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Hate to lose Richard Sherman — also a bummer to lose the hate

To put it mildly, the Seahawks won’t be the same amount of polarizing without 25 out there.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
you know they hate us ‘cause they ain’t us, right
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You love the New England Patriots, right? How about the Green Bay Packers? No, wait wait wait — I bet you adore the Pittsburgh Steelers.

If you’re like most your fanmates, there’s a reason you do not. Like those guys. Because there’s a player or two in their uniforms who you absolutely cannot stand. Someone who’s stuck it to the Seattle Seahawks on occasion, in the playoffs even, and you hate him for it. Maybe Tom Brady, or Julian Edelman, or whoever, rubs you the wrong way, or the smugness-plus-greatness of Aaron Rodgers puts you off. Possibly even the sight of Ben Roethlisberger’s name makes your skin crawl. Sorry about that.

They’re also very, very good players. They wouldn’t be worth despising so intensely if they weren’t.

Well, with the departure of Richard Sherman on March 9, 2018 (and to a lesser extent, that of Michael Bennett earlier in the week) the Seahawks also lose something that helped define them: hate.

I don’t see any reason to believe opponents disliked Sherman. At least, besides Michael Crabtree, and in the end, Sherman is probably no more reviled than the average opponent. I mean, look, Number 25’s record speaks for itself. Not that Sherman would ever let it speak for itself. He will help. Look at him help!

“Oh, but he must be slowing down, what with age and the injury and all that.”

Key words in the tweet above: “this year.” And that’s on 1.01 Achilles, as Sherman revealed post-injury that he’d been waiting all year for his tendon to give out.

But back to the hate. It was immensely gratifying to know other fans dreaded the Sherman Show coming to town, nice to know he was inside their heads. It was titillating to know he could work his way inside the mind of a rival QB. Like Brady after the (in)famous U Mad Bro game in 2012.

Then, Rodgers wouldn’t throw to Sherman’s side after his early (and terribly crucial) end-zone interception in the 2014 conference championship game — even though Sherman was playing on one arm. He wouldn’t even breathe in Sherm’s direction earlier in the year.

As long as Sherman was holding down the left side of the defense, yawning when he’d go untested and chirping when he yet snatched another ball out of the air, people were going to hate the Seahawks. And I was going to love it. Probably you too, sometimes.

Being the recipient of such vitriol from opposing fans might’ve been aggravating to some, but no matter where you stood on Sherman’s vocal outbursts and on-field snark, it was a fresh feeling. To know your Seahawks mattered so much that people expended inordinate amounts of negative energy rooting against them. When I first heard that fans would tune in to Seattle games just to root against the Seahawks, it was a sign that things had changed. For the better. Bring it on, rivals. We can take it, just like we’ll take away that ball you thought was yours. Oops. /shrug emoji

(And who knows — Sherman’s return to Seattle colors is not out of the question. He could get released then re-signed by John Schneider at a lower price. And play with yet another chip on his shoulder. But it would be a surprise beyond even Seattle’s standards of surprises.)

Make no mistake. The Seahawks will still be feared, but now it’s more because of plays like this —

— than plays like this:

When the roster is in loop-dee-loop churn mode, it’s more than a little reassuring that Russell Wilson is the face of the franchise. But it’s more than a little heartbreaking that Richard Sherman is no longer the voice.

When your team is consistently good, you earn respect. When your team is consistently interesting, you earn relevance. When your team is full of verbal jousters, you receive ire from all corners of the league. And it feels so good! Why? Because if it isn’t great, people don’t hate.

It’ll be nice to still enjoy the respect and relevance to which we’ve grown accustomed, so long as Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson lead the Seahawks along. But damn, I’ll miss the hate.