In the minutes after Sundays NFC championship game, cornerback Richard Sherman gave honest answers about his ability, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree and his play that helped send the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl.
It was terrific television and a glimpse into the true emotions and feelings involved in being a participant in one of the biggest NFL games of the season.
And Sherman got hammered for it.
Got called a thug.
Got called classless.
Got called a bad winner, a poor sport and many worse words that went beyond the pale of acceptable criticism.
For three hours, we watched as two of the most physical teams in the NFL played one of the most brutal games Ive ever seen. When it was over, some apparently wanted the combatants to share orange slices and juice boxes in the name of sportsmanship.
As a reporter (and sports fan), I prefer honest answers from coaches and athletes, politicians and regular old folks. I dont want sanitized quotes. I want the emotional ones, the ones that come in the seconds after the game, the fight, the election.
Give everyone a 10-minute cooling off period, as is typical at most sporting events, and you get cooled off quotes, cooled off reactions.
Shermans quotes were anything but. They were real, honest, emotional.
The Stanford graduate and communications major never cursed. He never threatened reporter Erin Andrews. He looked directly in the camera and delivered his thoughts.
I loved it.
Instead of celebrating a player speaking his mind or simply acknowledging Shermans point of view and moving on, plenty of people have claimed he didnt show enough class or sportsmanship or another of those nebulous (and constantly shifting) terms that people use when they simply dont like something.
And please dont tell me class and sportsmanship have concrete definitions.
Peyton Manning called a teammate an idiot kicker, and we thought it was hilarious.
Muhammad Ali called himself the greatest of all time, taunted opponents during fights and called them names before matches. Today, we revere him for his bravado.
After the deflected interception, Sherman offered a hand and he says a good game to Crabtree, who shoved him in his facemask.
We see what we want to see through our own distorted view of the world. We define class and sportsmanship on a case-by-case basis.
Sherman is a football player playing a football game. If hes not allowed to be honest about what he thinks about his opponent, then who is allowed to be completely honest?
Crabtree will get two more chances at Sherman next year.
Hopefully well get a lot more chances to hear what Sherman and other athletes really think.
But, judging from this outcry and Shermans unnecessary Monday apology needed to quash the faux outrage, probably not.
Thats a loss for all of us.