Loud, boisterous, unfiltered. These words can provide an accurate description of both Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie spent four years brashly and occasionally profanely yelling at political opponents, reporters, and anyone else who dared to offend him and was rewarded by being considered a political game changer who could have serious presidential potential. Richard Sherman unleashed a 15 second tirade free of any profanity and was dismissed by the media and the public as an arrogant “thug.” Sherman, though, recently won a Super Bowl (hosted, interestingly enough, in New Jersey) while Christie is about to take a few hard political hits after the most recent revelations in his “Bridge-gate” scandal.
You could make the argument that the differing reactions could be rooted in race, with Christie’s no-filter attitude being warmly received because he is white and Sherman’s unabashed confidence dismissed because he is black. This argument is true to a certain extent, but the point is that Christie is held to a different standard. This paradigm, however, is beginning to shift because of “Bridge-gate.”
The sort of vindictive, spiteful retribution that could be expected from Christie’s aggressive leadership style is slowly emerging from the woodwork. One New Jersey public servant after another has come out with claims of the Governor’s office engaging in petty political plays, ranging from tying hurricane relief funds to the approval of a development project operated by a Christie comrade or cancelling meetings with a mayor who chose not to endorse the Governor. Even the bridge lane closures can potentially be tied to the State Senate’s refusal to confirm a Christie appointee to the state Supreme Court. With this past Friday’s revelation from Christie friend and Port Authority appointee David Wildstein that Christie likely knew about the bridge closures, these petty moves appear to be increasingly likely.
The evidence for Christie’s political spite can also be seen in his frequent public outbursts, many of which his office would capture on video and place on YouTube to boost his anti-establishment persona. Christie has frequently turned to insulting his enemies, calling them names like “numbnuts” and an “arrogant SOB.” He also suggested that people “please take out the bat” on the Democratic State Senate Majority Leader, who also happens to be a 78- year-old woman. Christie even threatened to drop an F-bomb at the 2012 Republican National Convention if the organizers decided to cut a favorable video that was played before his keynote speech. If Christie was directly involved in ordering the “traffic problems in Fort Lee” referred to in the emails sent from Christie’s advisor to the Governor’s friend at the Port Authority, what he called his enemies in those emails is bound to be worse.
Christie may have been “the best in the game” for a while, but his ability to curry political favor and gain momentum through brashness and intimidation is fading. He can still talk the talk, but with these scandals overwhelming him, it is getting increasingly harder for him to control the story like he has previously done so well. Richard Sherman, meanwhile, has a reason to dismiss his opponents as “sorry” and has earned the right to call himself “the best in the game” because he is, without a doubt, one of the best players at his position and one of the best players on the best defense in the NFL. Both Sherman and Christie are exciting to watch on and off their fields of play because of their actions and their trash talk, but Christie cannot move as well politically in light of this scandal. Richard Sherman has all the flexibility he can get because of his skill.
Even before Sherman and the Seahawks claimed the Lombardi Trophy, Sherman had already won because of his rise to fame. Alternatively, Christie has lost because of his scandal. Sherman is cruising into the offseason with a ring and Christie is stuck in a proverbial traffic jam. With the Super Bowl in New Jersey last Sunday, both of them will surely be stuck in at least some traffic on the George Washington Bridge in the days and weeks ahead.