Newspaper article International New York Times

On-Field Jaw-Jacking Not a New Phenomenon at Super Bowl ; Fuss over Trash-Talking by Seattle Player Leaves N.F.L. Veterans Cold

Newspaper article International New York Times

On-Field Jaw-Jacking Not a New Phenomenon at Super Bowl ; Fuss over Trash-Talking by Seattle Player Leaves N.F.L. Veterans Cold

Article excerpt

Before it was the No Fun League, the N.F.L. had its share of chatty characters with iconic nicknames, so insiders wonder why the fuss over Richard Sherman.

Before it was the No Fun League, the N.F.L. had loquacious characters with iconic nicknames. Dandy Don Meredith, Broadway Joe Namath and Deion Sanders, a.k.a. Prime Time, to name a few. They were as memorable off the field as they were on because they had style, a flair for drama and, more often than not, an attention- getting proclamation.

Forty-five years ago, Namath predicted that the New York Jets would upset the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. He not only cemented his legend and Hall of Fame credentials but helped transform the game into a national celebration by leading the Jets to a 16-7 victory.

Sanders, another Hall of Famer and a two-time Super Bowl champion, was playful and sometimes poetic.

"If you look good, you feel good," he said. "If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good."

He still is.

"When you look up the word cornerback, you see me," he said the other day. "There's a picture of me."

What prompted the quip was yet another discussion of cornerback Richard Sherman's postgame eruption at San Francisco's Michael Crabtree after Sherman knocked away a pass that led to an N.F.C.- title-clinching interception for the Seattle Seahawks. For better or worse, Sherman's antics dominated the days leading to the Super Bowl.

We've learned Sherman is a bright Stanford graduate with a chip on his shoulder and admiration for Muhammad Ali. We've learned he is widely regarded as one of the best defensive backs in the game.

Everyone from the editorial board of The Seattle Times to David Letterman and the rapper Lil Wayne has weighed in on the public reaction to Sherman. He has been called everything from a thug to a breath of fresh air.

"Fans are allowed to be passionate by definition, with obvious limits," The Seattle Times said. "What the gifted All-Pro player did not deserve or invite are the racist taunts and profane abuse he received."

Letterman blamed the news media.

"They want him to be crazy, and then if you're too crazy, they don't want him to be too crazy, but they really would rather he was crazy," Letterman said in a conversation with his guest Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints' quarterback.

As for Lil Wayne, well, he looked into Sherman's soul and decided that the cornerback was faking his fondness for trash talking and was merely trying to get under opponents' skin.

"It all of a sudden doesn't seem so natural," Lil Wayne told Sports Illustrated.

They were all a little bit right. In truth, however, trading taunts and quips is a time-honored tradition in the N.F.L. Before Super Bowl XIII in January 1979, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Hollywood Henderson called Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert "Dracula" because he was missing his two front teeth. …

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