A Richard Sherman and Seahawks weekend
This weekend, like many Seattleites I watched the football game for the NFC championship between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.
I am not a big football fan, but when you have a team that celebrates the “12th man” like the Seahawks, it is easy to root for the home team. Truth be known, Mrs. HRNasty was on eBay spending money on useless shit because “This is such a deal!” and screaming at the TV every time Seattle was going to touch the ball. I couldn’t take either of these outbursts, let alone both at the same time, so after about 5 minutes, I got up to practice my casting for my first passion, fly fishing for steelhead with a spey rod. She convinced me that she would calm down and we watched the entire game together. Ahhh. . . those sentimental Nasty family moments.
I, like everyone, stuck around for the entire game because it really was a game until the very end. This was an exciting game that kept you watching and nervous regardless of what team you were rooting for.
Immediately after the game, reporter Erin Andrews was interviewing Richard Sherman, the cornerback for the Seahawks and it seems all hell broke loose. If you are a bear in winter hibernation and just coming out of your cave, Erin Andrews asked a simple question and the uninitiated viewer received a lot more than he or she bargained for. Even if the viewer had a TV from circa 1980 with rabbit ears, what they got was 3D, quadraphonic, DTS sound. A raw, unabashed, rated R, under 17 requiring parent or guardian, in your face Richard Sherman victory tirade. Like everyone else, I was jolted. I didn’t understand exactly what he said in the moment, but I quickly came to the conclusion that the Seahawks brand was probably going to suffer. Over the next 3 minutes, the networks showed 20 replays of his message and his message was crystal clear.
“Well, I am the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t ever talk about me!”
I turned to Mrs. Nasty and commented that it is too bad that after the team busts their ass and wins the game, this is what is going to be remembered.
A wise man once said “1 part shit and 99 part wine still tastes like shit.”
I don’t agree or disagree with what Richard Sherman said, but as soon as it happened, I couldn’t help but put on my corporate HR hat and make some business analogies. In my quick-to-judge mind, I jumped to the conclusions just like everyone else. But I am not everyone else, I am HRNasty, not some mediocre HR practitioner who takes his administrative orders from a pencil neck CFO and pushes a lot of paper. (Like my Sherman impression?)
So, in typical HR fashion, I started doing some homework. Believe it or not, most HR Pro Am’s DO try to get the facts before coming to a decision. Making a snap decision on a single view of time is what gives HR a shitty name. Over the years, I have tried really hard to make unbiased decisions when it comes to working, and this judgmental and emotionally charged sports moment seemed all too familiar.
I will be the first to say, going into the game, although I understand football, I don’t follow the players at an individual level. I didn’t know anything about Richard Sherman’s background. The Monday morning after the game, when everyone else was discussing the big game, my CEO asked me “Did you even watch the game?” because he knows most days will find me on the water fishing vs. watching sports.
So, here is what I found out about Richard Sherman:
- A lot of athletes trash talk. Jordan and Bird were infamous for trying to get into each other’s heads. Ali might have had a little better flow, but he was a master trash talker in his time. (Trash talk isn’t anything new or reserved for professional athletes. A day fishing with my fishing partner wouldn’t be fishing if we couldn’t trash talk each other. Anytime he asks me about a new cast or secret fishing place, my standard response is always “You’re not ready”).
- Richard Sherman CAN back up his trash talk. Herm Edwards, ESPN insider just named Sherman the number 1 cornerback in the league and had this to say about him. “He can play zone, but his strength is getting his arms on receivers in bump-and-run and disrupting routes.” Sounds familiar.
- A cornerbacks skill set requires the ability to anticipate the quarterback (assumed to be the smartest guy on the field), executing both single and zone coverage, disrupting pass routes, block shedding, and tackling. I don’t know about you, but if I could do even 1 of those things without having an asthma attack, I would call that day a success. I might be able to stick my hand in the way and disrupt a receiver if I could keep up with him, but I am sure as heck not going to be doing any blocking or tackling. This is a special breed of athlete. The movie “300” and the Spartans come to mind.
- Richard Sherman is a smart guy. Mrs. Nasty has a number of friends that were professional athletes and after hanging out with them and hearing their stories, I am convinced that in order to make it to this level of play, you have to be smart, dedicated, and have a lot of drive. You don’t get to this level by accident and you don’t stay there long-term without all the tools including a high level of intellectual horsepower. It may not be traditional business acumen but make no mistakes, at this level, you need to have the brain power.
- Richard Sherman graduated 2nd in his class in high school while playing sports and graduated from Stanford with a degree in communications. I couldn’t do any one of these in my wildest dreams and my Tiger parents beat me like a rented mule in an effort to get me there. This guy got schkills.
- Richard Sherman has an articulate and well-written blog and a charity. This guy doesn’t make a ton of money by NFL Standards, but he figures out a way to give back. I know I don’t have a charitable bone in my body.
- Richard Sherman extended his hand to Crabtree after the play and got a face full. Although I don’t know what was said. . . I gotta give the benefit of the doubt to Sherman on this one.
- Apparently, the behavior displayed during the short interview IS typical Richard Sherman. The Seahawks knew the kind of player they were picking up when they signed him. Richard Sherman is a passionate player who can back up his talk. If I were the owner of a professional sports team in a league, I would much rather have a player that can back up his trash talk than just a player that talks trash. No one likes that guy.
- Richard Sherman took a knee in prayer for injured player Novarro Bowman who was left with a torn ACL in a very ugly injury earlier in the game.
If HRNasty just made the game-winning play in the most important game of the season, I may or may not have trash talked another player. But you can be dang sure I would have said something like “I’m going to Disneyland Mother F*&%’ers!” When I close a hard to fill position for the company and I didn’t have to pay any recruiter expenses because I pulled the talent through my personal network, I want to go to the exec team and scream “Who’s your daddy bitches??!!” I have been known to throw in a growl and a most muscular pose for good measure.
This guy got excited and passionate about a personal rival. I have seen a LOT worse behavior at PeeWee football games where parents are yelling at the coaches to put their little precious in the game. I have experienced the screech of the soccer mom yelling at referees when their little rug rat got an alleged bad call. We have witnessed grown adults yelling at little kids at baseball games for striking out or not running to first base hard enough. If I had the choice between Sherman and these parents, I am going with Sherman.
As an HR pro-am, I am not here to judge a guy that was hyped up on adrenaline on probably one of the most important days of his life. I want to find out the history and background story first, and then try to give the benefit of the doubt. Turns out Richard Sherman and Crabtree had a little history. My point is that no one is perfect. Managers aren’t perfect, employees aren’t perfect and our sports heroes aren’t always perfect.
I don’t know for sure, but I get the feeling that if Richard Sherman could do it all over again, I think he would play it differently. At the end of the day, this is sports, this is a battle, and frankly, this is war. I don’t have the warrior mentality to play professional sports. Yes, I may have the body but I don’t have the toughness. If the guy in HR is going to trash talk when he closes a candidate or catches a fish. . . I wonder what I would do on a game day in front of 50,000 fans if I blocked the winning goal.
Everyone has his or her moments. I know I have had plenty, more bad than good. We shouldn’t make quick judgments based on a single snapshot in time. There is usually a reason for everything. My job in HR is to explain business decisions. You may not like the decision on a personal level, but hopefully, after HR provides a little background and perspective, you can respect it from a business point of view. My intention is that this post will help readers think twice before making a snap judgment and jumping to conclusions in the workplace. In a field of 32 teams where only a few will be contenders, I know I want Richard Sherman on my team and I wouldn’t want him playing for the competition. It’s all about perspective.
See you at the Super Bowl after party,