The Seattle Seahawks certainly will be a small underdog according to Vegas and the "villain" team in this Super Bowl matchup for two reasons: (1) the feel-good story that is Peyton Manning, his comeback and his chase for history and (2) the Richard Sherman smack-talk after Seattle's win over San Francisco.
We know that Manning, the media darling that he is, was nearly perfect, going 32-of-43 for 400 yards and leading his Denver Broncos to points on six consecutive drives in Sunday's AFC title win over New England.
We know that this game will be a major feather in the cap of Manning's legacy, considering he did that against his nemeses Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, and he did it in the AFC championship game. If Manning and Co. can win the Super Bowl, well, the argument that Manning is the best ever will be tough to counter.
We also know that Manning carries with him to the Super Bowl the greatest single season for a quarterback ever. A Super Bowl win will cement it as the best single season for an individual in football history. It could very well rank with Wilt Chamberlain averaging 50 points a game and Babe Ruth hitting more homers than every other American League team in 1927 as the best individual campaigns in the history of team sports.
We know the Broncos are a slight favorite in the Super Bowl, and with Manning as the centerpiece, the hype will be monstrous.
And those facts all are magnified by the unfair heaps of criticism Sherman has received after his game-saving play in the waning seconds of the Seahawks' 23-17 NFC title win and the life-altering interview he gave immediately afterward. Sherman already has apologized for taking the spotlight off a "team" moment, and we hope that is where this will end.
As much as the world embraces Peyton, he has more in common with Sherman than most may realize. Sure, Manning is more diplomatic in his interviews, but he and Sherman and Phil Mickelson seem to be among the most truthful and forthright interviews in all of sports.
Let's look at a few points as to why Sherman is getting way too much grief for his postgame comments:
Point A: They shoved a microphone in his face moments after he made the biggest play of the game -- and likely in Seahawks history -- that turned a potential game-winning (or tying) touchdown pass into a Super Bowl ticket-clinching interception, and we expected him not to be emotional?
Point B: Everyone criticizes athletes and coaches for speaking in cliches and "coach-speak," and now they are going to blast a guy for speaking with emotion and heart.
Point C: Sherman is a cornerback -- the best cornerback in the NFL -- and corners have to be a different bunch of geese when it comes to confidence. That is a group of cats who have to believe they are bullet-proof and 10 feet tall or they will get exposed and blistered in front of millions.
Point D: Sherman took to the Twitter afterward and said there was a ton of smack-talk before the game from both sides -- which hardly seems like a stretch since these teams are division rivals and everyone this side of Jim Harbaugh mocked Cam Newton's "Superman" move the previous week.
(Side note: Sherman's tweet -- "A lion doesn't concern himself with the opinions of a sheep" -- was every bit as dominant as his play.)
Did Sherman go a step too far? More than likely, and certainly by touching Michael Crabtree after the game -- surprised there was not a fight there, all things considered -- it could have escalated. But the news that the feud between the two is longstanding creates some clarity about the reaction. And, yes, you can celebrate without rubbing the other guys' noses in it, so we are not endorsing Sherman per se, but we certainly are not going to blast him, either.
As for the 49ers, the fundamental truth is that if those players do not like it, beat him. This is still sports and thankfully it is still more meritocracy than any other walk of life, so if you want to shut someone up, beat that person or team. Period.
Sports still rank as the first TV reality show -- something that is real and true and direct.
If we have learned anything from the Sherman hand-wringing and even the "Duck Dynasty" meltdown, then it's that we love our reality TV unless they get real and share their real feelings.
Go figure, huh?
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @jgreestontfp. Also listen to his radio show "Press Row" with David Paschall on ESPN 105.1 FM weekdays 3-6 p.m. and online at timesfreepress.com.