From the press box: love them or hate them, unpredictable players add to the game

COMMENT

Political correctness branded as team unity has wiped out, or at the least dulled down, colourful personalities on our sporting stages.

The bogan bites from our Australian cricketers this summer do not count. That was plain boorish.

We need showmanship.

Political correctness is wiping out real raw passion.

We need more athletes like Richard Sherman.

Australian fans can watch the world’s most-watched annual sporting game on Monday morning beamed into our pubs and living rooms from New York/New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium.

The Superbowl XLVIII.

The name itself – let alone the fact it is American – guarantees a bigger-than-big show.

For those still unsure of the NFL championship match’s unfolding action, just look for Sherman – Seattle Seahawks’ number 25 in the defensive lines.

The Seahawks’ cornerback polarised the United States, both its sports and non-sports fans, with his post-match interview immediately after his match-winning deflection against San Francisco that claimed a Superbowl spot a fortnight ago.

In the 20-second interview likened to a professional wrestling promo, Sherman declared himself “the best cornerback in the game” and claimed that was the result “you’re gonna get” against a “sorry receiver”, referring to San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree for whom the 49ers’ final pass was intended in their end zone.

A lot of factors came into play – Sherman is renowned for his on-field talking – it is how he fights and why Seahawks fans love him – and when he genuinely went to shake Crabtree’s hand post-match he was shoved away in the face.

Sherman was fiery and he later admitted he should not have belittled Crabtree, but the reporter captured the true essence of his game and how he plays.

Sherman and NFL fans know he can and will back up the talk.

It was refreshingly riveting viewing.

How often do we hear our top athletes, particularly in team sports, come off the field and spout the same old party lines: “the team pulled together really well”, “I’m just happy to play my role for the team”, or “we stuck to our processes and are happy with the win”.

Then, there’s the most over-used post-match line: “we’re just taking it one game at a time”.

Blah!

These have infiltrated every level of sport, even right down to our own Ballarat community players.

It offers a robotic, soft and seemingly false modesty – a fear that spouting anything else is not part of being a ‘team player’.

People feel uncomfortable when athletes like Sherman stray from the norm, yet most critics will be sucked into watching what he serves up on sport’s biggest stage.

He is a professional athlete and this is business.

Sherman gave his all for his team against San Francisco and his words have set high expectations to follow up for the Seahawks this weekend.

He knows what he has to do and his press meetings this week have been relatively focused and standard.

This does not imply that all our athletes should unleash their inner smack talk every game, but we do need room for players to show some character.

At least a little flair.

There are Carlton fans that travel to Yarrawonga to watch Brendan Fevola line up with the Pigeons and reminisce how good a bit of unpredictability used to be.

Fevola pulls a crowd wherever he goes and is establishing a solid post-match career playing on loan, including a game for Ballarat Football League club Bacchus Marsh last year, and sparks big gate-takings. 

There’s always that chance Fev will show his brilliance in front of goal, but he always guarantees a show – remember how he used to sulk if play did not go his way?

Brisbane Lion Jason Akermanis’ celebratory headstand got banned in his move to Western Bulldogs for not being team-first, and yet there was always the hope that he would sneak one in post-match.

Love them or hate them, character adds to the game, and the fans lap it up.

The Superbowl will not be the Sherman-show, there is too much at stake for the Seahawks and their Denver rivals to let it become that, but there has been an added hype in Superbowl week from fans that might otherwise have little care on who wins.

There will be a mass of new fans in Sherman’s number 25 guernsey this week – and a whole

new mass hoping a Denver Bronco will squash him.

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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