By In Football


Priest Holmes, the superb running back for the Kansas City Chiefs in the early 2000s, would shake his head every time we talked about postgame interviews. The whole thing just didn’t make any sense to him. Holmes was no taller than 5-foot-9, by midseason he probably weighed 200 pounds, he wasn’t exceptionally fast by football standards. He had blown out one knee, blew it out again, got his hip knocked out of joint and had been hit so hard he was not sure how he made it to the sidelines.*

*These were not necessarily called concussions in those days … and those days were not that long ago.

Somehow, though, he was for a brief time the best running back in the NFL. In 2001, he led the NFL in rushing. In 2002, he was on pace to the greatest season a running back ever had until he blew out his hip after being horse-collared in Denver (this was one of the plays that led to the no-horse collar rule). In 2003, he set an NFL record for touchdowns.

He did it with study, with precision (he was like Jerry Rice in the way he would repeat his steps) and with an otherworldly toughness. In an average game, he would get hit 40 or 50 times by angry men the size and with the torque of Ford F-150s. After a game, he would need a half hour of massage and an hour in a hot tub just to feel something close to human again. This is not unique. This is football.

“Do you have any idea what kind of mental state I have to get myself into to play a game?” he would ask.

“No,” I would say.

“It’s pretty extreme,” he said. “It’s like I have to become another person. It’s like I have to become a warrior. We all do.”

Then he would smile and shake his head and say, “And then, five minutes after the game ends, y’all are asking us questions about how we feel and what did we think of this play, and what’s it like to lose, and we’re supposed to talk like none of that just happened.”

I’ve thought about those conversations a lot. On one level, we all understand how brutal a sport football can be. In a way, calling it a “sport” is changing its shape, making it seem a lot like the touch football game we play on the church lawn or the flag football games we used to play in college. Pro football really isn’t a sport like that. Pro football is about men who can bench press trailers crashing into each other, and guided missiles in helmets colliding with human gazelles and gruesome injuries that happen with such regularity that we can schedule commercials around them. Not to mention the concussions. You’d have to hypnotize me to play in a professional football game.

And these men do. They hypnotize themselves into this fevered state.

And we expect them to just let it all go when the whistle blows, and we snap our fingers.

This, of course, has to do with Richard Sherman’s postgame interview Sunday. Sherman, you certainly know, is the Seattle cornerback who sparked the big tip play interception at the end of the game that clinched Seattle’s six-point victory over San Francisco and sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. Sherman, you might know, is a fascinating and gripping character. He grew up in Compton, was a brilliant student, went to Stanford as a wide receiver, suffered a devastating knee injury, came back as a cornerback, graduated and began working on his master’s degree, was drafted in the fifth round, immediately became a starter, quickly became an All-Pro and might have been the best defensive player in the league this year. He also was suspended for performance enhancing drugs, won his appeal, has been as outspoken as anybody in the NFL.

He believes he’s the best in the game. He’s not unwilling to share this opinion.

A moment or two after his astounding play, Fox’s Erin Andrews went in for the postgame interview.

Erin Andrews: “Joe thank you so much,. Richard, let me ask you, the final play, take me through it.”

Sherman: “Well, I have to credit my teammates and coaches. We all gave 110%. Each and every one of us. We were lined up man-to-man …

Andrews: “As opposed to zone.”

Sherman: “Exactly. And that means I had the responsibility for the deep route on receiver Michael Crabtree. He’s a tall guy, you know a tall drink of water, and he has made some big plays late in games, so it became clear to me that they were probably going to try and throw over the top, which is something I’ve worked really hard on with my coaches. And …”

No, wait, that’s not what happened. Let’s try it again.

Erin Andrews: “Joe thank you so much. Richard, let me ask you, the final play, take me through it.”

Sherman: “I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree that’s the result you’re gonna get! (Looking into camera). Don’t you ever talk about me!”

Andrews: “Who was talking about you?”

Sherman: “Crabtree! Don’t you open your mouth about the best! Or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick. LOB!” (Which stands for “Legions of Boom” … it had sounded to me like L.L. Bean)

Andrews: “All right, before … and, Joe, back over to you!”

