With 30 seconds left in Sunday night’s NFC Championship game, the Seattle Seahawks led the San Francisco 49ers 23-17.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick propelled the 49ers to Seattle’s 18-yard line in what had all the characteristics of a drive that would go down in 49er lore.
Then Richard Sherman decided to be Richard Sherman.
The self-proclaimed and statistically-aided “best corner in the game” tipped a ball away from receiver Michael Crabtree and into the hands of teammate Malcolm Smith to end the 49ers season.
What ensued was a post-game interview that won’t soon be forgotten.
I haven’t been that entertained since Bart Scott told Sal Paolantonio he couldn’t wait to go to Pittsburgh.
If you missed Sherman’s comments, read them as if I typed them in all caps:
“I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me … Don’t you open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”
My message to 49ers fans: Don’t let your misplaced hatred for Kaepernick’s inability to make good choices in the fourth quarter condemn Sherman.
Honestly, I’m confused by why people are stunned by his fiery dialogue. The guy was pulled aside shortly after he made a play to send his team to the Super Bowl. Wouldn’t you be excited too?
Let’s not make the 49ers out to be a team full of saints either. I’m sure Sherman learned a lot from playing under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.
I’m not from San Francisco. I’m not even from the same side of the country. What I have learned from being around 49ers fans is that if Sherman was a 49er, his statue would be under construction in Union Square as we speak.
Frankly, I’m surprised that a city that prides itself on hosting a slew of colorful personalities is so quick to be intolerant of an animated athlete.
Sherman didn’t deliver the most eloquent speech of all time, but it was refreshing to hear an interview that didn’t sound like it was read off cue cards.
In the hours following the interview, social media lit up with a plethora of opinions. Many would have made the late Martin Luther King Jr. cringe.
They ranged from comparisons to a monkey to words that I’m not completely comfortable typing out. Sherman’s often called a thug because of his Compton roots, but his enthusiasm is misunderstood.
It’s misunderstood in large part because it’s common to characterize athletes as “classless” or “passionate” based on the color of their skin.
Sherman is a smart guy. He graduated Stanford with a 3.9 GPA. He got his degree in communications, which is probably why he gave such direct, concise answers to Erin Andrews’ questions.
The harsh truth is the 49ers bicep-kissing quarterback was the villain.
Kaepernick gave up the ball three times in the fourth quarter; a fumble and two interceptions. On the final drive, he almost gave it up on a throw identical to his first interception, but luckily the ball whizzed over 5’10” Earl Thomas and not 6’3” Kam Chancellor.
Then, on first and 10 with two timeouts and 30 seconds left, Kaepernick inexplicably went for the home run.
Sherman made him pay. Then he did what almost every testosterone-fueled athlete does after making a play like that: He made sure America knew his name.
It obviously worked because if you didn’t know it before, you know it now.
For you 49er fans, just don’t confuse your anger about the team’s late-game meltdown with your feelings about Richard Sherman.