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.]

Advertisements

Feeling a Little Loma

Reading all those comments about CalTrans on sfgate.com.   People definitely feel strongly about that Bridge and CalTrans.  When things go right, everyone applauds CalTrans…and, at the slightest of slip-ups, they’re called out as “bums”.   The 70-year-old bridge was in severe need of repair, yet one that I seem to rarely think about being unsafe.  Now, we’re all set with the new detour to begin the retrofit of the new East side section to this iconic and important artery in the Bay Area.

The Bridge had a planned closure this weekend, and by all accounts, CalTrans and the CC Myers’ crew were ready to address a near engineering marvel to move out and replace 300 feet of road way, 200 feet high off the water.   That part went fine.  What we weren’t ready for was an extended closure due to an issue found during the new road work.   It was the bridge inspection that led to the extended, and now, unexpected, unscheduled closure.

An upper strut of the Bridge cracked and they needed 1 more day to fix.  With the Tuesday commute pending, we all went scrambling, but when the rubber met the road, literally, CalTrans ended up completing the repairs early Tuesday morning, which led to a 2 hour delay and avoided a whole extra (24 hour) delay.   Quite stunning change of course in last 24 hours.

It’s always a little strange when the Bay Bridge closes.  It happened 2 years ago to fix the West side of the bridge, and ended up opening up about 12 hours ahead of schedule.   But, what really occupies me is what happened 20 years ago.

Loma Prieta.   It’s one of the few times when I remember to a tee what happened after the quake hit and the

number of people who shared in the experience within a short period.

I had just arrived home from my afternoon history class at UC Davis.  I only had 2 quarters left at school.  I walked into my apartment on F Street, put my books down, and felt a strong, rolling wave.  Perhaps just a little

lp - bay bridge_09

woozy after a long day at school.  No, it felt like an earthquake.   I turned on the radio and I ran to my study room.  Sure enough, a hanging plant was swaying to and fro.  From the radio “a large earthquake has hit the bay area, and centered in Palo Alto”, a 100 miles away.  My parents lived in Palo Alto.  I immediately called home.  I reached my mother instantly.  She said that everything is fine.  Her clock radio fell off a shelf, but the power was still on.  I learned later that the earthquake was actually centered in Hollister, but regardless, it was a miracle that I actually got thru that instant as almost every phone line got tied up as the Bay Area was reeling in damage.

I bolted out of my apartment on my bike to head up the street to my buddies house to watch the World Series.  It wasn’t just *any* World Series…it was the “Bay Bridge Series” between the Oakland A’s and the SF Giants.   I opened the door swiftly, “did anyone feel the earthquake?’

“Sure did,” everyone responded.   “And, no baseball today”.

“Really?”

earthquake22No way.  Candlestick had cracked in the upper section.   The upper deck of the bay bridge went thru the lower deck.   The Marina district was engulfed in flames and crushed homes, and the Cypress Structure in Oakland completely collapsed.

I stared at the TV.  Looking at the Bay Area and roads I had travelled uncountable times.   Stunned.   Helpless.   The Bay Area would never be the same again.

About 2 weeks later, I had tickets to the Rolling Stones concert in Oakland, which would have been fine to get to, but we also decided to spend the day before in the city.  It must have taken 2.5 hours to get from Richmond to SF…complete crawl over the Richmond-San Rafael and Golden Gate Bridges.

Alas, the Bay bridge would be fixed within a few weeks in 1989.  A new section would be dropped in.  The Cypress Structure was removed, the Embarcadero high-rise was removed.   Many blocks of the Marina were re-built.

Now on Tues, Sept. 8 2009, the bridge has re-opened as the earthquake-proofing from 20 years ago continues, which I guess is certainly far better than unscheduled closures.  Albeit a pain, we seem to adapt and move on.  And, being prepared for at least 1 or 2 more closures to re-attach the new section.  Until next Labor Day…

The Bridge is cracked and they need 1 more day, meaning we’re now scrambling to address a commute no one planned for.   So, no we’re in lp - bay bridge_09unscheduled territory and I can only stop and reflect on what happened 20 years ago.

Wa-Mu Boo-Boo

They’re fairly memorable ads.  Those Washington Mutual ones.  “Bank Another Way” they claimed.  They generally have a bank rep talking about why it’s so much better to be with Wa-Mu than “one of those other guys”, and a “what are you going to do about that Ed?”

To further demonstrate the extent of Wa-Mu’s ad network, I also enjoy this lovely sign on top of a SOMA (San Francisco) Building.  It’s placed for traffic heading West on Hwy 80 as you decent off the Bay Bridge into San Francisco.  This freeway section is one of the hairiest, tightest, crash-magnets in the Bay Area (Caltrans is completing a major Bay Bridge reconstruction and drivers are left with just being patient while the necessity proceeds) where the relief of finally coming off the bridge is met by a winding, swirl of “am I on the right road” syndrome.  Where everyone is just making damn sure you get thru safe, get off the freeway, or make the lane you need to continue in the desired direction.  If you can’t read it, the sign says “Online sign-ups.  Faster than a bike messenger with bad brakes.”  It’s very SF if you’ve seen those bike people whipping their way thru downtown, but only mildly funny.  And, I guarantee you 99.9% of those that blow thru that freeway roller coaster section, don’t even know that it’s there.  And, even if you see it, it’s so poorly positioned that you may not even be able to pick up the words.

Unfortunately, Wa-Mu’s problems were festering long before this obnoxious, poorly selected advertisement.  Additionally, the US is facing a financial crisis across those specializing in lending (Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac bailouts), Wall Street investment banks – MerrillLynch, Lehman, and regular banks all-around. But, I’m picking on Wa-Mu for the one reason…they’ve spent millions in marketing dollars articulating a marketing message that they are different.  Better than a bank, more service-oriented that a bank.  And why, it gives the perception of longevity, someone that will be there in good times and bad.  Someone that knows how to run a bank.  But, is it real?  What’s going to happen?

The Wa-Mu stock is reaching junk bond status having gone from $42.95/share to closing at $3.20 today in just 24 months.  It has gone as low as $2.01.  Kerry Killinger, who in 2001 was named American Banker of the Year, was ousted as CEO this year and replaced by Rick Wagoner.  In 2005, Kerry earned over $15M, and from 2001-2006 earned in excess of $63M.  In the first half of 2008, Wa-Mu reported losses of over $4.4Billion.  This is just pure shameful of epic proportions.  And, is it really the fault of home-owners for getting mortgages they can’t afford, or the bank’s fault for administrating a loan they knew damn-well the home buyer wouldn’t be able to afford?

But, the real irony here is that they are being auctioned off by GoldmanSachs and likely will be purchased by the very bank that mimicked as if it was a disgraceful waste.  Now, look at themselves.  I bet they’re 1,000s of investors and 10 of 1,000s of customers, who are biting fingernails in anticipation of being bought by a bank that knows how to operate.  Rumored buy-outs include Toronto Dominion Bank, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, HSBC, JP Morgan Chase, and Grupo Santanger.

Wa-Mu will likely be saved by one of their nemeses and a few years from now, after all the re-branding of their banks, loans, and credit cards and check books, it will all be forgotten.   We might start thinking about MerrillLynch’s famously branded slogan — “a breed apart”.  Yup, a breed apart from those who actually know how to profitably & legally operate a large financial institution.  Woo-hoo!