Heading into Super Bowl weekend, timing is everything for Seattle Seahawks star Richard Sherman. He’s hoping to earn the title of back-to-back Super Bowl champion before he becomes a first-time father.
As Sherman and girlfriend, Ashley Moss, await the imminent arrival of their son, the outspoken cornerback is hoping his little Sherman will hold out through Sunday’s big game.
"I think he's going to be a disciplined young man and stay in there until after the game," Sherman said with a smile on Thursday. "He's going to do his father his first favor and stay in there for another week or two."
Moss, who told KING 5 television in Seattle that she is due on Feb. 12, shared Sherman’s hope that their baby-to-be will stay put. But she said if she goes into labor on Sunday, she doesn't plan to tell him until after the game.
"I guess we'll have a Super Bowl baby, and if you see Richard heading for the locker room right after it hits zero in the fourth quarter, don't be surprised," Moss told King 5 in Arizona. “But besides that, I’m not going to let him know.”
The couple has talked about the possibility of her going into labor while he’s on the field. “I told him, ‘Play the game and it will be a good story to tell,’” she told the Seattle station.
Sherman was coy on how he would handle having to choose between such momentous events: having to put family over team, or the other way around.
“I've thought about the possibility of him coming during the game and coming before the game and we have things in place in case that happens,” he said. “And, you know, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Both expressed surprise that the mere idea of Sherman having to make such an important decision would draw so much notice. “I obviously did not know it was a topic of national debate, honestly,” he said Thursday.
Within hours, though, the front page of Friday’s New York Daily News screamed, “Super Bowl Son Day,” and the story was covered from coast to coast. The would-he, wouldn’t-he, can-you-imagine conversation comes at a time when fathers increasingly play a bigger role in American parenting.
“This is another example of sports reflecting society and people are using an example from sports — and it’s an extraordinary case in sports — to think through and try to understand their own lives,” said Lee Igel, co-director of New York University’s Sports and Society program. “It forces us to think and discuss issues about family and work.”
The most recent and fiery debate came last year, when Daniel Murphy, the second baseman for the New York Mets, took three days off and missed the first two games of the season after his son was born. Murphy said it was the best decision for his family but drew criticism from some, including former NFL quarterback and radio host Boomer Esiason.
Record-setting power hitter Mark McGwire gave up a chance at hitting his 50th home run by skipping the last game of the 1987 season for the birth of his first child. He made news again as a coach in 2010, when he missed two games as his wife gave birth to premature triplets.
But should Sherman be faced with such a choice on Sunday, it could be precedent-setting. After all, the Super Bowl is the biggest of the big time in American sports.
“It’s a tough spot because it is so extraordinary,” Igel said, adding: “This is certainly is an interesting one because you have a star player playing in the Super Bowl — this is like the stuff of Hollywood.”
On Friday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the team will back whatever choice Sherman may make. “It’s about family first and we will support his decision,” Carroll said.
Even so, Sherman could face criticism one way or the other if fate forces his hand.
“It’s a tough call and all I’m saying is thank god I don't have to make it,” said Chris Elzey, a professor at George Mason University with a specialty in sport history. “If he decides to be by his girlfriend’s side, I would hope people would understand this and respect his decision. As sports-crazed as some people are, that might be too far fetched.”
Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter.