By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - There is a reason Floyd Mayweather Jr. has turned into the biggest box office attraction in boxing.
And it's the sizzle, not the steak.
Mayweather is a great performer, perhaps the best defensive fighter who has ever lived, but the casual fans who drive things like pay-per-view buys have no interest in any of that. They just want to see the braggadocios Mayweather get his comeuppance.
Richard Sherman has been a football star for some time, a two-time All-Pro regarded as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the game. Sunday, however, he became a mainstream media sensation after sending the Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII with a brilliant game-saving play in the end zone against Michael Crabtree and the San Francisco 49ers.
It wasn't Sherman's play, though, which amped up his star-power, it was his antics afterward that sent the nation into a tizzy.
In the waning seconds of Seattle's 23-17 win Sherman tipped a pass intended for Crabtree in the back-right corner of the end zone, enabling linebacker Malcolm Smith to pick off the ball to halt a potential Niners' game-winning drive, sealing Seattle's second Super Bowl trip.
After celebrating his spectacular effort replays showed Sherman approaching Crabtree and taunting the receiver by slapping him on the butt and presumably telling the dejected Texas Tech product just how good he is, a gesture which resulted in Crabtree pie-facing Sherman.
Sherman was penalized but continued celebrating by making a choking gesture directed at Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick before finally setting Twitter afire with a WWE-like post-game interview which seemed to startle FOXSports sideline reporter Erin Andrews.
"I'm the best corner in the game," Sherman screamed. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you gonna get. Don't you ever talk about me."
A stunned Andrews managed to stammer a follow-up question: "Who was talking about you?" she asked.
"Crabtree," Sherman replied. "Don't you open your mouth about the best, or I'm gonna settle it for you real quick."
At that point, probably fearing what an unhinged Sherman might do with a live microphone, Andrews turned it back over to the booth and Joe Buck.
Within seconds observers on social media threw the kitchen sink at the Stanford-educated Sherman, calling the potential NFL Defensive Player of the Year everything from classless to a thug.
He was neither?
That's not to say Sherman likes the 49ers or Crabtree. That grudge is real and may have started over the summer, at least according to his older brother Branton, who told the Seattle Times that it was Crabtree who ignited the animosity at a charity event in which the receiver allegedly tried to start a fight.
According to Branton Sherman's take, his brother responded by saying: "I'm going to make a play and embarrass him."
Whether that tale has been embellished or not is up for debate. What's not is that Crabtree fueled Sherman's fire last week when asked if the Seahawks star was the best corner in the league.
"Uh, no, I don't think so," Crabtree said last Thursday before following up with some context.
"I don't know (anything) about the best cornerbacks in the league," the Niners' top receiver continued. "I just know teams. We are playing the Seattle Seahawks and, hopefully, we come out with a win. You study him and you study the defense, the overall defense. A lot of guys play coverages. It isn't just man-to-man the whole game. So you got to study the whole defense. It is not just one guy. It is the entire defense."
It's not like subtlety or semantics are lost on a guy like Sherman, who graduated second in his class in high school and made it through Stanford, one of the top academic institutions in this country.
But, he was fired up and excited to reach the Super Bowl when Andrews queried him on live television. Within 20 minutes after looking like a wild man, he was on the set with FOX, speaking as eloquently as any NFL cornerback ever has.
By Monday, Sherman was even contrite.
"It was loud, it was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am," Sherman wrote Monday on TheMMQB.com, where he is a regular contributor.
He even gave credit to his supporting cast before finishing up by defending his own character.
"When I say I'm the best cornerback in football, it's with a caveat: There isn't a great defensive backfield in the NFL that doesn't have a great front seven," Sherman wrote. "Everything begins with pressure up front, and that's what we get from our pass rushers every Sunday.
"I don't want to be a villain, because I'm not a villainous person. To those who would call me a thug or worse because I show passion on a football field -- don't judge a person's character by what they do between the lines. Judge a man by what he does off the field, what he does for his community, what he does for his family."
That die is already cast, though.
Sherman could be ordained before Feb. 2 and Peyton Manning will still be the one arriving in North Jersey with the white hat on.
Sherman should take a page from Mayweather's book here and embrace his inner- heel while building his own brand on football's biggest stage.
01/20 15:05:16 ET