Marshawn Lynch Has An Answer For The Media
The story of an athlete who got tired of talking.
Seven years ago, Marshawn Lynch and the late Gaines Adams were pulled aside at a Nike rookie football camp to be interviewed by Rachel Nichols.
The well-known sports journalist asked Lynch and Adams a series of questions, including "define your attitude," to which Lynch famously responded "Beast mode, on the field."
At a later point in the interview, Nichols asked either Lynch or Adams to "define your skillset" without really directing the question towards one of them specifically.
"I'ma say—" Adams started to respond, but Lynch had his answer ready.
"Solid," Lynch said.
Adams looked at at his teammate. "I'm looking for something better than that."
"Nah, it don't get no better than solid, baby," Lynch said with a smile, and after a pause, Adams agreed.
The whole thing was really beautiful. Adams and Lynch seemed so different at first, and then you saw Lynch's energy and his playful attitude just totally infect him in a matter of seconds. There he was, Marshawn Lynch, just having fun with one of the football's most prominent reporters.
Fast forward seven years, and here's where we are: Marshawn Lynch is on his way to his second Super Bowl, and is writing out checks to the NFL for over $100,000 after a spate of not talking to the media and twice grabbing his crotch during a touchdown celebration.
After the NFL fined Lynch $31,050 for the two crotch grabs, they sold pictures of it on the NFL shop. Yeah, you can read that twice.
This season, and leading up to this Super Bowl, Lynch employed a new strategy: responding to every question the same way, with a prepared phrase or word. It's actually a pretty amazing thing to witness:
But the sports media just keep trying and trying, allowing the circus go on for minutes. And it continued at subsequent games. The following week, when reporters swarmed him after the game again, Lynch pointedly responded to every question with "nope."
In December, he simply thanked the reporters for all of their questions.
By January, Lynch was almost as perplexed as I am.
"Y'all are going to try again?" he asked the media as ESPN microphones were shoved in his face.
And they did. They asked again. And again. And again. And they didn't stop, and they probably won't. This week, Lynch became more direct.
"I'm just here so I won't get fined," he said over and over... and over... and over.
But the funny thing is, since Lynch's first taste of YouTube fame at the Nike rookie camp, the answer to why he doesn't trust the media has been right there. All you need to do is scroll through the comments. The words "dumbass" and "thug" and "uneducated" and "dirty n*****" are everywhere. Questions about his character and his parents and his upbringing are abundant.
The motivation behind the comments seems to mirror the reason his teammate Richard Sherman was so maligned just last season: because he sounds different, and because we like judging people who aren't us.
Do reporters have a motive for their incessant questions? Of course they do: headlines. Ledes. Quotes. And what sells on the stands? Bad news, character-bashing profiles and bad boy NFL players.
So here we are: an athlete who doesn't want to talk, and a sea of reporters who refuse to keep him out of the headlines (the irony is not lost on me in this post). But it's also something greater: it's that the reporters can't stand the idea of not having anything to judge Lynch by. Unless, of course, they resort to this:
Yes, that is a Minnesota Vikings beat reporter making the claim that without the media, Lynch would be making "$8 an hour" playing football in a parking lot. I wonder what Mr. Murphy's job would be if the Marshawn Lynches of the world didn't exist? I wonder if Murphy read Lynch's year-old profile on NFL.com, where he said the following:
"I've never seen anybody win the game in the media. But at the same time, I understand what it could do for you, if you wanted to be someone who talks a lot. But that's not me. And I'm not as comfortable, especially at the position I play, making it about me. As a running back, it takes five offensive linemen, a tight end, a fullback and possibly two wide receivers, in order to make my job successful. But when I do interviews, most of the time it'll come back to me. There are only so many times I can say, 'I owe it to my offensive linemen,' or, 'The credit should go to my teammates,' before it becomes run down. This goes back even to Pop Warner. You'd have a good game and they'd want you to give a couple of quotes for the newspaper, and I would let my other teammates be the ones to talk. That's how it was in high school, too. At Cal, I'd have my cousin, Robert Jordan, and Justin Forsett do it. Football's just always been hella fun to me, not expressing myself in the media. I don't do it to get attention; I just do it 'cause I love that (expletive)."
The whole thing is reminiscent of a young child not being able to meet its favorite pop star after a concert, begging and whining incessantly that they can't spend time with Britney or J.T. or whoever. For the sports media, it's literally come to following a man around to ask him the same lame questions over and over again, doing whatever they can to pull an off-the-cuff response out of him.
When Lynch repeatedly told reporters yesterday "you know why I'm here" after explaining that he was only there so he didn't get fined, one reporter even stooped to using Lynch's previous charity work to get him to talk.
"Marshawn, after the Super Bowl last year, you went to Brazil to do a clinic and worked really well," he said. "You became kind of an idol in Brazil. Can you give a message to the kids back there?"
"You know why I'm here," Lynch responded, quite predictably.
"I don't know, can you help me out?" another reporter followed up, happy to sacrifice his intellectual honesty in an effort to try and convince another man to speak against his will for the hundreth time this week. To that, Lynch just responded with a silent stare. Appropriate, if you ask me.
Meanwhile, reporters have passed up dozens of opportunities to follow the real storylines: the evolution of the quarterback position that will be on display this Sunday, the Pete Carroll vs. Bill Belichick rivalry, the quiet Patriots against the trash-talking Seahawks, everything that is Rob Gronkowski related, and, of course, the debate over who is the best cornerback in the NFL: the Patriots' Darrelle Revis or the Seahawks' Richard Sherman?
But I guess when it comes to a guy who doesn't want to talk to reporters, all that stuff is just background noise. Second page material.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: Lynch's strategy of avoiding a fine by substituting repetitive phrases for interviews didn't work out that well. The NFL is now looking into the hat he wore, and determining if its off-brand nature is enough to levy another fine on the 29-year-old running back.