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SEATTLE – As the heady haze of Super Bowl excitement continued to gather in this city while huddling itself into a protective cocoon around its most talkative resident, Richard Sherman must have been chuckling to himself.
Even though it might not have looked like it depending on where you live, which radio station you listen to, and which television talking head you prefer, the Seattle Seahawks' shutdown corner won big once again Monday, less than 24 hours after that game, that tipped pass and THAT postgame interview.
While some angry football philosophers around the nation scorned Sherman for the tone and manner of his on-air rant in the immediate wake of his team's 23-17 NFC championship triumph over the San Francisco 49ers, things were very different in this part of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle's citizens have perhaps learned a thing or two from the uncompromising nature of the Legion of Boom, and everywhere you turned there was a forthright collective voice ready to lend support in rebuffing a fatuous national outcry.
"Seattle has had this image of being soft for too long and people love that Sherman stands up for himself, his team and this city," said Elise Woodward, co-host of the "Elise and Jerry" sports talk show on Seattle's 950 KJR-AM. "He embodies what the Seahawks are all about, a bunch of guys with a chip on their shoulder, a point to prove and no desire to apologize for it. People elsewhere can say what they like, you won't hear anything negative about him here."
Sherman indeed apologized Monday afternoon for his interview. But it wasn't as if Seattle itself demanded it. For all the things Sherman doesn't like, all the things he thinks are ignorant (Skip Bayless), overrated (Darrelle Revis) or mediocre (Michael Crabtree), he loves his adoptive city and the 12th Man phenomenon.
A stroll downtown on Monday would have only added to his good cheer as the countdown to the Super Bowl in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium began. Seahawks jerseys were still on display in abundance, with many of the wearers happy to weigh in on the nation's biggest sporting talking point.
"They don't like it because it is a brash young guy," said local contractor "Merch" Frazier, as he walked toward a travel agent to book his travel package to the Big Apple. "Like it or not, being the best in the game gives you some bragging rights. If Peyton Manning goes out and says something no one cares, because he is established, he has been around for years."
Picturing Manning scathingly deride a vanquished opponent as "sorry" in the aftermath of a win takes some fancy imagination, and if it is ever seen it will likely come in one of the star quarterback's goofy commercials rather than on an actual football field.
The Seahawks don't have a Manning-type leader; their QB Russell Wilson is blooming into an outstanding young talent but the figurehead of this team isn't a guy who has been around for nearly two decades and won four MVPs.
Instead, that figurehead is Sherman, and while the other players aren't about to fully adopt his inflammatory style anytime soon they are regularly grateful for it.
"He is an individual and he does things his own way," receiver Doug Baldwin said. "But everything he does is to help this team and give us a better chance to win. That's what it's all about for him."
"I don't want him to change in any way," added defensive end Red Bryant. "This is a team game and we have had great contributions from so many guys, but he has been huge for us. Whatever he is doing, it is working. I don't want him to stop any of it."
Sherman might love the external criticism more than the praise from familiar faces. Every barb or slight is fuel in a tank filled with slights. He devours every article about him. Sometimes the criticism isn't real, a lazy adjective here or there that might not meet his lofty impressions of his abilities. But he loves it.
If people protect him, he wins. If people criticize him, he wins.
The only way to beat him … is to beat him – and there is only one team left that has a chance to do that.