This is not about baseball. It’s about Marshawn Lynch. But it’s more generally about sports media, and that’s something I consider to be in my bailiwick, so it’s fair game. And a lot of this could equally apply to baseball coverage too, so here we are. Anyway:
For those who may have missed it, you should know that there is a controversy afoot involving Marshawn Lynch, star running back of the Seattle Seahawks. Lynch, you see, does not like to talk to the media. At all. So he does not talk to the media.
The NFL wants its players to talk to the media, so it has fined Lynch multiple times for this. As a result, Lynch has taken to offering the barest compliance: showing up for media sessions and giving non-answers. Yesterday was the Super Bowl media day. He was asked 30 questions and answered each one with “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” and then left after his five-minute obligation was over.
Some people think this is rather hilarious. Most people likely don’t care one way or the other, as they don’t care what football players say for the most part. And besides, Super Bowl media day has devolved into a dumb circus in which no real information is actually gleaned from the players. People dress up in weird costumes, non-reporters are credentialed and use the opportunity to try to become viral sensations and the NFL even charges admission to it so fans can watch the silliness. This is not a formal press conference. It is a sideshow.
But boy are reporters angry at Lynch. Does he not realize that the cliches athletes spout to reporters are just as important as his football playing abilities?! Does he not realize that I, a sports reporter for a newspaper, am fundamentally unable to write about a dynamic and successful professional athlete — a man who literally runs over people for a living in an arresting, exciting and visual manner — without the content-free sound bites he may mutter to 100 reporters in a cacophonous arena?!
This mindset has led to a couple of absolutely amazing temper tantrums from sports reporters. Like this tweet from a St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter:
Marshawn Lynch’s tired sphinx act masks the hard truth that without the media NFL players would be playing in a parking lot for $8 an hour
— Brian Murphy (@murphPPress) January 28, 2015
If by “media” he means “large, national and international broadcast corporations that send the game millions of Americans love directly to their living rooms each Sunday,” then yes, he may have a point. But given that he’s a newspaper writer mad about Lynch not giving quotes to newspaper reporters at media day, well, I sorta don’t think he means that. And I sorta — no, I definitely — think that the NFL would go on just fine and dandy if there were not newspaper reporters covering it. Indeed, it would likely make the NFL’s life far easier than it has been, at least from their point of view. And, at any rate, here’s a good response to Murphy’s assertion:
The second hilarious thing is this column from the Philadelphia Daily News’ Marcus Hayes in which he lectures Lynch about hard work and duty and all of that:
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.
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?
Maybe there’s a hint of truth to the notion that, hey, Lynch is expected to answer questions so maybe he should. Personally, I’d answer questions if they were asked of me in that setting. But for a sportswriter to lecture an athlete about hard work, duty and commitment is a bit much for me to take. I love my job, but it ain’t coal mining, and neither is Hayes’. And it’s way harder to excel in the world Marshawn Lynch is in than the one Hayes operates in. I think, maybe, Lynch — who sits at the top of his profession — is in a better position to be able to judge the sort of hard work and commitment he needs to put forth than Hayes is.
But that aside, people like athletes because they’re athletes who do amazing things on athletic fields and in arenas. Unless they say something super controversial, fans care very, very little about their answers to newspaper reporters’ questions. Especially in media free-for-all sessions. Especially when the player is a football player because they’re mostly helmeted gladiators with a short shelf-life. Fans want them to play the sportball for them, not answer questions yelled at them from a scrum of lanyard-and-Dockers-clad scribes.
But please, more lectures about how thankful Marshawn Lynch should be for you running his quotes in your newspaper column.