On Marshawn Lynch

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.

Image: “Marshawn Lynch Works the Crowd” by politicalpulse is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

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3 thoughts on “On Marshawn Lynch

  1. What I’m noticing more and more lately (doesn’t mean it’s new, just new to me) is how offensive people find silence to be. I recall Rasheed Wallace of the Detroit Pistons being heavily criticized for showing up to post game press conferences and not speaking. And I find it confusing. I understand that there is power in silence, and it often makes people uncomfortable, but the offense… I don’t get. There is such hatred for Marshawn Lynch being spewed because he chooses to be silent.

    My father is a salesman and a talented one and he has taught his kids to use silence when negotiating. My brother remembered this advice when he asked his boss for a raise several years ago. My brother spoke his case in a few words and then fell silent. His boss denied him the raise and my brother, instead of protesting remained in the room and waited silently. His boss turned his side and continued working. After about a minute of no words exchanged between the two of them, the boss agreed to the raise.

    As a soccer coach, I remember a game when an opposing coach criticized me and my players playing style while I was on his side of the field attending to an injured player. I didn’t respond and after the game, I shook his hand but said nothing. The coach followed after me saying that he was sorry but continued his criticism. I did not respond and walked away from him. The coach later tracked me down in the parking lot and offered another apology, I looked at him then kept on walking without speaking a word. The sudden vitriol that came out of his mouth was unlike anything I’d ever seen. And when I recount this story I’m usually told that I was rude and incited his anger, as if he were justified to be so cruel.

    It baffles me. This opposing coach insulted me and my injured player while he was writhing on the ground. He pursued me outside the confines of the game when I was alone and no longer surrounded by people who might help me if needed and demanded I confront him on his terms. Rasheed Wallace and Marshawn Lynch are asked pointed personal questions about their exact feelings during emotional moments in their public lives. They are not obliged to give more of themselves than they’ve already shown for the world’s entertainment. They don’t owe us more pieces of themselves, shared in our way, when we want them to. And it is offensive to me that they’re expected to whether they’re willing or not.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Just a side note, Marshawn Lynch, really gives no personal reasons whatsoever for sports writers to write about him. No kids (29, from Oakland, and wealthy, makes this very surprising), lives very modestly, and doesn’t get into any personal altercations resulting in yet another reason why Roger Goodell is the most disgusting human being in sports. He is simply asking to be left to play the game that pays the bills and nothing more. I posit that he wasn’t given the ball to win it all, because he wouldn’t have been the media darling that Russell Wilson is, post game. Can you imagine the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl and the guy that basically won it for them repeating, “I’m here so I don’t get fined”…

    Like

  3. Pingback: Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson | The Spiel

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