O’Neil: Will Richard Sherman get the last word in his return to Seattle?
I was once told that all sports feature stories come in one of three flavors:
There is “The Rise.” There is “The Fall.” And then – in some cases – there is “The Redemption.”
As accurate as that list may appear, though. It is incomplete. There is a fourth category for sports stories, one that has only become more prominent as players change teams with increasing frequency: The Return. And it’s that storyline – when a former player returns as an opponent to the city where he or she was once cheered – that is one of the most unpredictable, confusing and quite frankly electric moments in present-day professional sports.
It was in 2001 when Alex Rodriguez returned to Seattle for the first time as a Texas Ranger to a chorus of boos and one guy in the crowd dangling Monopoly money from a fishing pole. It was just as electric in January 2004 when Gary Payton returned to Seattle as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
And while it probably won’t be quite so dramatic on Sunday when Richard Sherman returns to Seattle as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, there’s certainly the possibility for fireworks. After all, this is Sherman’s first chance to get the last word against his former team, and anyone who’s ever spent more than 5 minutes with Sherman will know how important it is for him to get the last word. There’s also the matter of the connection between Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson, which Sherman himself described as non-existent.
It’s equally possible that it’s a storyline that will become a footnote to the actual game that is played. Sherman isn’t going to be introduced individually so it’s not like there will be a public referendum on how the crowd feels about him.
Could be the Seahawks stay away from Sherman as so many other teams have this year, picking on other parts of a secondary that has plenty of shortcomings. Opposing quarterbacks have a passer rating of 101.5 against San Francisco, which is seventh-worst in the league, and the 49ers have picked off two passes this season, fewest of any team in the league.
But if – or maybe it’s when – the Seahawks do throw in Sherman’s direction, everyone will be watching to see what happens, and that unpredictability is what makes “The Return” so incredibly compelling.