Richard Sherman’s Post-Game Interview Carries Professional, Economic Consequences

Many of you saw Richard Sherman’s post-game interview with Erin Andrews on Sunday night, shortly after battering a pass intended for the 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree that ended up saving the game for Seattle. Today, I want to talk about the professional and economic consequences of doing something like Sherman did in the public eye.

On the professional end with his job, Richard Sherman now has to deal with players that are going to be extra-motivated to take him down. Peyton Manning is already laser-focused at studying video footage in the game room, but he might be able to find that extra few percentage points of precision by studying Sherman just a little bit harder than he might otherwise have.

All the people that Sherman has publicly mocked—Tom Brady, Michael Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick, and the others that I have not specifically followed all that closely—will now have extra motivation when they go up against him. Of course, Sherman could very well come up with the big play and continue to get the last laugh like he did on Sunday night. From a career strategy perspective, Sherman is making it harder on himself than is necessary by incentivizing his competition—his trash-talking has the realistic possibility of increasing the level of play that his competition brings to the table, making it more difficult for him to accomplish his objective of winning.

Not that long ago, I attended a conference in which the principal speaker was one of the best medical malpractice attorneys in St. Louis’s history. He’s the kind of guy that not only wins his cases, but receives rewards from juries even in excess of the amounts that he requests (he has been so successful that the Missouri legislature has chosen to enact statutes to limit the amount of money that can be rewarded in a case involving medical malpractice claims). The cases in rapid succession that triggered the statute limiting medical malpractice claims was the lawyer equivalent of when the Commissioner’s Office of Major League Baseball lowered the mound from fifteen inches to ten inches following Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA season in 1968.

After his speech, he was quickly surrounded by seven or eight people that had attended the conference. But I did get a chance to talk to one of his colleagues. And I asked him, “Besides the obvious, what do you think has been the key to his success in the courtroom over the past four decades?” And the answer I received? People don’t get upset losing to him. If you are good at what you do, prepare diligently, give it everything you got, and win graciously, people can make peace with defeat. If he had walked out of the court-room trashing his opponents for missing obvious objections, counting $100 bills, and filled his laptop with pictures of contemplated vacation destinations after receiving his one-third cut, he would probably be increasing the likelihood of future defeat because he would be putting a bullseye on his back for when he met those opposing lawyers again. It is a self-destructive habit to give talented people incentives to take you down.

The economic consequences of Richard Sherman’s boisterous post-game interview is more difficult to determine. On one hand, he probably alienated some advertisers and companies from doing business with him. On the other hand, he has taken a page out of the Muhammad Ali playbook to grab attention and raise his profile.

My guess is that outburst of emotion as seen in his post-game interview will be financially beneficial to him if he performs well and the Seahawks win. Muhammad Ali’s arrogance and hubris worked for him because he won. John McEnroe’s angry tirades allowed him to receive great sponsorship deals because he won Wimbledon in 1981, 1983, and 1984, and the U.S. Open in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1984. If the Seahawks win the Super Bowl and Sherman comes up big, he could be one of the few cornerbacks in NFL history to become a household name and he could reap significant financial benefits from that if he finds the commercial route appealing.

Gene Bedell’s work, “The Millionaire In The Mirror”, highlighted the fact that high-performing individuals often make the mistake of needlessly alienating people around them. Because they have money, because they can play a sport, because they can dominate a profession, or because they are famous, they think they possess the right to treat others with disrespect. The negative consequences of this are obvious: building trust and getting people to like you are the foundation points of all relationships. It’s more important than anything else.

Heck, I can even see that play out on a small-level, just by writing finance articles. There are some people in the personal finance community that I’ve built great relationships with, and I could write a post talking about how much fun it is to count from ten to one backwards, and they would say, “Nice job!” Similarly, I interact with people that don’t particularly like me, and almost all of my interactions with them are shaded through a negative or critical lens. If I have a typo, errant sentence, or inconsistent thought in one of my articles, they’ll be sure to let me know. The orientation that people have towards you matters a great deal—the same qualities you find endearing in people you like might be something you mock when possessed by people you don’t. Getting people to “root for you” rather than “against you” is something to conscientiously think about in all of your interactions, even if you think the relationship exists purely for business purposes.

In the case of Sherman’s trash-talking, his interview is the equivalent of investing with leverage. If things go well and he wins and continues to come up with big plays, he will have the ESPN cameras shine an extra-nice spotlight on him principally because he is so outspoken. But if the Seahawks pick up the habit of losing and Sherman loses a step or two and can’t perform, he will endure extra ridicule. Trash-talking and then not successfully backing it up is not a good place to be financially, socially, or personally.

