I always felt the best comedians were ones who didn’t need to use profanity to make a point. The ones who relied more on imagination than indecency.
In this way, I would think Jerry Seinfeld would have made a terrific trash-talker in his chosen sport, as we saw when he defeated Duncan Meyer in a race down a New York side street.
It’s the same with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, only his big moment back east on Feb. 2 will carry a tad more significance than bragging rights to impress a girlfriend named Lois.
I haven’t tired of Sherman’s act. Super Bowls are as much or more about the athletes who play in them as they are the parties and commercials and prop bets that define them.
Media Day should be a hoot with Sherman as one of the major players offering answers to ridiculous questions being asked by the looks (likes) of Ines Sainz.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Peyton Manning next week will need a foil to his businesslike attitude in preparing the Denver Broncos to oppose Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII. Sherman fits the role perfectly. There hasn’t been an NFL cornerback who yapped as much or to the level he does since Deion Sanders brought his profound sense of flair to the field.
If it’s true Gary Payton is the greatest trash-talker in the history of Seattle sports, and the Hall of Fame point guard was as raw and brash and relentless as the art form knew, then Sherman is close to having runner-up status sewn up.
He, like Sanders and Payton and so many who came before, can back up all the chatter with talent.
It’s one of the unwritten rules about being accepted as a supreme trash-talker. You have to be a player, too.
There are other factors that help define the best.
The proverbial chip on one’s shoulder: Sherman has it. He was drafted in the fifth round out of Stanford and has never let anyone forget it, least of all wide receivers (see Crabtree, Michael) who were selected much higher and predicted to produce far more impressive pro careers.
“It’s incredibly mind-boggling,” Sherman told reporters before the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. “It fuels me every single day. Every day, I look at what people wrote. They say, ‘He’s stiff. He has no ball skills. He has no explosion or instincts to play corner.’ I think about that every day. A lot of people are like, ‘Don’t read your clippings.’ I read them every day. I use it as fuel.”
Creativity: The standard by which all supreme trash-talkers are defined is the greatest of them all, Muhammad Ali. He was as much about rhymes as right hooks.
Ali had this implausible sense of timing, an ability to exhibit charm and grace at the same time he was shredding an opponent with words.
I’m not talking about the sort of creativity that has NFL tight Kellen Winslow Jr. going all kinky on himself with a few jars of Vaseline (two for one special?) in a Target parking lot and then telling police he was “looking for Boston Market,” although you can’t beat the chicken carver with a side of mashed potatoes.
I’m talking about creativity born from intelligence, and in Sherman you’re talking about a guy who graduated from one of the nation’s most prestigious universities and has since begun working on a master’s degree. His has been a measured rise to the top of the NFL’s trash-talking food chain. He planned it this way.
His rants range from thoughtful to brazen, another way in which to define the best trash-talking athletes. There are times when he simply comes off as unlikable — Sherman’s tirade in calling ESPN host Skip Bayless “ignorant, pompous and egotistical” on national TV was more mean-spirited than anything — but for the most part he is much smarter than those his arrows are aimed at and definitely those who chastise him in print and on camera.
Ali. Payton. Sanders. Michael Jordan. Satchel Paige. Larry Bird. Floyd Mayweather Jr. John McEnroe. Kevin Garnett. Charles Barkley. Reggie Miller. Sean Avery.
Gunnery Sgt. Hartman.
There isn’t a sport or walk of like that hasn’t produced great trash-talkers. Sherman is a member of the fraternity. He makes things interesting.
He went a little crazy during a postgame interview after that NFC Championship Game victory, and, predictably, Twitter blew up from sanctimonious posts tearing into Sherman’s character. Silly.
The Super Bowl needs storylines, and this guy has the chance to be a terrific one.
I say, let him go and enjoy the ride.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.