OK. Well, people are going to have an opinion about that. Compared to the usual pointless, passionless, perfunctory postgame interviews, this thing was a bit like the first time people raised on Bing Crosby saw Chuck Berry play rock and roll. Instead of cliches, we got fury. Sherman was angry and hyped and cartoonish — I wrote on Twitter that the only thing that was missing was the Ric Flair “Whoooo” at the end.

Tony Dungy wrote on Twitter that Sherman should have showed more class. That’s true. Others wrote that they would be rooting for Denver in the Super Bowl because of Sherman’s act. That’s fine. Others thought it was a bad example for kids which is a whole other conversation because there is a lot about watching a football game on TV that is not great for kids.

Then again, some thought Sherman was funny (I have to admit, I laughed for like 10 minutes), and his talk was real, and it was way better than watching someone sputter cliches that don’t mean anything.*

*Speaking of cliches: A few minutes later, Fox’s Pam Oliver was interviewing losing coach Jim Harbaugh. And at some point he said, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

“Is that a quote?” Oliver asked.

I have to say, that was a weird exchange.**

**It is a quote. It is Hemingway, from Old Man and the Sea.

I wish it had been a dream now, and that I had never hooked the fish and was alone in bed on the newspapers.

“But man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

But to the point: Why do we ask these players (and coaches) questions so soon after they were under fiery hypnosis, so soon after they were smashing into each other and breaking bones, right as the adrenaline is draining and the pain is beginning to surface? And, more, why do we expect their answers to fit our expectations? I’m certainly not saying that Sherman acted admirably after his interception, the choke sign he made toward quarterback Colin Kaepernick the taunt, then the “Don’t open your mouth about the best” soliloquy. Of course it wasn’t admirable.

But I have no idea what Richard Sherman has to do to himself to play professional football at the level he plays it. I have no idea what his state of mind must be like when he’s trying to match up to the violence of the moment. When Priest Holmes would finish games, he would almost never come out to his locker to talk. Sometimes, though, I would wait for him. An hour, An hour and a half. Sometimes two. The locker room would be empty. The equipment guys would ask me to turn out the lights when I left. Finally, he would limp out, and he would walk over to his locker, and he would slowly put on his clothes. And we would talk.

“I don’t see how those guys do it,” he would say of the players who had already spoken to the press. “If I had to talk right after the game, I’d say the craziest things you’ve ever heard.”

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79 Responses to Postgame

  1. Chris Fiorentino says:

    How did you write this without mentioning the awful “choking gesture” he gave right in Crabtree’s face after the interception? Write about him as glowingly as you want Joe, but the guy is a jag off. A big-mouthed jag off.

  2. ixcila says:

    The “LL Bean” bit is a joke, right? It was LOB: Legion of Boom. Just checking …

  3. James Akita says:

    Sherman said ” L.O.B.” (Legeion of Boom) not L.L. Bean.
    But I like your story better. It’s funny to imagine why he’d scream out “L.L. Bean!!” At the end of his statement. Like maybe he’s got some sort of sponsorship deal with them, and even in the heat of battle, he is conscious enough to shout out his sponsor, even when it’s under wildly inappropriate circumstances. Or maybe he was creatively insulting Crabtree’s penchant for wearing middle aged suburbanite outdoor-inspired gear?

    Either way, GO HAWKS!

  4. Gareth Owen says:

    In a high pressure environment, one shouldn’t be surprised at reactions like this. If only there were some sort of medication Sherman could take to help his focus and concentration.

  5. Tim Chalberg says:

    Great perspective, thanks for sharing. Very small note, but I’m fairly certain Sherman ended with a shout-out to “L.O.B.” not “L.L. Bean.” L.O.B. would reference the “Legion of Boom,” as the Seahawks DBs like to be called.

  6. Wilson R says:

    Why do some people expect model behavior from contact sport athletes soon after, much less during a game? Stop moralizing sports, please. Non-lewd gestures (including the crotch chop) are entertaining. Trash-talking is entertaining. Touchdown celebrations are entertaining. If you expect athletes to be better role models for your children then you should focus on becoming a better parent.

