We used to go for a different kind of movie. Historically, America has revered the Hollywood leading man that spoke with his actions and not his words. The strong and silent type who didn’t wax poetic, but instead just took charge. Talk was always cheap, or so the romantic narrative went.
Movies evolve and so then the characters that the audience demands.
This all does not apply to Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, someone perfectly content in playing football really well and not talking about that. He isn’t a character but his own man. Any rational person would at best respect someone who takes pride in his work and doesn’t feel the need to draw attention to himself.
Many people in the media are not rational.
There are things that have to be written, damn it.
Lynch turned Super Bowl Media Day into a “circus” and a “mockery” with his stubbornness. He prohibited the day from having its dignity with its half naked reporters, little kids with microphones, interns doing bits for shock jock radio shows, and people trying to get Rob Gronkowski to say something sexual in nature.
The hypocrisy of many in the media stomping their feet over Lynch’s answering of questions without actually answering questions isn’t difficult to see. Bill Belichick, head coach of Lynch’s Super Bowl opponent, is infamous for his clipped responses in mandatory press conferences, yet his perpetually pissed off demeanor hardly gets referred to as “making a mockery” of the sports figure/media relationship as Lynch does.
Belichick doesn’t get called a child—literally infantilized by other adults. If he’s making reporters’ jobs tougher, it’s for the sake of game strategy and playing it all close to the hoodie vest. He’s a winner.
He also knows when there’s blood in the water and how to direct the sharks toward different prey. Behold, the master:
“That’s our role – to be the conduit between our team and all the fans – all of you that cover the team and the fans that read or watch or listen. That’s an important part of the process,” said Belichick this week when asked about players and coaches talking to the media.
“Having been on the other side of this . . . that’s what I wanted. I wanted information. I wanted to hear what’s going on. We provide the fans who are so interested in our team with information that makes it interesting and exciting for them. That’s why we’re all here.”
Sometimes you just have to step back and be awed. Belichick, who would just as soon stand expressionless as a beat reporter burned in a chemical fire before him, said that. That (and Tom Brady) is why he has three Super Bowl titles.
What does Marshawn Lynch have? One measly ring? Who does he think he is? The Beatles?
The Beatles trolling reporters pic.twitter.com/CPZK0xHLqd
— Best Music Lyric (@BestMusicLyric) January 27, 2015
Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs is a cult favorite for his treatment of reporters to the point where his salty attitude toward them is even celebrated. Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau won’t discuss Christmas…
Asked what Christmas means to him, Tom Thibodeau said "I haven't even thought about it."
— Chuck Garfien (@ChuckGarfien) December 22, 2014
…but he doesn’t warrant jerk status.
And then there’s the guy who levies the fines against Lynch should he not talk, Roger Goodell, who himself has dodged the media most of this football season because 2014-15 ain’t exactly been a banner year for The Ginger Hammer and his league’s PR. Not much focus on the silence of the commissioner, though.
Sensing any pattern here?
Yet a year ago it was Lynch’s teammate, Richard Sherman, and the pattern of response to his talking too much, or so that criticism goes. “Too much” being “he says things that upset the status quo.”
But reporters love an upset status quo.
It brings the audience, and the average writer doesn’t care if you’re reading to be happy, to be entertained, or to be pissed off (and when it comes to a lot of people, that’s an interesting personal Venn diagram). If Lynch starts going Sherman on the microphone, you best bet that while the salty media will be satisfied, the public on that media’s side right now will hypocritcally criticize Lynch immediately.
“It’s your job to talk… but make it only in a way that doesn’t make me uncomfortable.”
And then some of that same media—print, radio, and TV—get to parlay being “too vocal” into more precious content to write or yell about.
It’s not about silence or loudness. It’s damned if you, damned if you don’t.
Hence there was a lot more than trolling to Lynch saying he was “just about that action, boss” at the same time last year when the media was sent into the same pearl-clutching fit. Lynch very much has his finger on this as he also keeps it to his lips.
This is what that "Thug" Marshawn Lynch said last year about why he doesn't like talking to the media. pic.twitter.com/vIYBCrJcOR
— mike mulloy (@fakemikemulloy) January 28, 2015
Here’s the thing—a good writer can write a good piece about Marshawn Lynch that can focus little or not at all on his dealings with media. It was done by Jerry Brewer last Super Bowl week, for example, while his peers were busy running to tell the teacher on Lynch.
Bruce Arthur did it this week. (He’s Canadian, but shhhhhh don’t tell anybody.)
Marshawn Lynch is one of the most fascinating, dynamic athletes in sports. If you need him to talk to write about him, you suck at writing.
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) January 27, 2015
But this week some writers had had enough. If Super Bowl Media Day 2014 was shock and awe regarding Lynch’s gall, Media Day 2015 (but not so much Weeks 1 through 17 of the regular season when Lynch’s same personal policy applied) was going to be the year of the hottest, most dad lecture takes about this affront to journalism—and really to America itself.
“The difference between Roger Goodell and my late mother — and I suspect most mothers — is that my mother would not have allowed Marshawn Lynch a third opportunity to disgrace The Game, his family and himself by grabbing at his crotch after scoring.”
First, LOL at “The Game.” I bet Mushnick is a guy who asks interns to refer to him as “Mr.” Besides the absolute psych journal field day comparing an NFL running back to one’s mom is, notice how Mushnick takes it upon himself to dictate how Lynch should feel about himself and how his family should feel about him. Patriarchal bullshit much?
