By Bennet Hayes
By the letter of the law – or at least the NFL’s version of it — Marshawn Lynch fulfilled his duties at Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day. Never mind that he uttered the same seven-word phrase in response to every question, or that he took leave of the podium immediately after the NFL-mandated 270 seconds had elapsed. By the barest requirements, Lynch fulfilled his media obligations on Tuesday.
Video clip via KCPQ-TV.
But in the hours since Lynch stepped off the podium in Glendale, debate has raged. Does the Seahawks star tailback owe the world – media, fans and the NFL alike — more than those seven words?
Many media members seem to think so.
Bill Plaschke wrote on LATimes.com that Lynch’s actions were “equally obstinate and outrageous.” On his blog, ex-Bills defensive back Jeff Nixon pointed out that “no one forced Mr. Lynch to sign contracts that require him and all NFL players to talk to the media.”
Ed Sherman of the Sherman Report went as far as to suggest sports journalists should punish Lynch’s most visible corporate sponsor by boycotting Skittles.
But not every sports journalist was outraged by Lynch’s relative silence.
John Mullin, Bears writer for CSNChicago.com, finds the act more entertaining than offensive.
“I find this far more amusing,” Mullin said. “For the media, it’s a much better story for him not to be talking. If he were available he’d just be one more athlete.
“I find some of this stuff (in the media’s response) so eye-rollingly stupid – it’s a much better story that he’s not talking. The media should be thanking him.”
Mark Carman, former host on The Game 87.7 FM and current FanSided.com contributor, also failed to understand the media’s exasperation with the five-time Pro Bowler.
“I don’t think journalists should care in this particular instance because you’ve got the Seattle Seahawks, who have maybe the most interesting locker room in the NFL,” Carman said. “If he doesn’t want to talk, you’ve got a million different compelling guys in there who do want to talk, will talk, and will say something interesting.
“I just don’t see the whole ‘We gotta get him to speak.’”
Mullin said he understood why Lynch wouldn’t want to talk.
“Athletes who have said things have often been so abused for it,” Mullin said. “Kyle Long last season remarked that Bears fans should just be a little more quiet when they have the ball and be a little more noisy when opponents have the ball. He was crucified for that.
“When they speak up, they get hammered. The media has reaped what it sowed.”
But while opinions may vary among journalists, Lynch appears to have won over his most important constituency: the fans.
During those now famous four and a half minutes on the podium, spectators cheered every one of Lynch’s 29 identical responses. Plaschke called him “the most popular man at the Super Bowl” and Grantland published a story Wednesday titled “Everybody Loves Marshawn Lynch.” Various national polls have indicated that more than 80 percent of fans approve of Lynch’s actions, according to the LA Times.
To Carman, the entire charade has been counterintuitive.
“My original take on it was he’s only hurting himself,” Carman said. “Not only is he getting fined and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars, but he’s also missing out an opportunity to build his brand.
“But really, he has only garnered more attention. When he does talk, he’s just not that interesting. Him not talking has actually made him more interesting. It’s worked out in a really weird way.”
Pete Carroll says that Lynch “is just being true to himself.” Lynch, predictably, has never fully explained his disdain for interacting with the media.
Mullin sees no selfish motivations behind Lynch’s (few) words.
“I don’t think building his brand is his purpose at all,” Mullin said. “I just think he’s being a jerk. (Lynch) probably should be more available to his fans, or the general public.
“But hell hath no fury like a sportswriter scorned – that’s kind of the deal here.”