there or show up in a big game. I did both ... maybe if I looked more acceptable in conservative circles, my rant would have been understood as passion.”

6. The NFL always wins. Every time a game ends on a controversial call or somebody loses it on camera, it’s free advertising for the NFL. It’s not just my name being talked about on all the shows; it’s the NFL’s logo on all the shows. That means more eyes on the Super Bowl, more clicks for their websites, and potentially more sales of my jersey, for which I don’t see a kickback. Even when they’re taking money out of my pockets with fines, the league is constantly winning.

7. Anonymity isn’t for me. Last season I went to the Super Bowl in New Orleans by myself, took a video crew to Bourbon Street and asked fans who they thought was the best lockdown corner in the game: Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis. Most of these football fans, who were dedicated enough to go to the Super Bowl, didn’t even know who I was. That’s unique to our sport—the helmets shield our identities. Look at Antrel Rolle, who had one of the best seasons in the NFL for a safety, and he didn’t even make the Pro Bowl until he became an alternate. There’s Alterraun Verner and Aqib Talib, who could really make a case to be first team All-Pro, but weren’t considered because they’re not the loudest players. You’re anonymous until you put yourself out there or show up in a big game. I did both.

8. The violence takes a toll. When you play the game, you can’t go very long without seeing a career or a season end on one play. Running in to each other at full speed is not what God intended for our bodies. Everybody knows the NFL stands for Not For Long, so it plays into how you play and how you behave. We each handle it in our own way. You’ve got to appreciate every moment and treat it like it’s your last. You stay locked-in mentally. When you’re watching that from the outside, sometimes you’re going to see some things you’re not always going to agree with.

Rod Mar for Sports Illustrated/The MMQB

Rod Mar for Sports Illustrated/The MMQB

9. Pete Carroll is a rock. But I already knew that. After the NFC title game, he sat me down and we talked about the things I could’ve handled better, and he opened my eyes. Then we went about the week before Super Bowl week as if it were any other game week. We didn’t paint the Super Bowl logo on the practice field or anything like that. We stuck with the theme of the program: Every game is a championship opportunity. We’ve been treating it like that for 22 games. He’s been preparing us for this moment so that we wouldn’t even notice we were playing in the Super Bowl.

10. If I could turn back the clock ... Maybe I deserved a fine under today’s rules, but back when football was raw and unsanitized, the same things they fined guys for now were the aspects of the game that people loved. The NFL once allowed players to live in the moment and be entertainers. I may have been wrong in my gestures, but if I had to do it all again, I’d probably do some of the same things. It was a big moment, and it was how I felt at the time.

Richard Sherman has written a regular column for The MMQB since July. His entire work can be viewedhere, and his column the morning after the NFC title game—‘To Those Who Would Call Me a Thug or Worse ...’—can be viewedhere. For his take on why Super Bowl XLVIII shouldn’t be played in New Jersey, click the image below.