It’s also the second time in about a week that Mushnick has obsessed over Lynch’s genitalia. There are obviously more than just repressed mommy issues going on with Phil and his Mushnick.
But he’s an awful person and terrible writer.
A figure like Lynch is automatic keyboard stroking for a man that sad at a rag that deals in your uncle’s Thanksgiving table takes. Holy hell, does an athlete not conforming to a writer’s standards for good manners get people to show their asses.
Hub Arkush, someone whose football thoughts I otherwise really appreciate, used 800+ words to let us know he isn’t going to let Lynch’s behavior bother him. Which is a more drawn out way of letting someone on Twitter know you are going to unfollow them.
“I couldn’t care less if I never speak to Lynch,” writes Arkush, “and nothing makes my job easier than a guy being so clearly wrong, his team being every bit as wrong for supporting it and the league looking like such fools for not enforcing their own rules and all I have to do is report it.”
No explanation for what makes such things “wrong” is given, and the second page of the column is all evident that Lynch really does bother Arkush, but whatever. The kicker of it all is the following:
“Would the NFL be anywhere near as popular as it is or as valuable and wealthy as it is if not for the free press covering it and building it into the story it is today? Of course not.
“Would you have any interest in paying a 100 dollars or more a ticket to go watch players who had no interest in you whatsoever, no conscience about treating you with disrespect and disdain every time you wanted to talk to them or just know a little bit about the product you are making them fabulously wealthy for providing?”
For the sake of a different sad argument we can let go Arkush equating “the free press” with the Sabol family’s work, Pete Rozelle’s evil genius, and TV networks’ money actually making the league the behemoth it is. Arkush, though, is reminding the unappreciative athlete that there but for the grace of the constitutionally protected press credentials go he. And the fans who rely on these noble liaisons pay your salary, Marshawn, son.
Speaking of talking down to an adult athlete, Marcus Hayes used his platform to sideswipe Richard Sherman, using the phrase “typically Shermanian, unsophisticated” to describe the Stanford grad’s defense of his Seattle teammate.
Then in the context of Beastmode Hayes chose to go pre-rape scandal Bill Cosby mode and chide Lynch not just for the mockery he was making of a Media Day that, if we’re honest with ourselves, is a microcosm of all that is awful with pop culture and what we value, but also Hayes’s own version of telling younger African Americans to pull up their pants:
“Also, consider their general profile: These largely are very young men whose talent has afforded them shelter and structure most of their lives. They are people for whom ‘hard work’ equates to lifting weights and running sprints; for whom ‘commitment’ means adhering to a loose daily schedule that tells them when to wake, when to eat, when to think; for whom ‘adversity’ means being .500 midway through a season and somehow making the playoffs.
“They know little of the real world and its gravity.
“Despite their existence in a universe parallel to most people’s, they at least should understand the weight of obligation.”
It doesn’t get more condescending than that. I mean, wait, actually it does, but with an added dose of ridiculousness when Hayes cracks open the angry old man playbook and calls for the fumblerooskie.
“Lynch’s boycott of the press is no different from boycotting a meeting, a practice or a game. What if he mailed it in at the Super Bowl the way he mailed it in on Media Day?”
Not to mention wagging the damn obligation finger while failing to understand the absurdity of making this—a football player not playing your game—the ultimate ado in an NFL season arguably worse on so many levels than any in history. A writer is obligated to pick the right damn battles, the ones where sports transcend the fields and courts into something more than offending the delicate sensibilities of the writer. And lame recognizes lame, as evidenced by Hayes’s piece quoted in the worst thing written (so far) this week on Lynch.
Ed Sherman, writing for The National Sports Journalism Center (so we know the trade is in good hands), believes Marshawn Lynch has disrespected him.
“Lynch’s media stance now has become a big story. However, at its core is one basic element: Respect.
“The least you can ask for in this life is to be shown some respect from the people you interact with every day.”
Consider the level of conceit it takes to demand that another person “respect” you by granting you an interview. To find yourself so important, your role and service to humankind so crucial, that a running back not giving you clichés cuts at your dignity.
(And it would have to be clichés, by the way, because Ed Sherman was on the “Richard Sherman is being disrespectful to me by saying things that make me uncomfortable” train two months ago.)
Then consider how indecent it is to tell another grown man that he needs to conform to your odd definition of respect that isn’t correct to begin with.
It is an attempt to establish that other person as your subordinate, which is inhumane on its own, but then it’s also telling an adult black male to fall in line under a middle-aged white dude’s terms.
Add to that a call for journalists to boycott Skittles, Lynch’s famous snack of choice-turned-endorsement deal—to attempt to combine the Arkush and Hayes columns and scold this man with threats to take away the money your benevolent self helped make him.
The rather gross, inhumane condescension heaped on Josh Gordon by Barkley & Stephen A. very similar to the crap thrown on Marshawn Lynch.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) January 29, 2015
The “circus” of Super Bowl Media Day sure has become a sad sort of movie. “We’re gonna run you right outta Hollywood, son,” say the crusty, obtuse stogies of the industry. “You’ll never work in this business again, kiddo.”
Yeah, the movies change. And some things stay much the same. Marshawn Lynch ain’t changing, and you’re a fool for being mad that he doesn’t want to be in your movie.