As the Seattle Seahawks fan community squawks Wednesday with news of John Schneider’s acknowledgment on Brock & Salk that trade rumors concerning All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman are true, it’s worth considering how Sherman might respond in the event of a trade.
While Ian Rapaport reported that Sherman’s brother Branton Sherman insists the 6th-year veteran “doesn’t want to leave behind that brotherhood”—meaning the Seahawks Legion of Boom—in the same interview the elder Sherman also noted, “This is a new chip Richard is going to use. He's going to be like, ‘You think you can trade me? I’m going to show you guys.’” Then Rapaport further interpreted: “(Richard Sherman) loves the world talking about him and doubting him and debating his worth. He uses it as fuel.”
Sherman has long been dedicated to converting such disbelief into superior football play, but I’ve recently learned that this obsession with adversity and redemption also manifests in Sherman’s reading material. Sherman loves books—he once showed up to a Halloween press conference dressed as the character Harry Potter—so for Sherman’s 29th birthday last week one of his sponsors, Seattle-based Oberto Beef Jerky, gave him a piñata filled with both jerky and some of Sherman’s favorite books. You can watch an unfortunately-oriented video of the promotion here:
None of this has anything to do with hypothetical trade scenarios but, according to the advertising rep who sent me the video, among the books included in the piñata were: Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak; Idea Man, by Paul Allen; David & Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell; Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown; Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald; Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle; Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts; Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, and Shadow Divers, by Robert Kurson.
“Lincoln”, “Talent Code” and “Idea Man” are books about character and leadership (the author of “Idea Man” also happens to be Seahawks owner Paul Allen, as Sherm notes in the clip), while “Where the Wild Things Are” is the requisite beloved children’s book. The others, however, are a mix of both fiction and nonfiction that fits the theme of figures overcoming long odds or danger to unlock surprising transcendence. “Shantaram”, for example, involves an Australian criminal who escapes from prison and flees to Bombay, India, where he succeeds as a renegade amidst a slum life of disease and violence and further abuse and challenges. “Unbroken” documents the real-life story of an Olympic athlete who survived an airplane crash in World War II and a series of prisoner of war camps. “David & Goliath” is about underdog strategies, and so on.
However, at the top of the list was yet another tale of unlikely survival and personal transformation, with an added note that this story was Richard Sherman’s favorite of them all: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas. Here you can see it at the center of the pile of literature and jerky:
This one stood out to me because it was the only pre-20th century title, but also because it takes the motif beyond simply struggle into an obsession with revenge. “Monte Cristo” is a famous adventure classic, but in case you’re not familiar with the tome, here is the synopsis from Wikipedia: “It centres on a man who is wrongfully imprisoned, escapes from jail, acquires a fortune, and sets about getting revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment. However, his plans have devastating consequences for the innocent as well as the guilty.” Here also is Sherman showing his love for the film version, and begging for a sequel or remake, in February:
Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite movies. Wish they would make another— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) February 18, 2017
If you don’t see the parallel with Sherman’s potential situation in the case of a trade, here is literary critic Umberto Eco’s analysis of the attraction to this novel, from Eco’s “Inventing the Enemy”: “The reader would like to deal with his enemies, his boss, or the woman who has walked out on him in the same way that Monte Cristo does. ‘You used to despise me? Well then, now I shall tell you who I really am!’ And he licks his lips, waiting for the final moment to arrive.” (Emphasis added.)
Picking up the clues, we can guess that should the Seattle front office trade Sherman, he will borrow a page from Edmund Dantès and dedicate himself for the remainder of his career to absolutely destroying his NFL competition, and specifically the Seahawks whenever given the opportunity. Not that I’m saying Sherman hasn’t already tried his hardest to own the league but, with his temperament and his love of literature as a guide, you can guess that an “exiled” Sherman will consolidate every resource possible toward this narrow vendetta. The cornerback will cast his time with the Seahawks as the imprisonment of Shantaram and the feud with Pete Carroll as the chastisement of Louis Zamperini in “Unbroken”. We can debate from now till the draft whether any scenarios make trading a mid-contract Sherman acceptable, but no matter what kind of swap Schneider engineers, there will always be Sherman licking his lips at every future chance to show that any such move was a disaster.
On the other hand, as Sherman’s brother describes, with the right gambit of loyalty Seattle might still harness this retributive motive for its own dividend and unleash the same doubled-down Sherman on a warpath against the Seahawks’ foes, to continue proving his worth to the organization and among the best all-time defenders. For now, it could go either way. But let’s hope whatever happens, whatever devastation is owed the guilty, we can spare any collateral tragedy for the innocent. Either way, I suspect in 2017 and beyond we shall find out who Richard Sherman really is. And I don’t just mean his taste in books.