Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Richard Sherman Show

A 49ers fan's honest letter to @RSherman_25


It is now a few days after last Sunday's NFC Championship game. In the internet age, societies are more and more preoccupied with rapid reactions to complex events, often inciting severe feelings on just a few sides of a multi-faceted issues. I felt the need for a more nuanced reply that took time.

I first want to say: "I'm sorry." You've written and spoken that after the game, you have received insults (including racist ones), threats, and the like from a legion of internet users and others with whom you're not acquainted. I apologize for this; I feel qualified to do so as I am one of the faceless mob that hide behind a Twitter handle and write without heed to consequence. No one should be the target of belligerence and belittlement. Criticism, yes, but only when used to build, and only when delivered from a trustworthy source.

I wanted to write to you about my son. He's a handsome 1 year old boy that doesn't know what he's seeing, only that he loves watching the moving pictures on the television with his dad for a few moments before he's distracted by a toy that catches his eye. I hope that as he grows and understands more, he will find mentorship and guidance from those close to him: family, friends, neighbors, teachers, church members, and the like. I wish he would be less affected by professional athletes not because I believe such to be bad influences, but because I am wary of his looking to people that he does not know well and may not take their association with him seriously. I think real role models are invested in the lives of the people they touch.

He is, however, his father's son. We will likely watch many more football games together. In doing so, he will likely see you make more spectacular plays. He may even want to be like you, be like the way you play, be like the way you hold yourself, and yes, be like the way you denigrate an opponent after a game. In doing so, he would only follow his father who had athletic idols of his own.

Perhaps it's my fault - it is I, as a parent, that invite athletes into my home for these games. It may be naïve of me to think much good can come from that box on the table. But I wonder if I might still appeal to you. I don't know you, but I have heard from others that have interacted with you. They describe you as thoughtful, supportive, kind, confident, and with many other traits that I would love my son to emulate. You yourself have written how you give support community and family, which I applaud.

I have been told of how strong a communicator you are. Judging from interviews you gave after the game, I agree. You said Michael Crabtree said something hurtful to you - while I cannot apologize for that (I am not Michael Crabtree), I can empathize. Your response after the game was deliberate, and delivered it in a moment of his vulnerability. I don't know what he said to you (I do know he pushed you away after the pick), but might I suggest that rather than disparaging him in a nationwide broadcast, you let that interception speak? I don’t think much doubt remains on who the best player in that matchup was.

You've written that your words were a product of the passion with which you play. I love that you respect the game, your teammates, and your opponent enough to play with that much passion. I hope my son will devote himself with such passion to his dreams. But passion can be a very fine line, and sometimes, a line we cross when we demean others. Sometimes our opponents (in life, even) generate strong emotions and are truly worthy of some contempt. Might I suggest that in those moments, we be extra measured in our tone and stay away from that line?

I don’t mean to tell you to change your approach to the game (we can't all play like Bill Belichick), just that when you are handed a microphone and invited into millions of homes, to build with your words. It is unfortunate that we view athletes so narrowly, ignoring many aspects of their humanity including their interactions off the field and their efforts in their communities. You have a chance to right that. As one of the game's stars, you are handed podium that hundreds of other NFL players never attain. You have such great influence, and I believe you mean well.  I hope you will seize the opportunity to build others and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

Xing @xingtheli

#YouMakeTheCalls #YMTC #RichardSherman

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