There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this website right now, you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how great you are. This is TFM’s stock in trade, to inflate the collective ego of fraternity gentlemen to a point of absurdity, and then sell that back to you as satire – or, in some cases, reality. You might balk, but consider the fact that you are a member of an intentionally elitist organization, you dress in a manner befitting your elitism, and, if I’m guessing correctly here, you’re a…hmmm… above the poverty-line white guy who leans conservative? Did I get that right? Yessss. Even the very act of you voting red oozes a confidence that you’ll always be OK – you’ll never need government handouts, thank you very much (funny thing though, if you’re like most rich-ish white people, you’ve received the MOST handouts. A large portion of you aren’t paying for college yourself). And I’m right there with you. But what have we ever done? Seriously. I think we probably all fancy ourselves the next great leaders of this great nation, but what have we led? A chapter meeting? A charity drive? Please. But aren’t we at least industrious? If so, what industry have we shown? What have you sold? What have you made? What have you written? I’d wager very few of us, short of military men, can give concrete examples of anything they believe themselves to be. The gulf between the person we think we are and the person we’ve proven ourselves to be is a vast one.
All this to say that Richard Sherman is more right than you are. When the Seahawks corner-back stared right into your living room (possibly even right into your soul) and proclaimed himself the best corner in the game he created a nation of Broncos fans. Yet, he simply stated something near to the truth; he is, in fact, one of the best corner-backs in the NFL. He made the play that won the game. He’s proven it over the course of two full seasons. I won’t say it was done in the most pleasing of manners (more like the most hilarious), but his outburst and aggression just got him a top-ten selling jersey and undoubtedly more money over the span of his lifetime. So what pissed us all off so much? Well, I believe we all have an ingrained-evolutionary sense of community. When that peaceful balance is disrupted by something like taunting, we react negatively which is another way of saying that we’re jealous. He has something we don’t; he did something we can’t; and then he threw it in our faces. Well-fed, white Americans from sea to shining sea called him a “thug,” or worse.
I’d wager there are a few people out there that see you’re a Rowdy Gentleman-wearing, Sperry-footing, Croakie-pulling ass and think, “What a jerk-off”. While we don’t get on national television and scream our superiority, it is – as I mentioned – sort of written into our code, isn’t it? This whole exaggerated idea of “the frat guy” has been stretched to irony and then back again. There are few, if any, of us that have not had a conversation in earnest about how much better fraternity life is than normal life – as if we all didn’t jettison any familiarity with normal life the first time our pledge master had us in boxers. But where we’re wrong is when we believe that simply making it through pledging earned us anything more than a great group of friends. We are not due a cushy corporate job upon graduation. We are not owed the finest sorority women. The universe does not bequeath to us the right to cut the bar line. And, for christ’s sake, we are not tougher than we were before.
That’s a high-school frat star’s movie version of fraternity life. It’s one where the protagonist (ourselves) need only believe something to be true in order to make it true. That disconnect between who we believe we are and who we actually are is a madness. The best of us understand that, and work humbly to close that gap. Hopefully we can see Richard Sherman and think about how he’s a Stanford-degree toting millionaire who’s halfway through a Masters degree and think, “Good for him, he’s proven it”. Then we can get back to it, day after day, accomplishment after accomplishment, trying to become the men we know we can be…but aren’t quite yet. And, with a bit of luck, we’ll live the same dream as Richard Sherman: to stand next to Erin Andrews for a full minute. Some day, men. Some day.