White Cover Magazine
Go to Facebook. Scroll down. Try to make it to the end without seeing Marshawn Lynch’s mug. Try to turn your radio to whatever athletic dial is closest to you – all you’ll hear is a debate between an interviewer and his subject. One of them will be blasting Lynch for how he never talks to the media, how that’s somehow some arrogant or ignorant (possibly both) middle-finger to America’s frothing sports “journalists”. The other will support him, or say something like, “I dunno, I just find it funny” – that’s right, they’re talking about Lynch the same way a married guy talks about porn.
Somehow, a guy in a neon and blue uniform who just doesn’t have the same priorities as the guys holding the microphones or the cameras do – those guys always wanted to be an athlete, keep in mind, and they failed and ended up with a column, and they’re just so damn offended whenever one of their heroes (inside, they’re still seven) won’t play the whole ‘God is great’ card – is caught under the trampling foot of a 24-hour news cycle and the interchangeable heads, faces, voices, and cockroaches that are trying – and failing – to not only fill an endless vacuum of silence, money, and airtime, but also to stand out from their colleagues who are all chasing the same quote, the same clip, the same conclusion.
Give Lynch credit for that, at least.
In a continent where professional sports are the only thing keeping TV important, where there are thousands of athletes pretending they’re the one on the Gatorade bottle with the MVPs but, really, it’s their teammates who deserve all the credit – somehow, in that ugly, egomaniacal cereal box of egos Marshawn Lynch has found a way to stand aside, to stand apart. He says absolutely nothing, but everyone listens still.
That chaos is a ladder bit from Game of Thrones? It’s real, and Marshawn Lynch is pulling it off.
The NFL isn’t really made for personalities or characters – it’s made for the ones, normally, who say or do something just a little bit different than everyone else. They don’t want you to actually swear or actually say something intelligent or actually stand up for yourself – you’ll get fined, you’ll be called a thug, you’ll be called too dramatic, you’ll be a problem to everyone’s shattered suburban vision of their own dysfunctional cul-de-sac.
This is all circular. Marshawn getting free pub & branding. Fake upset media people trying to be next Skip. Everyone wins. It’s Matrix
— Robert Littal (@BSO) January 28, 2015
LeBron James wrote a Sports Illustrated article last summer, announcing which NBA team he was going to sign with, intentionally keeping the teams courting him, his fans, his sponsors, basically America on the line while he pretended to make his decision – he pretended it was tough. It was vain and selfish, a sort of Oscar speech delivered before a winner’s announced. And he got credit for being humble, just because it was less vain than what he did in 2010, when he took two hours on national television to basically do the same thing.
Like when Justin Bieber went to Anne Frank’s house and signed the guest book with, “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber!” Of course, he was ripped apart for being insensitive, or something. (As if the rest of us would know what to write in a book like that, knowing everyone would crowd around after you left to see exactly what you said.) But I had a different thought. Mine was nothing of surprise, but expectation. This kid Bieber clearly only lives in a world surrounded by, like, 10 other people at a time. All of them live to serve him, live to fan him with banana leaves and praise him and keep him ready for his next show. His friends are his PR managers; his mother’s basically his manager. Family isn’t a thing to Justin Bieber anymore. In his mind, the greatest compliment he could actually give Anne Frank is that she would have been a fan of his because, of course, what could be greater than that? To Justin Bieber, there’s nothing else he could or would think of, other than himself.
LeBron’s not far away from Bieber, not in that respect. He writes a Sports Illustrated column about himself and, to him, it’s like he’s one of us now. “Oh, I’ll leave my Ferrari in the garage and just take out the BMW today. Look, I’m poor now. LOL.”
And we know that’s all absurd. We hate the vanity, of course. But we are vain. That’s why so many reporters who whine about Lynch are (probably) terrible at their job – to them, it’s about them. ‘Lynch doesn’t want to talk to me… why doesn’t he like me?!? What did I do?! Hey man, I’m just trying to do my job!‘
But no good journalist, no good interviewer rather, thinks it’s about them. Lynch knows that.
“And I’m not as comfortable, especially at the position I play, making it about me,” he told NFL.com’s Michael Silver, in an interview recovered and republished today by Deadspin. “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.
“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).”
That’s the greatest, most sincere hat tip I’ve ever heard from a professional athlete. And I’m sure someone can spin it as selfish – he’s selfishly being unselfish, maybe.
But isn’t that actually just the perfect thing you’d want from an athlete? Isn’t that, in words, exactly why people clap when they watch Redford blast the lights out of that stadium in The Natural? Because you just want to see this guy who loves the sport play it until he doesn’t love it anymore, until his body won’t let him do it anymore? Aren’t we supposed to treasure the guys who know what’s up, who play the game to play the game?
There are people out there right now saying Lynch should talk more often because, “You know, if it wasn’t for the media, Marshawn Lynch wouldn’t have made millions of dollars by now.” Oh, if that’s true, then why are you talking about him? (And how can a collective fifth estate spend 364 days of the year trying to expose the NFL for all its tight-ass-ness and hypocrisy somehow spend the 365th day roasting a guy who’s trying to do the same thing?)
Besides, it seems to me that Lynch has given them plenty to talk about. Media day isn’t about football, anyway – it’s about the media that covers football. An entire week is spent trying to stretch 10 minutes of real coverage over thousands of networks, stations, and channels, and the game they’re leading up to only lasts 60 minutes.
Lynch is the Seahawks’ version of Life of Brian – whenever he tries to shoo the crowd and his followers away, they just stand as his door yelling, “MESSIAH! MESSIAH! MESSIAH!”
“A handful of grumpy sportswriters will never forgive him for exposing how meaningless most media interactions really are,” writes Grantland‘s Andrew Sharp today, really nailing it with that one sentence. “And there will always be comment sections full of backlash, calling him all the names sportswriters and the league office wish they could. But at this point, anyone who hates Marshawn Lynch is telling you more about themselves than Lynch.
“The rest of us can just enjoy this.”
I’ve never been to media day, or the week, or the Super Bowl. I’m definitely okay with that.
I know that’s an odd thing to say – you want to be a sportswriter, right? Isn’t the Super Bowl sort of, like, the biggest deal there is? Isn’t that basically like making it?
Yes. But there are times, and I’m sure we’ve all had them, where we look at the colleagues around us – either while you’re standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them, or staring at them from across the Internet – and we think, “Huh, is this what I always wanted?”
Do you ever look at someone, judge them, and then realize that’s what you’d think if you saw yourself?
Well, Marshawn Lynch is looking right at you, and through you, and he’s not impressed. And that says a lot more about you than it says about him.
VIDEO: ESPN’s E:60 on Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks