Richard Sherman Becomes Catalyst for Communication Reminders

By now, sport fans have watched and read the Richard Sherman rant-heard-the-world multiple times.  Richard Sherman, cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks had just come up with a huge play, which

Final play by 49ers in NFC Championship Game

subsequently sent the Seattle Seahawks on to face the Denver Broncos in the SuperBowl. Unfortunately for Sherman, between that tipped ball and a series of follow-on actions, he’s had to face both severe negativity crossed with undenying support.

SeattleTimes poll shows a fairly even distribution of public reaction:

  • I’m fine with it: He won and can say what he wants  31.7%  (982 votes)
  • I’m disappointed: But I’ll forgive his emotional reaction 37.35%  (1,157 votes)
  • I hated it: It was classless and offensive  31%  (959 votes)

By Monday morning, Sherman begins to explain his tale in a reflective blog where he states, “It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am.”  He continues on with “to those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field — don’t judge a person’s character by what they do between the lines.  Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family.”

No one’s quite sure what originally sparked the rivalry between Michael Crabtree and Richard Sherman.  Rumored are 1) a trash-talking incident at an offseason charity event hosted by Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald.  2)  A lack of acknowledgement by Crabtree in a pregame interviews about the Sherman-factor.  Crabtree apparently wanted to note that the entire defense is good, not just to worry about 1 individual.  3)  Crabtree’s lack of interest in shaking his hand before the clock had ran out and was simply walking back to his sideline so the defense could come onto the field.

Going over (actually Sherman ran 20 yards to catch up with Crabtree walking to the sideline) to shake a player’s hand, patting him on the butt,  after a huge play, in a huge game — just seems odd.  I’m sure Crabtree was stunned to see him there, and, regrettably, had to push Sherman away.

And, where did this chip-on-Sherman’s-shoulder exactly originate?  Very few dispute his rise to an elite level of cornerbacks in the NFL.  Richard Sherman was a scholarship WIDE RECEIVER at Stanford.   Starting in 2006, he led the football team in receiving and was named a Freshman All-American.  In 2008, he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 4th game of the season.  When Sherman returned from the injury, the team was in need of a cornerback, so his coach, Jim Harbaugh (yes, that Harbaugh), switched him to defense and in his final 2 years where he made 112 tackles and had 6 interceptions.  Sherman graduated from Stanford in 2010 with a degree in communications (yes, communications).  Sherman was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and was apparently livid by the players chosen in front of him, and vowed to become the best cornerback in the game.

So, what lessons can we take away from this championship game?

  1. *Any* public action will always be linked to your team, your employer, your business, your community, regardless of the medium. Richard Sherman received an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and was “in the coaches office” after the game.  Within 24 hours, Sherman now realizes that while he wanted to make a point, it’s now reflecting negatively on his team and the Seahawk community.
    You know how people write in their social profiles “words are my own”?  While that may sound appropriate, it doesn’t actually mean anything.  If you post something negative, false, or controversial, it will reflect on you and potentially anyone associated with you.
  2. We all get wrapped up in the moment.  Remember to take a deep breath.  Not everyone gets a chance to be on national television right after making a game-winning play.  And, not everyone gets a microphone and a stage to roar from the moment after a huge competitive win.  In every situation, it’s not always about what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it.  A poetic “speech pause” can help you gather your words, reflect, and hence relate better to the audience.
  3. Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’re right.  We all have those occasions where we would really like to say what’s on our mind.  And, we may even be right.  But, does saying it make those around you happy, focused, understanding, supportive?  Think about how your words and actions will be received.  If there’s a chance they might not be perceived the way you want, probably best to think about rephrasing or keeping the comments to yourself.  If you believe it will be productive to state your mind, make sure you do it privately with those affected, so you can truly have a positive conversation.
  4. Apologies go a long way.  Even with our best intentions, careful thoughts, research, and preparation, things can go off-track.  If the wrong outcome is in front of you as a direct result of your actions, that’s a good time to apologize.  It lets others know you’re accepting responsibility and on a course to goodness.  We’ve all seen many, many examples in social media and communications where individuals or brands stall on accepting responsibility and realize — the sooner the apology, the sooner you can recover.

By Monday afternoon, the day after the big game and with time to reflect, Richard Sherman publicly apologized for his post-game conduct during an interview with Ed Werder of ESPN.  “I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates,” said Sherman. “That was not my intent.”

Very few dispute the fact that Richard Sherman is highly educated, great teammate, supports his community, and loves his family.  I’m glad he apologized and look forward to seeing him set a good example of sportsmanship down the road.  And, I wonder too…what were his professors in the Communications Department at Stanford feeling when that monumental interview began.

[Disclosure – Lifetime 49er and Stanford University Fan.]


Poor Al, What Now?

Is it really poor Al?  Maybe I should say Rich Al, What Now?  After all, Al Davis, majority owner of Oakland Raiders is rich.  Rich with money, poor with progress.  Poor with understanding fans.  Poor with team management.  Poor with knowing what’s required to run an NFL team.  Poor with pulling together the right player personnel.  And, above all, poor with finding, placing, and keeping a coach in this modern NFL era.

Oh yea, sure, he was great Al at some point in Raiders history.  Over a 40 year period, form 1963 to 2002, the Raiders only had 7 losing seasons.  Won 3 SuperBowl titles.  Yup, the Raiders have one of the greatest histories in the NFL.  A whole story line of favorites:

  • Ken Stabler, Dave Casper, John Madden, Fred B., Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Mark van Eegan, Marcus Allen, Jim Plunkett, John Matusak, (enter your favorite here)

Now, take a moment to reminisce thru all the ups and downs of this growing laundry list of Raider coaches.  Particularly, the post Gruden years…

Head coach       Season(s) Record  Playoffs
Eddie Erdelatz     1960-61     6-10        0-0
Marty Feldman    1961-62     2-15        0-0
Red Conkright     1962           1-8          0-0
Al Davis                1963-65    23-16-3   0-0
John Rauch           1966-68    33-8-1     2-2
John Madden        1969-78   103-32-7  9-7
Tom Flores            1979-87   83-53       8-3
Mike Shanahan      1988-89   8-12        0-0
Art Shell                1989-94    54-38       2-3
Mike White           1995-96    15-17        0-0
Joe Bugel               1997          4-12         0-0
Jon Gruden           1998-01   38-26         2-2 
Bill Callahan        2002-03   15-17         2-1
Norv Turner         2004-05    9-23          0-0
Art Shell                2006         2-14          0-0
Lane Kiffin           2007-08    5-15          0-0
Tom Cable            2008          0-0            0-0

At what point, can Al stop blaming someone else for all the blunders that the Raiders have encountered.  Why is it that by the time these coaches leave, which means waiting until the inevitable event of getting canned by Al, there’s so much ill will between the head coach, his coaching staff, the players, the management, and with Al.  Every time.  It’s the same story.  Even 45 years ago, when he placed himself in the coaching spot, he generated a “write home and tell mama” 55% winning rate.  Compare that to Madden’s 73% winning rate, and you can quickly deduce why Madden is where he is.

At some point, you need to start to wonder.  Ok, forget it.  We’ve known for years.  We’ve stopped wondering.  It’s time for action.  Al Davis stinks.  The Oakland Raiders deserve better.  Raider Nation deserves better.  The City of Oakland desperately needs the Raiders and deserves better.  At 79 years old, do you really think Davis can handle this situation?

Let alone the knowledge that it takes to run an NFL team.  It’s a business.  And, businesses need leaders and structure.  It’s not just a head coach that makes a successful franchise.  Look at all the successful team that won championship or had great runs with winning records.  The winners have strength up and down the organization – from the front office management, the scouts, the coaching staff, the players, and great fan support.  It’s simply the worse kind of management that when something goes wrong for you to point fingers.  Who the hell hired Lane Kiffin anyway?  You’re not going to take any responsibility for putting someone in a position that they were not qualified to do.  And, poor Lane.  Probably a good guy, probably a good coach.  Now, he’s damaged goods.  Hopefully, Kiff will get a spot with an NFL or NCAA coaching staff where he can rebuild his career.  He’s only 33 or 34 years old, so plenty of good times in front of him.  Look at Coach Gruden.  He went on to great things in Tampa Bay — the team that Al traded his coach to.

So, a shout out to Al.  I always admired an owner who could were white sweats and sit in the press box on Sunday afternoons. But look at where things are now.  Give it up.  Sell already.  You don’t have the brains, the capability, or the knowledge of managing an NFL franchise in this era.  You’ll never get it.  You’ve made so many poor decisions (don’t get me started on Jeff Hostetler or Jeff George – oh man, stop me).  And, you’ll never know it, cause your way out of every situation is to blame everyone else but yourself.  Now, the Raiders are off to a new exploration for that dream coach.  How long until this one blows up?

Go U Raiders.  Take a hike Al.

The So-What Reunion

Don’t know how I ended up on an “NFL After the Game”, sports wrap-up show on NBC.  I thought I had read something about this back in June/July.  But now reality settling in, there I was seeing Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, being introduced by the must-be-in-the mix Bob Costas and just one thought came quickly, “oh, Lord.  They didn’t”.  Some sports production exec (Dick Ebersol?) thought that paying a ton a money to re-unite this pair that was popular, original, and damn funny 12 years ago as the “Big Show” would now be a fantastic idea.

After about 30 seconds into their sports news anchorship, a few revelations started to unfold for me:

  1. Why do you need a host for a sports-wrap up show?
  2. Why do you need Bob Costas to host the show?
  3. When in doubt, refer to #1.

Then, a couple more words by Keith Olberman and a few more revelations:

  1. These guys were a lot funnier when they had ESPN story writers, and no production script.
  2. I must have something better to do at this point on Sunday…where did I put the nail clippers?
  3. Aren’t most people so drunk by 4pm (or 7pm eastern) on opening Sunday football day that a show with some babe that knew nothing about football, but wore a bikini standing in front of beach photo, reading verbatim from a tele-prompter would be 1,000 times more popular.
  4. Did I remember to buy carrots at the store? 

I could just hear Dan’s agent talking in the background.  “Dan, quit everything, this will be huge.  You’ll be popular and make more money than ever”.  Nevermind that Dan Patrick’s most recent radio show had been dropping in the ratings.  He also had been writting a column for ESPN The Mag, and he wrote a column for Sports Illustrated, and occasionally humorous.  But, other than that, it’s been a long time since the glory days of the “Big Show” despite being at ESPN for a seemingly quick 18 years.

Olbermann, on other hand, took a much more unpredictable predicament.  Leaving ESPN for a consumerish, political, uncategorizable news job that lacked the punch of his sportscasting days.  Most recent stints includes the Countdown with Keith and co-hosting on Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show.  The same one with the falling rankings.  It seemed so weird for Keith to go from the overwhelming popularity on ESPN to the rocky water of general news & politics.  Perhaps he was bored.  Which has now translated to boring.  He was unable to find that edge that Kenny Mayne is now cutting into.

This is the last gasp of desparation for these 2 to work together, led by Dick E. having way too many at the ESPNZone Manhattan one night.  (Probably in celebration that the Olympics were starting soon and NBC was going to be on top of the sports world soon). Somewhere, somebody in the NBC exec neighborhood is so wrapped into their circle of relationships, their lack of creative power leads everyone else to think “where’s the remote”.  To think that I would tune in after already seeing every major highlight of the day during the commercial breaks and in-between huddles of every play in the afternoon game.  This is the worst time slot on gameday Sunday.  Ya know, the time slot where you take a shower, put some fresh clothes on, and check the fridge to see if you have a cold one ready for the Sunday nite game.

Here’s a thought.  Why doesn’t NBC pick 5 homes, apartments, condos, bars, or a parking lot tailgate gathering every week.  At the conclusion of the football games, have a satellite feed and let the real fans do the talking.  Let them talk about their day, their failed last minute line-up changes, their side bets, their nacho recipes.  This would create a social movement around football that would as great as…well, perhaps as great as online fantasy football.  Pick a group of college kids, mid-aged folks, the senior center, the Y, the local bar, whatever and just get people talking. 

You could even have an in-studio anchor run the questions.  Er, just not Bob Costas.