PHOENIX — Not going to go terribly long on this one, folks. There’s been so much overkill on what Marshawn Lynch chooses to say and what he does not that discussion of deflated footballs is almost beginning to seem fresh and appealing. Almost.
As I’m sure you have heard and heard again, Lynch, the Seahawks sensational running back — man, Beast Mode is an all-time perfect sports nickname — had become a story this week in a way that perfectly encapsulates the madness of Super Bowl hype.
Lynch has become a story this week by refusing to become a story.
Beginning with the traditional clown show known as Super Bowl Media Day, Lynch has taken the podium during players’ daily media obligations and generally refused to engage. During media day, he said, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” 29 times.
Wednesday, his go-to response was, “You know why I’m here.”
Today, he was positively chatty by comparison, giving shout-outs to random teammates, answering a question about his charity, and occasionally mixing in a semi-taunting but laugh-worthy line such as “You all got two minutes left to look at me,” when he was, yes, two minutes from fulfilling the minimum time-limit limit.
And when he met the minimum, warding off Roger Goodell’s wallet-seeking minions, he was gone.
As a member of the media, which is increasingly well-practiced in presenting faux-outrage over small stuff, I am not going to pretend to be offended by Lynch’s approach. Hell, I’m not sure I understand his approach. He seems to have genuine anxiety about being in front of all those cameras and microphones,
But Lynch also has an increasingly visible commercial presence playing off the image. I wonder how much of it is authentic and how much of it is an attempt to create a personal brand much in the way his brilliant teammate Richard Sherman has. I might ask him if there were a chance he’d answer.
I’d like to ask him a lot of things, and not just because he is a marquee player and, when he’s at his best, one of the most electrifying and punishing runners in the league.
Lynch has a hell of a story to tell — we know this because those close to him have occasionally told us.
Growing up in inner-city Oakland, he didn’t so much have a childhood as he had a string of days in which circumstances somehow allowed him to survive until the next one.
He is tight with his mother and paternal grandfather, but his dad, who lived in the same neighborhood, wanted nothing to do with raising him. That kind of rejection leaves a what’s-wrong-with-me? scar on a child that never entirely fades. Yet Lynch survived, thrived at the University of California, and with some missteps and misdemeanors along the way, finds himself here, a defending Super Bowl champion who will have a huge say in whether the Seahawks become two-time defending champions.
A hell of a story. It really is. But its his choice when and whether he wants to tell it.
I get that Lynch has been difficult, and he may make a few bucks off doing so. But given how amusing it has been and the fact that there are roughly 52 other Seahawks who are not just willing to talk, but interesting and insightful in when they do so, it matters not at all. There are not huge chunks of dead air on the nightly sportscast because Lynch refuses to talk. Quite the opposite, really.
His refusal to participate in a story has become a bigger story than anything he might have said in cooperation. And that, my friends, is the modern sports media in a nutshell.
If my peers and colleagues want to wag a finger at Lynch here, well, that’s their right, just as it’s his right to say such things as “I’m going to sit here with my mouth closed and look at you,” a gem from today’s session. But anything beyond a semi-serious admonishment is ridiculous.
No one outside of the media cares whether the media is being mocked and dismissed. No one. Yet some of the overwrought reactions to Lynch’s approach suggest not that the joke is on us, but that we are the joke.
One writer suggested a ban of Skittles, a product Lynch endorses, in a piece that I initially and apparently wrongly read as satire.
Another writer, according to the great Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur, hollered “Why do you have to be a jerk with us?” during Media Day.
I’m glad I didn’t hear that one. The temptation to yell, “Good heavens, people, get over yourselves,” might have been too much to resist.
Hmm. Maybe that ought to be Lynch’s go-to line during tomorrow’s availability.