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Richard Sherman barely removed his helmet after the game Sunday night before going on a classic tirade in an interview with sideline reporter Erin Andrews. If you missed it, not to worry. It will be replayed about 267,000 times before the Super Bowl and again next year before the Seattle Seahawks play the San Francisco 49ers.

By most accounts, Sherman is an intelligent guy. He chose Stanford for its academics more than its football. He comes across like a nice person with a good sense of humor. He’s charitable and compassionate. He’s all that and more off the field, all of which contrasts to his self-absorbed act on the field.

If he’s not the best cornerback in the NFL, he’s the loudest. He’s an endless trash talker, but he backs up his mouth. He also showed Sunday why there’s a cooling-off period after games. Players need time to digest the outcome and gather their emotions before meeting with the media. Sherman apologized for his action Monday, but the damage was done.

Forget about Sherman batting the ball and setting up the game-saving interception that sealed Seattle’s win over San Francisco. He lifted the Seahawks into the Super Bowl against Denver with the play of the game, but somebody should have intercepted him before his tirade about Michael Crabtree.

“I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman screamed, starting into the camera, looking and sounding like a professional wrestler.

“When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me.”

Ah, yes, the respect card or, more accurately, the disrespect card. It was hilarious if only because it was so ridiculous.

In sports, the respect card is often dealt from the bottom of deck. Here’s how it generally works: Professional athletes who claim they don’t read the newspaper or watch television feel slighted by disparaging comments supposedly made in the media. And they tuck away the remarks for future use, for motivation, for retribution, forever.

Sherman accused Crabtree of disrespecting him earlier in the season with remarks that apparently were long forgotten by everybody but Sherman.

Apparently, they had some long-standing beef with one another. At least that’s Sherman’s story. Whether it was concocted, who knows? Who cares?

Crabtree is a great receiver. He was a big reason the 49ers’ offense took off late in the season. Going into the conference title game, they were 7-0 with him back in the lineup following his Achilles injury, which caused him to miss the first 12 contests. It was no surprise the Niners threw in his direction with the game on the line Sunday.

Sherman is a great cornerback. Clearly, the 49ers had enough respect for him to shy away from him for most of the game. Their decision to throw his way wasn’t an affront to him so much as confirming their faith in Crabtree. The ball was underthrown by, what, four inches? It was enough for Sherman to make an outstanding play.

Sherman should have walked off the field and said something along these lines: “Crabtree is a great player. I knew they would be coming his way because he’s a great receiver. I was able to get a hand on the ball and, fortunately, my teammate was there for the interception. We’re going to the Super Bowl. Yippee!”

Instead: “Don’t you ever open your mouth about the best,” Sherman said, “or I’m going to shut it for you real quick.”

All this from a man who made the choke sign after the play, from a man who insisted on getting into an opponent’s face, from a man who has come to epitomize an era in which athletes disrespecting others is the norm. Just so you know, I’m acutely aware that his rant about Crabtree sparked this rant about players like him.

It gets worse every year, with two-bit players making a simple tackle on punt coverage and acting as if they saved the world, defensive linemen continuously going overboard with choreographed dances on coverage sacks, wide receivers who can’t stop themselves from spinning the ball after making a simple catch while trailing by three touchdowns.

Dude, all you did was your job. That’s why you get paid. You didn’t cure cancer or solve world hunger. You made a play. That’s all.

If anyone should be celebrated, it’s the punter who kicked the ball halfway to heaven or the secondary that blanketed the receiver or the offensive line that gave the wide receiver enough time to get separation. Too many athletes in this look-at-me generation fail to recognize the team concept.

Granted, I’m old-school. The age gap between me and today’s athletes gets wider every year. Attitudes change. Cultures change. I get it. But you can imagine a quarterback like Roger Staubach turning a planned celebration into a television commercial, the way Aaron Rodgers did? No. Staubach double-checked his ego at the door.

Sports for me were always about beating opponents, not demeaning them. It has reached a point in which players stand out when they catch a touchdown pass and casually hand the ball to the referee, the way Thurman Thomas did, than they do while trying to draw attention to themselves.

You know the old saying: Act like you’ve been there before. It’s not boring; it’s classy.

Yes, I know professional athletes are entertainers. Seeing athletes carry on like they do isn’t entertaining to me. It’s annoying. It reminds me that they’re grossly overpaid, oversized children. They don’t just disrespect one another. They disrespect the game that gave them their fame and fortune, and their forum, in the first place.

And they make it easy to lose respect for them.

email: bgleason@buffnews.com