Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Defending Richard Sherman

Since Sunday's 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers, which vaulted Seattle into the Super Bowl, Seahawks' cornerback Richard Sherman has been unmercifully condemned for an over-the-top, post-game TV interview.

Actually he should be commended. He's not a villain, but more like a pioneer. He took a bold detour into virgin territory. What did he do? He said what was on his mind, consequences be damned.

The way people are hating on him you'd think he was a combination of Darth Vader, Attila the Hun and Al Capone, with a touch of Hitler and Lucifer thrown in. All he did, following his sensational, game-saving tip of a pass intended for 49er receiver Michael Crabtree, was vigorously trash Crabtree and do some animated chest-thumping during a brief chat with Erin Andrews minutes after the play. Amped-up and sky-high he demeaned Crabtree as "sorry" and boisterously proclaimed himself the best corner on the planet--which he is. He looked ferocious while Andrews looked terrified.

Everyone expected the usual humble, gentlemanly chatter with Sherman praising the  49ers and Crabtree, stressing that it was a team victory and down-playing his super play. People wanted the same old "aw shucks," "gee whiz," politically correct, cliched line. But Sherman shocked the world by manically storming in the opposite direction, ranting and venting, saying exactly what was on his mind, something you never hear in post-game interviews.

In these interviews you never really believe what the player, coach or manager is saying. If they lost, they're truly pissed off. They're angry at whoever beat them. They may have been robbed by the refs and really want to curse about how they were ripped off. They may feel the opponent is inferior or hate some of the opposing players. But we never get to hear any of  real, post-game venom. We always get the cleaned-up, filtered, sanitized version.

But not this time.

Sherman treated us to something we had never seen, particularly after a game of that magnitude. He said screw being politically correct and screw taking the high road. It was ugly, too ugly for most people. What made it unsettling for many was that Sherman, an angry, dread-locked black man said this to a young, genteel white woman. The racial undertones were jarring

Back in the old days, some may say, Muhammad Ali routinely did what Sherman did on Sunday. Actually Ali didn't. His rants were similar but there was a comic feel to them. You sensed he was pulling your leg. There was nothing really scary about Ali's chatter. Sherman, though, was scary. He went to Stanford but in that post-game blast he wasn't the standard Stanford man. Sherman is from Compton. In that post-game interview he tapped into his Compton roots, turning into the angry black man.

You may hear that what you saw in that interview wasn't the real Sherman, that he's really a nice, gentle guy who's a real team player. That's not what I hear. According to my sources, Sherman is a real jerk, with anger issues. Many of his teammates, report the sources, don't like him. He's apparently a real egomaniac who sincerely believes he's the best and doesn't mind letting the world know it. Also, report the sources, he's a real trash-talker who gets under people's skin, who relishes making people mad.

Sherman got a kick out of dissing Crabtree because he doesn't like the 49er wide receiver. They have a history of hating each other. When it came time to talk about Crabtree on national TV, Sherman did none of the usual sugar-coating. He spoke his mind. It may have been ugly but it was honest. Give him credit for that.

The next day, Sherman apologized. But he apologized for taking attention away from the team. He didn't, however, apologize for the rant. Give him another plus for that..


Friday, January 10, 2014

Alabama Hires Lane Kiffin--Big Mistake

It's official.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban has lost his mind. How else can you explain his hiring ex-USC head coach Lane Kiffin to be the team's new offensive coordinator? That's what just happened today. It's what Bama fans, in the chat rooms, have been praying wouldn't happen.

The 38-year-old Kiffin, a pariah since USC athletic director Pat Haden fired him in the middle of the night at Los Angeles Airport last September, is now Bama's problem. According to my SC sources, the players celebrated his exit back then.Without his sour, dour presence, SC, reeling after five games, blossomed into a ten-win team.

After that you figured Kiffin would wind up in some obscure place where they'd be happy to get a big name and wouldn't care about the baggage. Big schools, it seemed, would steer clear of such damaged goods. But then along comes Saban....

I always thought Saban was the smartest coach in college football, the one guy you could count on not to make a stupid move, the guy who's several steps ahead of the competition Then he pulls a blunder like this. Possibly losing his last two games, the Iron Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, has jarred a screw loose.

Saban needed a new offensive coordinator because Doug Nussmeier left Thursday to take the OC job at Michigan. Kiffin was brought in as a consultant during the Sugar Bowl preparations to help devise schemes to beat Oklahoma. Reportedly Nussmeier wasn't too happy with Kiffin hanging around, butting in. Maybe that's why he jumped to Michigan.

The Kiffin hiring makes no sense. If a coach is constantly getting run out of town, aren't there red flags all over the place warning you to steer clear of him? After his impressive tenure as offensive coordinator on Pete Carroll's SC staff , Al Davis hired Kiffin as Raiders head coach in 2007. A year later Davis dumped him, calling him a liar and disgrace to the organization. Kiffin's next job, coaching Tennessee, ended ugly after a year in 2009, with hate-filled fans chanting good riddance. From there he landed back at SC for a few seasons, with intermittent success. You know how that ended.

After the SC firing, his players were bitching about him. It's clear that his communication skills need polishing. He badly mishandled the quarterback controversy, dividing the team. His players finally stopped playing for him. Part of coaching is having a good relationship with the players and knowing how to motivate them and keep them focused. In that part of the job Kiffin is a miserable failure.

So why does Saban want to bother with Kiffin? Clearly he sees something the rest of us don't. According to sources close to Bama, many fans and boosters want nothing to do with Kiffin,  regarding him as a cancer who's going to cause nothing but trouble.

OK, Kiffin is a skilled OC. But there are plenty of talented offensive coordinators out there, guys who can do the job as well or better than Kiffin, guys with no tarnished history. Kiffin is one giant headache. Saban will  find out the hard way.