Richard Sherman, Steve Smith and player personality

Grant Halverson

Dislike Richard Sherman? Then you probably don't care for Steve Smith, right?

Players are supposed to be humble, act like "they've been there before" and contort themselves into some sort of box we pretend was fashioned by Vince Lombardi 50 years ago. Football has inherent romance, the slow motion replay of Barry Sanders' iconic touchdown run is modern dance and the game gives us passionate stories each and every week.

That romanticism can go too far. Suddenly there are ethereal concepts like "class" being applied to how players act post-game. A towel over the head becomes a veil to hide from teammates and an emotional cornerback becomes a "thug" in a matter of moments.

Richard Sherman is great in the same way Steve Smith is great. They're two men cut from the same cloth -- give respect, get respect. That's why it's so interesting to see so many Panthers fans put Smitty on a pedestal while chiding Sherman for his post-game interview.

"I'm the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Michael Crabtree those are the results you're going to get."

Are these words suddenly transformed because Sherman was yelling? Heck, they're a whole lot softer than Smith's evaluation of Janoris Jenkins post-game earlier this season.

"That's all I'm going to say. I don't play them games. When you try to take it personal like that, I don't have any great humbling things to say. So he can take his (butt) back to St. Louis and watch the (expletive) film because I don't play them games. And if I see him in the streets I'm going to bust him in his (expletive) mouth."

To recap: Sherman says he's the best and Crabtree is sorry, Smith says he'll physically assault Jenkins if he sees him.

It's about passion, and that's great for the game. Find me a compelling player with a milquetoast demeanor. Whether it's screaming "get the (expletive) off my field" or suggesting an opponent "Ice up, son" we want our players to be confident, but God forbid they ever show it.

Part of the issue is how media travels now. If high-sensitivity microphones and Twitter were available while Michael Jordan was on top people would probably have a different perception of one of the league's most renowned trash talkers. We want more access but then use it to lord over players with a sense of moral superiority -- "they may be famous and make millions, but darn it I have class."

The tragedy in all this could be the erosion of personality in the league. Slap a wrist enough times with public shaming and soon things become boring. The NFL is already hell bent on stamping out as much personality as possible, and it would be a shame to see it go.

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