You have all seen it by now right? I mean it’s old news at this point. Richard Sherman, fresh off earning a ticket to the Super Bowl, belting about his own greatness at the top of his lungs with a confused Erin Andrews at his side.
“I’M THE BEST CORNER IN THE GAME. WHEN YOU TRY ME WITH A SORRY RECEIVER LIKE CRABTREE, THAT’S THE RESULT YOU GONNA GET! DON’T YOU EVER TALK ABOUT ME!”
One embarrassingly lopsided Super Bowl later, and here we are: Richard Sherman is an NFL champion.
I kind of love it. I mean I’ll be honest, I was rooting for the Broncos. I owed it to Peyton Manning for all the amazing work he did for my fantasy football team this year, but I kind of wanted the Seahawks to win regardless.
I wanted to see Sherman succeed. I’m not getting into the “thug” talk, or the fact that he went to Stanford and the public’s perceptions of race and association with an elite higher education. It was just a gut feeling.
It takes a lot shit-talk someone and live up to it. For one, it requires the bravado to be so self-confident to put yourself out there. When you talk trash, you need to live up to it, or you’ll never live it down.
All the haters sitting quietly on the sidelines, just watching, waiting, they can jump all over your back and comment on how much of an idiot you are. You put all the burden on yourself, because you believe you’re just that good, and it’s worth that much to you to get in that one extra portion of shitting on your opponents.
Babe Ruth would have looked a little silly if he popped up an easy infield fly ball after pointing to the left field stands, don’t you think? Would we have the same amount of awe for Muhammad Ali if he got knocked out after every one of his memorable, amazing, poetic strings of taunting?
When people are that reckless with their words or actions, it’s an instant spectacle. Reckless isn’t the right word, because if you back up the talk, you just appear that much more dominant. You get to mic drop and go home. Your actions just have that much more impact because you “called it,” and there’s nothing your opponent could do about it.
In other words, to quote a high school friend of mine: “It’s only hubris if you lose.” Isn’t that brilliant? I always loved that line.
But, over-confidence isn’t always a good thing.
To this point I have several friends who really like the type of basketball player I typically can’t stand. Players like JR Smith, Jamal or Jordan Crawford, Nick Young, you know, the guys who will make you go “Holy Shit.” because they just attempted the most ridiculous shot, and in some cases, even made the bucket.
I think there’s a certain reckless, and perhaps violent beauty, to these “irrational confidence guys,” as Bill Simmons likes to put it. Without them we wouldn’t have highlight plays; we might have better efficiency, but damn, we wouldn’t have the highlights.
It’s like that quote from the Dark Knight, “Some men just want to see the world burn.” These guys think the world is burning because they’re always on fire.
But, it’s not those guys I’m interested in watching or emulating, it’s the truly great, almost sociopathic players. The Richard Shermans, the Kobes, Chris Pauls, Michael Jordans; they’re all assholes. Magnificent, great assholes with borderline social disorders.
You may recall Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech – the legend still had such a fire lit up in his heart that he was still calling out haters and doubters on the day he was being enshrined as one of the game of basketball’s best ever. Richard Sherman? I’m fine with him calling people out and trash talking because it’s absolutely compelling for me to see how he feeds off of that bravado and delivers on the field.
On the other side of the Super Bowl coin — Peyton Manning, can you imagine the competitive fire, discipline, and consistency to return the way he has from the neck injuries he sustained? I might even go as far to say Tiger Woods and Wilt Chamberlain fall into this category too — although I can’t say I really understand the link between their exploits on and off their respective playing surfaces.
Sometimes I wish I could be a little bit more like them.
Confidence is such a huge part of athletic performance. When you swing a golf club, if you jerk your head up to make sure you hit the ball straight, it fucks your swing up (at least it fucks up mine) – it’s better to keep your head down, swing through the ball, and trust you’ll make solid contact.
When you’re in a game of basketball, it’s better to just catch rise and fire when you’re passed the ball, rather than hold it for a few seconds and second guess yourself. Assuming they’re developed, the muscle memory and feel trump worrying about the small details of your shooting form every time.
Can you imagine if I were like that in real life (I mean, if you knew me personally)? Actually I think that would be kind of hilarious. When we play Words With Friends or some shit and I just look up in between turns and tell you “I’M THE BEST IN THE GAME, WHEN YOU TRY ME WITH A SORRY WORD LIKE “TACO”, THAT IS WHAT YOU’RE GONNA GET.”
Okay maybe it’s not that funny, but I think those of us who aren’t pretentious, self-righteous, entitled assholes who impose themselves on those around them could stand to use a bit more of that confidence.
I wish I could say, I’m going to go drop 16 points in my rec league game on Sunday no matter what, and just go out there and shoot the ball unconscionably until I get mine.
It’s not clear to me whether I’m good enough at the game of basketball to do that and have my team win the game, so I don’t do it, but maybe if I thought that way, I’d play like I could. (Maybe someday I’ll just try this for the sake of trying, sorry guys). It benefits nobody to go into a situation believing you will fail. As the way overused quote from Wayne Gretzky goes, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
I’m not saying “let’s all go out and be assholes.” The world has too many of those irrational, unbearable idiots. I’m just saying confidence with substance is a pretty powerful thing, and when someone like Richard Sherman comes around, we should appreciate it. We should try and see if we can’t find a little of that substance within ourselves.
Happy Lunar New Year.
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