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6 thoughts on “Richard Sherman’s Post-Game Interview Carries Professional, Economic Consequences

  1. JeffreyCHall says:

    Tim,

    I'm both a big fan of your blog as well as a big Stanford football fan. As a result, I figure this is as good a time as any for my first comment on your blog. 

    You've mentioned the potential downsides to Richard Sherman's antics, but I think there could actually be a performance IMPROVEMENT due to Sherman's trash talking. This could happen in 2 ways:

    1. His trash talking puts extra pressure on himself to perform at the highest level. He's talking the talk and now he knows he needs to walk the walk. Not only has one of his former coaches (David Shaw, now current head coach at Stanford) said that this is why Richard Sherman talks so much trash, but Richard Sherman himself has said this is why he talks so much trash. Making these bold claims ("I'm the best cornerback in football") forces him to put in extra time in the film room and on the practice field to avoid getting shown up by his opponent.

    2. It's possible that his opponents will suffer from decreased performance due to the trash talking. They could end up being more concerned with Richard Sherman than running the perfect route, catching the ball, etc. I think this is why a lot of trash talking happens in sports – you hope to get in your opponents head and make him focus on you instead of the game. If the wide receiver that Richard Sherman is covering is emotional he might lose a few percentage points of "edge" or focus that he needs to perform at his best.

    Ultimately, I think the leverage analogy is a good one, and I think somebody like Sherman has so much confidence (possibly bordering on hubris) that he'll double down on himself any day.

    Jeff

  2. CharacterBuilding123 says:

    Elle_Navorski Elle, you are asserting your own (generally negative, or at the very least, not positive) opinions towards Tim as facts. You call him "typical" and take shots at his motivation, but this is only your opinion of him. But at least for peoples that are similar to myself, his work is a godsend and I am very happy that I stumbled upon his website because I am learning a lot. 

    It's all opinion. You say he is settling for typical. I think his work is moving mountains, at least for me. 

    I was about to respond to one of your other comments you just left, but perhaps it wouldn't hurt if all of this charity and good will that you wanted to extend to others you could extend to Tim as well. I could be wrong, but you don't seem very nice and friendly towards him in the least.

  3. Elle_Navorski says:

    I think it’s a stretch to credit this one lawyer and his alleged ‘nice
    guy’ technique with causing the Missouri legislature to aim for caps on medical
    malpractice awards. Since the 1970s, some 30 state legislatures have instituted
    medical malpractice caps. This is in response to juries nationwide being
    sympathetic to what is a relatively easy PI argument. Juries are medical laypeople and
    typically swayed by emotion, rather than the minutiae and complexity of medical
    decision-making. I believe juries get it right in many instances but in
    other instances, I have doubts. In consequence, malpractice insurance costs have
    screamed up, fueling the rise in general of health care costs. Legislatures have
    reacted. 
    Also, ya know I think it is important to do just a little of the much
    hackneyed ‘due diligence’ when writing pieces like this. I have Missouri
    connections and watch matters like this. In 2012 the Missouri Supreme Court struck the medical
    malpractice caps statute you mention. See Watts v. Cox et cetera. And no, the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling does not appear to be a
    result of any Missouri attorney’s efforts, nice guy or otherwise, at least not
    in orals or filings. No doubt your nice guy plaintiffs’ attorney does contribute
    to the extensive lobbying on behalf of his specialty. It is a sound investment
    indeed. 
    You’re right that orientation towards others does matter, in the greater scheme of problem-solving, when it comes to the simple disputes that make up much of say political disagreements and investing disagreements. But for larger disputes with greater consequences, there is a do the right thing element that should rise above trying to win what easily can morph into a lifetime’s popularity contest. Character and all that.

    I think “Brevity is the wit of soul” should apply to choosing whether to write an
    article in the first place. I get the feeling you are churning out much baloney for
    the masses rather than endeavoring on sound journalism. If so, and you are
    just practicing (though at the risk of journalistic reputation) and/or trying to make a buck, and it makes you happy to be typical in your
    blogging, okay. But to give a local example, I do not think fellow Missouria-n (by roots) Kevin Kline ever considered settling for “typical.”

  4. Redtooth11 says:

    Elle_Navorski  If you truly believe the work on the site is mediocre or poor, if you really think that, you should just walk away instead of complaining.

    Re: “I get the feeling you are churning out much baloney for the masses rather than endeavoring on sound journalism.” I am very thankful for Tim’s candid opinions and investing advice because he doesn’t have to help us and he gives me information I find to be very, very helpful. 

    Two years ago, I thought the stock market was nothing but a casino. Tim (and a few others I’ll admit) are primarily responsible for changing that and putting me on the right path. I’m coming from a different place–I can’t thank him enough for what  he’s done to help me.

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