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National Columnist

Warren Sapp is the big loser after insulting Michael Strahan

NEW YORK -- It's called "playing with the lead," and Warren Sapp doesn't know how to do it. Listen, lots of people don't know how, me included. Until last week, Richard Sherman didn't know how. Maybe he still doesn't, though I suspect he's a changed man. That happens when the earth collapses on your head. You change.

Warren Sapp? Time to change, superstar. The earth isn't collapsing on his head, but only because what he said about Michael Strahan hasn't captivated the earth enough to care. And because he's Warren Sapp. He's a Hall of Famer, and that's nice, but Warren Sapp is that little kid crying wolf. Even if there is a wolf heading for town, even if Michael Strahan is undeserving of the Hall of Fame, I'm going to need to hear it from somebody other than Warren Sapp.

News story: Warren Sapp has a big mouth, says stupid stuff, insults people because he can. Oh, sorry. That's not news. So that's not a story. And so the earth isn't falling down on Sapp for being a jerk who can't play with the lead, which means he's not going to get any better. Not yet anyway. People like Sapp, people who talk too much and too meanly, they keep screwing up until they go too far. It's just a matter of odds. And sooner or later, your number comes up.

The number came up for Richard Sherman a week ago when he celebrated his game-winning play against Michael Crabtree by shrieking into the live national television camera something about "I'm the best corner in the game" and Crabtree is a "sorry receiver."

America was shocked. Hell, the world was shocked. There were pockets of people who were excusing Sherman for being emotional and out of control so soon after such a big game -- I was one of those people on Twitter -- and there were smaller pockets of people actually celebrating Sherman's rant for its honesty, as if being brutally honest at all times is a virtue. Here, try something: Find someone with a physical blemish, whatever that blemish may be. If it's me, it would be my bald head or crooked nose or average (if that) height of about 5-foot-10. Whoever it is, whatever it is, find that person and walk up to him or her and be brutally honest:

"My goodness, you sure are [unflattering adjective]."

See if your honesty is celebrated.

My point? My point is, Sherman went too far, and while there were people celebrating just how far he went, even Richard Sherman was embarrassed. He has apologized several times, most recently on Monday in this column where he said he regretted what he did to Michael Crabtree.

The point of all this is not to reiterate that Richard Sherman screwed up after the NFC title game, but to point out that his inability to play with a lead caught up to him, and he recognized it. He's the same guy who ran down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after the Seahawks beat the Patriots in 2012 and then tweeted out a picture of himself taunting Brady under the words, "U mad bro?"

That's called being unable to play with the lead. You've won the game, and then you open your mouth and screw it up. Instead of America celebrating your victory -- against the Patriots in 2012, against the 49ers in the NFC title game last Sunday -- America is talking about what a jerk you are. How you won, but you won with no class. How you turned victory into defeat by opening your mouth.

Richard Sherman has done that over the years, but I'm telling you, I think he's changed. Warren Sapp did it on Tuesday when he asserted, from his unique vantage point as the most recent defensive lineman to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, that defensive lineman Michael Strahan doesn't deserve to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

By beating Strahan into Canton last year -- both were 2013 finalists -- Sapp won. He beat his longtime rival, a guy he clearly doesn't like for whatever reason. Hey, their beef is their beef. I'm not here to tell you Sapp is wrong for disliking Strahan. I'm telling you, when Warren Sapp made it into the Hall of Fame and Michael Strahan did not last year, it was time for Sapp to let it go. Because he had won.

Only now, he lost. By slamming Strahan, kicking him at such a vulnerable time -- Hall of Fame voters get together in a few days to pick the 2014 class -- Sapp was trying to rig the game against a guy he doesn't like. It's a loser thing to do. No class at all.

And you're reading a story written by someone who knows all about having no class at all. An inability to play with the lead? I've done that to myself for years, consistently and brutally. I could give you five examples, easy -- hell, I could give you 10 -- but that would unnecessarily impugn the people I've kicked over the years. At times Twitter has been bad for me, because of the opportunity it gives to have a thought and boom share it. At times radio guest spots have been bad for me for the same reason.

Give me the moral high ground, and I'll bury myself. Well done, Gregg. You idiot.

Point being? For some people it's not easy to play with the lead. It's tempting to get lost in the moment, whatever that moment may be, and end up a loser.

Richard Sherman lost last week, but he's going to start winning. Me, I'm trying. Warren Sapp? He lost on Tuesday. He needs to start winning on Thursday.

Or he needs to shut up.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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