Mr. Beast Mode and Sherman
I have been a fan of the Seattle Seahawks ever since I was old enough to watch, and comprehend, the game of football on a television screen -- that would be back in the day when Jim Zorn and Steve Largent ruled the Kingdome. Needless to say, I was thrilled about the rebuilding that took place in the years leading up to last year's Super Bowl victory.
Two key pieces of that rebuilding puzzle were Marshawn Lynch, a strong, punishing running back who has dubbed himself "Beast Mode"; and Richard Sherman, a confident, outspoken corner back who backs up his talk with league-leading performance. Both individuals came from similar situations in different inner cities, yet there were some very distinct differences between their childhoods -- bigger than one being from Oakland and the other from Compton.
While watching Beast Mode highlight videos on YouTube today, I stumbled upon two very interesting interviews with these two players -- both produced by ESPN's E:60 show.
The often camera-shy Marshawn was the first interview that I watched:
You can watch a player run right through 250-lb. linebackers week in and week out and never have a clue about the individual behind the Darth Vader mask. I was struck by Lynch's response when asked if he considered himself to be a "thug". We can judge the off-the-field actions of professional athletes from an 'armchair' perspective, but we really should be asking how we might respond going from being very poor, to being able to buy anything we could possibly want. I'm not sure I would have done any better than Marshawn.
And then there's the man who is never camera-shy, Richard Sherman:
You can see some of the same themes in Sherman's story as you can in Lynch's. The key difference I noticed was that Richard had a father actively involved in his life, where Marshawn did not. Despite the fact that both players seem to have arrived at the same field of dreams, Marshawn's continued difficulty trusting others appears to stem directly from childhood hurts that have not healed. Maybe that's a part of what spurs on the Beast Mode on-field persona, and maybe that's why it's so hard for him to tell the rest of us what "Beast Mode" means.
As was mentioned in Sherman's video, he was under a lot of public scrutiny after his on-air comments that followed the NFC Championship win over the 49ers. My initial response when I watch on live TV was of shock over what had just happened, but there was also a sense of true, raw, unbridled emotion that one would expect from an athlete of that level who had just sealed his teams entrance into the Super Bowl. To me, it was a breath of fresh air compared to the stale, canned responses of "we took our game to 'em and did the best we could".
For his comments, Sherman was called a thug, among other things; and he had to go out and show that he was not just some uneducated kid off the street running his mouth -- this was an intelligent, Stanford-educated individual with a degree in communications. He should have been a top talent coming out of college, yet somehow he slipped to the 5th round. I guess you could say he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and he let the world know about it. The best corner in the game can do that, as far as I'm concerned.
Who knows if either player will be a Seahawk by the time the 2015 season rolls around, but after watching these interviews, I have a new respect for each person. The interviews only give me a glimpse of what they went through to get where they are today, but it's a better perspective than what I had before I watched them.