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Too bad Richard Sherman wasn’t allowed to fully express his feelings

Updated: January 21, 2014 10:01AM

‘Joe, back over to you.’’

No! In the name of all that is good and right in the world, NOT back over to Joe Buck!

This was Sunday night, and Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews was presented with what might have been the interview of a lifetime or the fiery end of her life because Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman seemed on the verge of self-immolation.

The Seahawks had just beaten the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, thanks to Sherman’s end-zone deflection of a pass intended for 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree in the waning moments. The ball ended up in the hands of Seahawks teammate Malcolm Smith. The Seahawks were headed to the Super Bowl.

Andrews was ‘‘standing by’’ with Sherman, as they say in broadcasting, and Buck sent the telecast her way. She wanted to talk with Sherman about his game-saving play. Unbeknownst to Andrews, Sherman was out of his mind and had something else in mind.

‘‘Well, I’m the best corner in the game!’’ he screamed. ‘‘When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get! Don’t you ever talk about me!’’

Andrews, sensing her David Frost-interviewing-Richard Nixon moment, zeroed in: ‘‘Who was talking about you?’’

‘‘Crabtree!’’ Sherman said. ‘‘Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or you know I’m gonna shut it for you real quick!’’

And all I could think of as I watched at home was: ‘‘Keep him talking. Whatever you do, Ms. Andrews, keep him talking.’’

This was something we almost never see: an angry professional athlete in the aftermath of the game of his life, raw and immediate and uncut. Sherman looked dangerous, which is exactly what pro football players are during games. We rarely get to see that up close, the way we did late Sunday.

There was no telling what Sherman would have said upon further questioning from Andrews. That Crabtree’s home, family and worldly possessions were in serious danger? That Sherman eats a lion’s heart before every game? That Crabtree is a closet foie gras eater?

Andrews seemed game for more, but she had a producer yelling in her earpiece to cut the interview short.

‘‘All right, before . . . ,’’ she began to say to Sherman, before shifting gears with, ‘‘ . . . and, Joe, back over to you.’’

No! A thousand times no! We were on the verge of TV history. We were almost witnesses to the first televised example of spontaneous combustion. Whoever that producer was, he or she single-handedly lost the big game.

I’ll admit to being seriously torn here — torn between the horror of watching a selfish person completely kidnap his team’s celebration and the fascination of watching someone with no filter invade my TV screen. Sherman already had made a choking gesture to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick after the interception. My immediate Twitter response after Andrews’ interview was, ‘‘Richard Sherman, staying classy.’’

But here was a competitor and a punk, all rolled into one, caught up in the heat of the moment. Remember Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction speech, during which he went through a long list of slights and perceived slights, all of which, he said, fueled him into being the player he was? This was a little like that, only in real time. Sherman later said he was mad at Crabtree for something the receiver had said about him during the offseason.

Who knows what Crabtree had said? Who knows if he really had said anything or if it all had been in Sherman’s head? It doesn’t really matter. It was great TV, cut prematurely short.

Sherman figures to be the big star during the massive buildup to the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, and you can bet it will lead to discussions of bigger issues, such as race, character and sportsmanship. You also can bet the talkative Sherman will oblige with interview after interview.

In an attempt to explain himself after his outburst Sunday, he wrote a column for Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB.

‘‘It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am,’’ he wrote. ‘‘I don’t want to be a villain because I’m not a villainous person.’’

Whether you are or aren’t doesn’t much matter anymore, Richard. You opened your mouth on national TV and made the decision for other people easy. You’re lucky a Fox producer rescued you from going up in total flames. Now that would have been must-see TV.


Twitter: @morrisseyCST

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