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Steinberg: Sherman makes like Miley

Richard ShermanFootballSuper BowlMiley CyrusTroy AikmanNFC Championship Game

Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman twerked his way into national consciousness last Sunday night and made himself a household name.

In a brilliant marketing maneuver he understood the colossal ratings for an NFC Championship game would provide a stage for some unique activity. With his post-game rant in an interview with Erin Andrews, he emulated Miley Cyrus' attention-grabbing tactics.

Much of the public was offended by Cyrus, but it made her a worldwide star and jump-started her career. Sherman's blast had the same divisive response, but it is all anyone is talking about.

I just returned from five days in New York on a book tour promoting "The Agent" (St. Martin's Press). Even in the midst of the Polar Vortex, an electric jolt of 8-degree temperatures with fierce wind and snow, which is a shock to the system of a Californian, I did extensive interviews.

In some 80 talk-radio appearances, television, and print, there was one constant refrain, "What did you think of Richard Sherman's antics?"

The last football player to have this sense of timing and center stage was Deion Sanders, who had an uncanny ability to find the right forum at the right time to put himself center stage.

On Sunday, the largest star-building opportunity America offers will descend on New York City for Super Bowl week. Print and electronic media from across the country and around the world will be focused on the contestants in the Feb. 2nd game. Those players who interview well and play dramatically have an opportunity to be put into our "celebrity-making machine."

They can transcend the narrow genre of hard-core sports fans and become crossover national names. When my client Troy Aikman approached his first Super Bowl in 1993 he was perceived to be an excellent quarterback with high name recognition in Dallas and Southern California. After a week of interviews and an MVP performance in the game, he emerged as "TROY AIKMAN, AMERICAN HERO."

Endless media pieces are centered around the concept of interesting celebrities. Leno and Letterman and "People" and "Kelly and Michael" cross an athlete-out-of-sports profile into national prominence. The Denver-Seattle contest will center on whether Seattle's defense can slow down Denver's pass-happy offense.

Richard Sherman, a cornerback in the line of fire, will be a constant focus in game coverage.

I have spent 40 years promoting the concept of athletes as role models triggering imitative behavior. I would not be thrilled if one of my clients personalized a team victory and drew attention away from his teammates. But there always has been a huge market for the anti-hero and the rebel.

Richard Sherman is an intelligent Stanford graduate. He waited for the opportunity to grab center stage and from a straight marketing perspective, he was brilliant.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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