    Richard Sherman is super entertaining as a football player. I won’t be rooting for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, but I hope he does something awesome in that game and entertains the 100+ million people that will be watching.

    Go. Pack. Go. (Yes, I know they were eliminated 2 weeks ago. Shut up.)

  7. Francis says:

    I am not justifying Sherman’s perceived behavior toward a female reporter, but I agree the timing of interview is being overlooked. He was interviewed minutes after final play. Folks at home were basically given an HBO “Hard Knocks” snippet of a guy still in game mode.

    NFL games bring out the socio-path in a lot of players. It’s a brutal game. The act of decompressing is difficult for some emotional guys. So I can see why people think Sherman lacked grace, class, empathy, and sportsmanship in this particular moment, but he was authentic to the brutal game and obviously not cognizant of the at-home audience.

    “Richard Sherman Raw”

    • Karyn says:

      I don’t think Erin Andrew’s gender had anything to do with it. I think he would have done the exact same thing if it had been Tony Siragusa.

  8. Joel says:

    I wish players talked more shit during and after games. Many of these guys are giving up decades of life for their profession, so we might as well let them enjoy it. I speak this as someone who loved the Terrell Owens sharpie, the Joe Horn cell phone, and Randy Moss in the Packers’ end zone.

    • Paul L says:

      Not only that, maybe if they talked more like this, they’d stop the sideline reporter shtick. You have sidelines reporters on both sides of the field, interviews with basketball and baseball coaches *during the game*, and for what? All it does is employ a few more people, who get to say “I spoke with Coach Harbaugh at halftime, and he either sidestepped my questions or answered with worthless clichés”?

      I’m a Seattleite, a Seahawk fan, and I don’t really support Sherman’s reaction. That said, if it starts a trend of more players doing it, and therefore stopping some part of this ridiculous sideline reporter routine, I’m all for it.

  9. You wrote this off the cuff in the immediate aftermath of the game? I mean, you didn’t somehow exploit quantum technology to see this “interview” before it happened and mull it over for a couple of days?

    Well played, Joe.

  10. Coop says:

    “…gruesome injuries that happen with such regularity that we can schedule commercials around them.”

    I really get a good kick out of the slowed-down “serious” piano version of the FOX NFL theme that plays them into commercial during an injury timeout.

  11. Bud Geracie says:

    Good point, JoPa, but how to explain him still being a jackass an hour later in the interview room? Point is, this is Sherman’s game. He talks the talk — because he can walk the walk.

  12. tomemos says:

    Joe, by the time you posted this, Sherman had continued to bang this drum long after the sideline interview had ended: I don’t think the rush of adrenaline can explain that one.

  13. Damon Rutherford says:

    I am very disappointed in Andrews’s reaction and subsequent question. She could have continued to feed fuel into that glorious fire, but the interview ended too quickly.

    But, holy cow, that was excellent. Now my dream is for Manning to mock Sherman’s rant when he (Manning) scorches him (Sherman) for a couple of TDs, including one that clinches and ends the Super Bowl.

    That will never happen, so…

    (doodle-oo, doodle-oo, doodle-oo)

    Manning: “I’m the best QB in the history of the game! When you try me with a sorry corner like Sherman that’s the result you’re gonna get! (Looking into camera). Don’t you ever question my legacy!”

    Andrews: “Who was talking about you?”

    Manning: “Sherman! Don’t you open your mouth about the best! Or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick. Omaha! Oma-fucking-ha!”

    • Greg Mastin says:

      I might give my life savings to see that…just so I could see the twitter/facebook/social media explosion in the aftermath.

    • Bob Lince says:

      Love your comment about Andrews failing to fuel the fire. That’s the story. It might have been glorious.

      Or she could have done what Cosell would do when interviewing Ali in the ring right after a fight and Ali would begin with some crazy rant/taunt a la Sherman. Cosell would listen patiently until the end and then say: alright alright…now…Muhammad…about that point in the 8th round when….

