Last week, I wrote a post over at The Guardian about the most notorious NFL scandals of all-time (actually, it turned out to be more “the most notorious on-field NFL scandals of the past couple decades,” but that’s not as catchy). Earlier this week, I wrote about Super Bowl media day. With so much attention being paid to “Deflate-gate,” the game, the league’s domestic violence woes, and whatnot, there are so many stories that simply get lost in the mix. One story I really wanted to come back to, however, is Marshawn Lynch.
It’s well-known that Marshawn Lynch is not a fan of the media. In fact, his aversion to reporters has cost him more money than I make in a year (…times 3). At Super Bowl media day, he demonstrated just how far he’d go to avoid having to answer questions.
“I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” Lynch told reporters nearly 30 times in response to questions. “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”
At first, the reporters on hand laughed, thinking (hoping) he’d relent and answer questions. Marshawn wasn’t having it.
“I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”
By about the third minute of this, the remaining journalists’ tone had shifted, taking a turn towards frustration.
“Can’t they fine you anyway for not answering our questions?” one reporter grumbled.
“What about the children who look up to you as a role model?” said another.
“I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” Lynch repeated.
After Lynch’s press availability came to a close, journalists began pestering his teammates and coach, asking about their star running back’s disinterest in the media.
“Is it frustrating that he won’t answer our questions?” a reporter asked Seahawks head coach Pete Carrol.
“No, it’s not frustrating. He’s just being who he is … It’s really not a burden to us.”
The whole thing reeked of arrogance; the whole ordeal came off as though the reporters were upset that Lynch didn’t do a little song and dance, that he didn’t answer some ridiculous questions about what his favorite stuffed animal is.
Sports journalist Ed Sherman took the cake, however, penning a blog post:
“Sports journalists unite: It’s time to boycott Skittles,” Sherman starts, referencing Lynch’s famously favorite candy. “Don’t let your kids eat them anymore. Forget about handing out those small packets for Halloween.
“Skittles should be considered poison to any sports journalist who asks for respect in dealing with athletes. You see, Marshawn Lynch’s stance with the media has evolved from more than just not wanting to talk. It now is a marketing vehicle.”
Sherman continues, claiming that Skittles (“Taste the rainbow,” right?) somehow teamed up with Lynch in a “campaign to mock the media this week” because he did a commercial for them — I know! An athlete with an endorsement deal!? What a new and completely revolutionary concept!
“Skittles probably paid him big money for the charade, likely much more than those annoying reporters who insist on asking him real questions,” Sherman seemingly seriously continues. Yes, Ed, I’m sure that Skittles (a brand Lynch is endorsing…) paid him more money than journalists (who, unless Sherman’s been doing journalism wrong all these years, shouldn’t be paying interviewees at all…).
Sherman referred to Lynch’s media day appearance as “shameless,” and whines about how Lynch owes journalists like him “respect.”
Sherman then quotes Marcus Hayes at the Philadelphia Daily News, who said, “Lynch’s boycott of the press is no different from boycotting a meeting, a practice, or a game.”
Are you fucking kidding me, bro? It’s absolutely different than if he skipped the fucking Super Bowl. When the Seahawks acquired Lynch after his stint with the Buffalo Bills, I’m guessing it was because they thought he could help them win some games, not because he generates some choice soundbytes for mid-market sports bloggers.
He gets paid to do this:
In addition to being a sports journalist, you’re a sports fan, right? How on earth are you more concerned with whether or not that guy wants to chat it up with the media?
Sherman continues on, throwing this tantrum with a straight face. Hayes’ piece is similarly apoplectic. How DARE this man not treat them with respect? How DARE he not ask “How high?” when they say “Jump!” How DARE he not put on a little show for them on command. How DARE he…
Now, I like to think of myself as a bit of a media chameleon. You’ll find me writing about sports, music, gender, politics, or whatever I feel like on any given day. I haven’t sunk my entire life into a profession built on hounding athletes who will only talk to me because they’re contractually obligated to so I can ask “How did you prepare for the big game?” (or in Super Bowl media day terms: “Who’s the best dancer on the team? What song are you listening to during warm-ups?”)
Maybe Sherman and Hayes’ indignant tone comes as the result of self-realization letting them know that with the increased use of social media, asking athletes softball questions is going the way of the fax machine. Want to know where your favorite athlete likes to eat? Follow them on Twitter. Interested in their pump-up music? What’s their Facebook say?
You’re not needed, and neither is your tantrum, Ed Sherman.
I’m certain that a lot of people will read Sherman’s blog post, but not for the reasons he wants. People will read it for one reason and one reason alone: to mock him. To go, “Look at this fucking guy?” To laugh at the dinosaur demanding that multi-millionaires cater to his whims.
There are a lot of excellent reasons why someone might not want to engage with the press, and not all of them fall under the category of being disrespectful (not that an athlete owes hacks like Sherman the type of “respect” they seek). Personally, I deal with near-debilitating social anxiety. Talking to strangers can sap every last ounce of energy from me, and unless I’ve mentally prepared myself (for a podcast, radio show, on-camera situation, panel, etc.), I’m a mess, and I just can’t do it. I physically can’t.
If someone got in my face and said, “Talk to me! Do the very thing that shuts your body down! You owe me! You’re a bad person!” I’m not going to respond well to that. Maybe Marshawn Lynch deals with some of that? Or maybe he just doesn’t want to fucking talk to you, guys? Either way, you’re the ones who need to deal with it. You’re the ones who need to adapt, not him.
Media day has outlived its usefulness, as have many forms of journalism. Sherman and Hayes’ screeds are the cries of people who refuse to adapt to a changing landscape, instead choosing to yell, “Get off my lawn!”
Adapt. If someone’s not interested in being asked stupid questions, then stop asking them questions. End of story.
Featured image via.