Thanks to everyone who read and shared the first blog post! I’m thrilled with the response I’ve gotten so far. I plan to follow up on the replay question, but for now, here’s a post on Marshawn Lynch (one of my favorite football players going back to his days at Cal, incidentally).
At this particular moment, Marshawn Lynch is most famous for being the guy who wasn’t given the ball on the Seahawks’ last play of the Super Bowl, but if you think all the way back to the week leading up to the game, you’ll recall that he was famous as The Guy Who Doesn’t Talk to the Media. (For those lacking the context: Lynch doesn’t like talking to the media after games but gets fined by the league if he doesn’t, so he shows up at press conferences just to say “Thanks for asking” or “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”) This had been going on for a long time, of course, but in the media circus surrounding the impending game it became one of those Mandatory Issues, the kind of thing that everyone had to have an opinion on. For the most part I think people just saw this as an amusing diversion, one of those situations where mutual intransigence (on the part of Lynch and the NFL) leads to ridiculous results—it got taken up by Key & Peele and Saturday Night Live and all that. However, a lot of traditional sportswriters—many of whom are paid, basically, never to see the humor in anything—lambasted Lynch for being disrespectful, shirking what according to them is an important part of his job, etc. This culminated in the following much-mocked tweet from Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
There’s plenty one could say about this self-important overreach. (Among other things, the fact that this complaint comes from a sportswriter in MINNESOTA—nowhere near where either of the teams in the Super Bowl play, or the stadium for that matter—is pretty strong evidence that the media need Lynch a lot more than he needs them.) But in a way, heaping ridicule on this kind of sentiment, or pointing out the flaws in his logic, misses the point—or rather, it’s part of the point, part of what Murphy and his colleagues are looking for, knowingly or not. This counter-tweet pretty much says it all:
Basically, writers need material, and when you don’t even have a game to write about—when you’re just waiting all week for the Super Bowl to get here—you get pretty desperate for good quotes. Lynch, in a perverse way, does give good quotes, as good in their way as Richard Sherman’s quotes: by being the one guy who refuses to talk to the media, he drops a story right in writers’ laps. However, Lynch’s silence can only be a story if there’s an angle on it (especially since he already explained why he doesn’t answer questions, in a thorough and perfectly understandable way), so the angle becomes, “It’s Outrageous that Lynch Won’t Answer Questions.”
But boringasheck’s tweet is especially insightful because it points to our own role in this whole cycle: eventually, some lucky or troll-talented writer expresses his frustration in a way that makes enough sensible people angry, and those sensible people dutifully post their responses defending Lynch and attacking the original sportswriters. It’s a bizarre love triangle: the sports bloggers (the group I’m trying to join with this blog, as a matter of fact) are sustained by the sportswriters they ridicule, just as those sportswriters are sustained by the anti-social athletes (Lynch, or Barry Bonds or Albert Belle or whoever) they condemn. The only one who doesn’t get anything out of it is Lynch, unless he was being disingenuous when he said last year that he doesn’t like notoriety.
How you feel about this cycle should determine your response to it. Writers and bloggers, obviously, are happy to take part, for the fun of it and vocationally, and so am I—heck, it got me some pre-exposure for this blog when Craig Calcaterra was kind enough to share my tweet about the issue on Hardballtalk. But when it stops being fun, we should remember that we’re doing it by choice. The Hank Schulmans and Bill Plaschkes of the world aren’t going to be stopped by our responses, and certainly not by our indignant retweets. We can feed the trolls if we want, but we should at least call it what it is.