  14. Joel says:

    I should also add that I love the fact that Jim Harbaugh had a Hemingway quote ready for the postgame interview. Perhaps we could see some more postgame literary quotes:

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”
    “They wanted to speak, but could not; tears stood in”
    “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares into you”
    “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to
    take hold…”

  15. Rowdy Roddy says:

    See, I would think because of this extreme “hypnosis” they have to put themselves into to play this brutal game that they would show more respect for the other men who have to do the same thing. But I guess that makes me a get off my lawn guy.

    Richard Sherman doesn’t just disrespect others in the heat of battle. He does it virtually every chance he gets. It’s usually fairly harmless. But in this case, he did it to the detriment of his team because everyone is talking about him and not what his team accomplished.

    • Karyn says:

      Sherman does it when someone else talks about him first. He doesn’t say boo to Larry Fitzgerald, because Fitz doesn’t say a thing.

  16. Jaaay says:

    I was going to write a smarter and wittier comment than yours, but I was distracted by that elephant over by the bookcase.

  17. Fred says:

    Hope everyone understands Sherman is a very intelligent man, this emotional outburst not withstanding. He got his undergrad and masters degree from Stanford while he was on scholarship there. He may be several things, but I don’t believe “Thug” is one of them.

  18. David Wright says:

    Good post AND comments: finally a comment stream that doesn’t make me want to lose my lunch over the staying power of bigoted trolls who are charging all over the interwebs right now in a gleeful froth over one more supposed proof that a man’s inability to be superhuman at all times makes him less that human. Go ‘hawks; Great play Sherman, and I look forward to you smoking the sideline microphones in the #budbowl.

  19. I think Sherman likes to play the lightning rod, and frankly, I think it’s calculated. He can certainly handle it, and it takes pressure off of his teammates.

    The Seahawks play best with a chip on their shoulder. This is a team full of players who were overlooked, undervalued, and cast off. They *like* this. They use it as fuel.

  20. Yikes says:

    Sherman’s interview instantly became a “class” issue, in a way that I’ve never seen, say, a heated post-race interview in NASCAR (which, on many occasions, athletes curse and call people out directly — ). The aggression makes Sherman a “thug,” though hockey players take their helmets off and FIST FIGHT during the game. The selective application of the aforementioned terms tells me just as much about his critics than it does about Sherman.

  21. Jeff says:

    Saying something stupid doesn’t qualify someone as a thug. However, over 200 players played in the championship games yesterday, and Sherman was the only one who felt the need to talk like an idiot. What was the network thinking by initiating a postgame interview with some mediocre intellect like him? That is what they should expect. I am shocked that the thought even crossed FOX’s mind.:)

    • Mike says:

      Um, anyone who earns a Bachelor’s and a Master’s on scholarship at Stanford isn’t a “mediocre intellect.”

      • Tampa Mike says:

        Yea, I have to agree with you on that one. The man graduated from Stanford. Football player or not, that means something.

        He may be a loud mouth. He may be arrogant. Let’s not call him stupid.

  22. Cathead says:

    I have heard similar comments made about the adrenaline rush of combat, some of which leads to war atrocities. Are we going to give that a pass, too?

    • Bowl Game Anomaly says:

      Did you just equate a bombastic sideline interview with a war crime? Seriously? I hope I didn’t just get hooked by a troll.

  23. Joe C. says:

    Joe, you’re point is well taken that football is a violent, brutal game and some players need to completely alter their mindsets to play. But how come we almost never see an outburst like this? 99% of players can give an interview immediately after a game and not go crazy and call out an opponent like Sherman did. If that’s how far Sherman has to take his mindset to play, perhaps we should question whether it is too far.

  24. mattapp says:

    As I read this piece, I was struck more than ever by the fact that football is really nothing more than a modern-day gladiatorial event. Oh, we engage in many different layers of self-deception to believe that these “athletes” are playing a “sport,” but when you properly acknowledge the type of training and mentality needed to take part in the event — not to mention the incredibly reduced lifespan and physical capabilities of most NFL players once their careers are over, are we really that much better than the Romans who sent their gladiators to their immediate death?

  25. Mark Daniel says:

    I think the networks want responses like Sherman’s, that’s why they do these interviews.

  26. Ralph C. says:

    These immediate after-the-game interviews are supposed to capture the raw, real emotions of the players, and that’s exactly what happened. These types of interviews are television’s version of Twitter. Fox got what it asked for.

  27. Wilbur says:

    He just sounded like a ranting heel wrestler to me. Only he was serious.

    I just saw the play happen. Why do I need Richard Sherman (or anyone else) to “take me through it”? But in fairness to Ms. Andrews, it was about as good a question as ever gets asked in that situation.

  28. Tofu says:

    This might be a decent argument if he came back an hour later (or even the next day or week) and said “yeah, sorry, heat of the moment.” But he doesn’t. So none of this really works as a defense. He didn’t say this stuff because he was fired up–that’s just why he *yelled* it. He says this stuff because this is how he thinks. Which is why there’s never a mea culpa afterwards.

  29. northtacoma says:

    With no time taken to calm down after reading your first few commenters:

    Reading comprehension around here is pathetic! Anyone who dislikes Sherman’s comments should go root for Waldo and Horseface in the Bowl. Anyone who questions whether athletes “go too far” into some big, scary, dark place to play this game should stop watching and certainly stay away from this conversation, lest ye be forever uncomfortable.

    I am far more disturbed by Justin Timberlake’s dancing for hours on end or Will Smith’s method transformation into Muhammad Ali for months in the name of “acting”. Richard Sherman is being himself. Don’t like it? Too bad.

    I have no opinions on L.L. Bean or choking signs at this time but I reserve the right to revisit these topics if needed.

    • Andrew W. says:

      I find it funny that some people are rooting for Denver now BECA– USE of Richard Sherman. In truth, going into last weekend I was rooting for Peyton to cement his legacy. After the ugly and bigoted reaction to Sherman’s entertaining interview, I’m starting to lean towards rooting for the Seahawks just so Sherman can shut his critics up and give another awesome postgame interview.

  30. sancho says:

    The many substances – both legal and illegal – in their bodies are not helping any in terms of self control.

  31. I know Sherman loves to talk trash… pretty much anytime. But he did come on later with the Fox crew for an interview after he cleaned up and calmed down. He was articulate, intelligent and delivered the boring cliches that most athletes deliver. It was actually amazing to juxtipose the first outburst of a street thug with the second interview of an intelligent articulate young man. Those two people live inside the same person. It makes me glad that my kids didn’t play football….

  32. doohan says:

    Am I the only person who watches the game, but not the pre-game or post-game media orgy? This “outrage” is all about the media turning attention on itself. Who cares?

  33. Except, keep in mind that an hour later he was asked about the sideline interview and said:

    “I was making sure everybody knew that Crabtree was a mediocre receiver. Mediocre,” Sherman said. “And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that’s what happens. Game.”

    Those guys have a feud. Sherman has made it personal. And his antics on the field were (IMHO) worse than what he said afterwards. But this isn’t all due to testosterone. He reportedly planned for months to do something to show Crabtree up.

  34. Frank Lee says:

    Speaking of concussions, did anyone see the shot Gore took to his helmet at the one yard line in the first half? Don’t know who the defender was, but it was a clear launch at the guy’s hat. No call. That’s what SF got all day. Bad call then no call then sorry call then bad call. WTF?

    • Targeting does not apply to ball carriers. I guess they’re called the Forty-Whiners for a reason.

    • JimV says:

      Not that I like the way Seattle games are often officiated (ie. defensive holding and illegal contact on every pass play – but they haven’t been calling those the whole playoffs this year), it was pretty even in this game. That said, for running backs inside the tacklebox, everything is fair game including headshots. I guess the idea is that, in such confined spaces it is much more difficult to control the location of the contact especially since the runner typically lowers their head going in.

  35. Michael Green says:

    I believe Roger Kahn once said that no music critic goes to the conductor during the intermission and says, “Did you feel the horn section was a bit off on the Stravinsky?”

