Richard Sherman is a thug.
Or an intellect.
He's a reason to cheer against Seattle.
Or a reason to cheer for it.
He's an example of what's wrong with sports.
Or an example of what makes it great.
When the brash Seahawk defensive back stood on the field Sunday evening after Seattle defeated San Francisco, looked at a TV camera and unleashed a wild-eyed rant against Niner receiver Michael Crabtree, it whipped the sports world into a frenzy. Heck, daytime talk show hosts who would've said before that Richard Sherman was the name of a middle school math teacher, not an NFL star were suddenly talking about him. Everyone suddenly had an opinion about Sherman.
And most of them were cut and dried. Sherman was either awesome or evil and nothing in between.
It's more complicated than that — most things involving our wacky human race usually are — and if Sherman is anything, it's complicated.
He's a guy who grew up in Compton, Calif., the son of a garbage man, and even though the pull of gangs and the scepter of violence were prevalent, Sherman became the salutatorian of his high school graduating class.
Grade-point average: 4.2.
He went to Stanford where he got his degree in communications — insert joke here — and took grad school classes before leaving campus.
But he also sent a profanity-laced email at one point to his dorm Listserv and hooked horns with teammates and coaches alike.
He's a complex individual.
About the only thing that's cut and dried about Sherman is his athletic ability. He went to Stanford as a receiver, and after spending almost his entire career at the position, he asked to be switched to cornerback. Now, he's the best cover corner on the planet.
Sherman got thrown at twice on Sunday.
After the play he made at the end of the game, it's easy to see why the Niners stayed away from him. Sherman was the only thing standing between a Colin Kaepernick pass and Crabtree's hands, and leaping ridiculously high, Sherman reached one of his Inspector Gadget arms into the sky. He got his hand on the ball, batting it to a teammate and sealing the Seahawks' victory.
It was a spectacular play at crunch time.
Biggest play in franchise history, too.
But no one is talking about it because of what Sherman said after the game. He called Crabtree mediocre. Sorry.
Apparently, Sherman and Crabtree have some off-field history. Crabtree shoved Sherman in the face moments after that tipped pass in the end zone.
But, of course, Sherman has become the lightning rod. A lot of people saw a 19 second interview and immediately picked sides. He was either good or bad. He was either brilliant or rude. He was either to be loved or loathed.
The truth is, he's some of all of that.
I didn't like the rant. Disrespecting an opponent is never cool. Regardless of his history with Crabtree, Sherman should've shown more class, more poise, more sportsmanship in victory.
And hey, if you say a guy is a sorry receiver, isn't that diminishing what you did against him?
It's like fans chanting “Over-rat-ed!” after an upset. Doesn't that lessen the magnitude of your team's victory?
I'm all for athletes who say interesting things, but there's a difference between interesting and out of line. Brandon Weeden was always interesting during his time at Oklahoma State. Ditto for Gabe Ikard during his career at Oklahoma. Never once did either of those guys step out of line.
So, all things considered, how are we supposed to look at Sherman now?
He's still the best cornerback in the business. If you were trying to teach young kids how to play in the secondary, you'd show them video of Richard Sherman. But if you were trying to teach those same kids how to be gracious in victory, that video from Sunday night wouldn't make the cut.
Just because Sherman is a great football player doesn't mean he's great in every way, but just because he said some inappropriate things doesn't mean he's a terrible person.
This situation is many things.
Cut and dried isn't one of them.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.