  36. […] “Do you have any idea what kind of mental state I have to get myself into to play a game?” he wo… […]

  37. tomemos says:

    All of this becomes moot when Sherman wakes up the next morning and actually publishes an article saying, basically, that it’s okay for him to be a poor sport because he’s such a good player:
    His excuse for making the “choking” gesture at Kaepernick is that, c’mon, guy totally choked. While I admire his candor in coming out and sharing his thoughts, I think we can safely say that his decision to be a jerk here is 100% conscious.

    • jpdg says:

      I agree with this. It was very calculated. The heel role, when played right, can be very lucrative. By playing the heel, he gets coverage which increases his fame. Deion Sanders by playing flamboyant mercenary is a good example of a classic heel. Michael Irvin and Terrell Owens are others. Being a diva sells.

  38. Dave Fred says:

    Going to Stanford does not make one intelligent, let’s say. I’m fine with Sherman’s actions vis-a-vis making the conversation about the Superbowl more interesting, but on a personal level there’s not really anything to wonder about. Though it is interesting how merit based the NFL is compared to the educational system in the US.

    • jpdg says:

      Umm yeah it does. The guy was a straight A’s honor student in high school and had a 3.9 GPA and was going to pursue a Masters. Other than the Ivy League schools, Stanford has some of the highest academic standards in America.

  39. […] is akin to a full-out gladiatorial brawn between grizzly bears and sabre-tooth cats – Joe Posnanski writes about Priest Holmes describing it as “becoming another person, like a warrior.” Such a […]

  40. […] One of my favorite works of his is this piece explaining the myth of “The RBI Man”. His opinion piece on the Sherman incident too leans on the premise that the guy just spent a couple of hours in an intense, violent game and […]

  41. KHAZAD says:

    I thought the Sherman thing was great and Andrew’s stunned reaction was priceless. They did have a verbal confrontation in the off season, started by Crabtree. Then, after making a game ending play, he offered a good game to Crabtree and got shoved in the face. Crabtree made his own bed, Sherman just tucked him in. Whether it was real heat of the moment emotion or contrived, it was fun to watch and much preferable to cliches.

  42. […] we can all appreciate. Maybe you liked Sherman’s post game antics. In fairness Joe Posnanski wrote a thoughtful piece on the matter and Sherman himself wrote about the issue on Peter King’s Monday Morning […]

  43. […] to understand what it takes for men like him to play a game that might actually kill them and that, as Joe Posnanski wrote Monday, it might be a little unfair to expect anything less than raw, honest emotion right after that game […]

  44. […] Joe Posnanski, who got to know Holmes very well when Holmes played for Kansas City, offers similar reflections. […]

  45. Xao says:

    What I find interesting is the way some folks can’t be bothered to look for context. As soon as Sherman delivered his monologue we were beset by a tide of condemnation, none of which bothered to ask, “why did he come down so hard on Crabtree?” I don’t think I’ve seen a single critical article reference Crabtree’s interaction with Sherman on the field (including a shove to the face post-play), let alone their off the field history wherein Crabtree attempted to start a fight with Sherman at a charity event.

    • Karyn says:

      To be fair, Sherman had come up to Crabtree right after the play, and patted him on the ass. He later said he was trying to ‘congratulate’ him, which I find a little disingenuous. Sherman had that push to the faceguard coming.

      • Xao says:

        I’m fine with establishing a chain of causality here, but if we go that route, doesn’t it need to go back to the incident that started the bad blood between the two?

  46. […] This exchange with former running back Priest Holmes, told by journalist Joe Posnanski, is instructive: […]

  47. Karyn says:

    Something else missing here is that an awful lot of the reaction to Sherman’s rant was outright racist. From the race-baiting ‘thug’ to straight up dropping the N-bomb. People who were not in that gladiator arena, making the biggest play of their careers in the biggest game of their lives, picked up their phones and their keyboards and said these things.

    Richard Sherman is not the problem in American sports.

  48. […] Postgame is a very thoughtful blog about Richard Sherman’s recent postgame rant in the NFC Championship game last Sunday.  The more I read about Sherman, the more I like him. […]

  49. […] do we ask these players (and coaches) questions so soon after they were under fiery hypnosis, so soon after they were smashing into each other and breaking bones, right as the adrenaline is draining and the pain is beginning to surface? And, more, why do we […]

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