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Lynch and the Media

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This is a good piece on Marshawn Lynch’s refusal to talk to the NFL media. The journalists are furious at him for this. And the piece gets it right–it’s not because they expect to hear anything interesting from Lynch. It’s that they want canned cliched quotes to make their jobs easier and fill word counts. Lynch rightfully doesn’t care about this–nor does he care about the NFL business model–and does what he wants up the point of incurring fines for his behavior. Note that this is not bad behavior. He just doesn’t want to talk and wants to be left alone. There’s nothing wrong with this except that it’s not what the billionaire bosses want.

It’s an entirely reasonable frustration. Reporters have to play this game, even if they realize how dumb it is, and they rely on athletes to play their roles in the ecosystem. Sure, no one’s life would be better this morning if they knew that Marshawn Lynch understood the importance of giving 110 percent, or that the Seahawks were taking things one game at a time. But the writers’ lives would have been easier, their stories 50 words closer to their word counts.

It’s an institutional failure. In other sports, there are long histories of reporters traveling with teams, entering open clubhouses, actually getting to know players. In football, there isn’t really such a thing as a beat reporter, at least not to the same extent as in an everyday sport; every writer is a war correspondent parachuting into a strange country where they’re not particularly welcome. Blame it on the weekly schedule, or the centralized league control, or the fact that every game is national, but the only interactions most writers have with star players come in these unfruitful group scrums, where the best they can hope for is a quote so good that it’ll wind up in every single story.

This isn’t an insurmountable condition. There are good reporters, and there are sometimes great quotes and great insights waiting to be mined. In the “yeah” presser, one asked Lynch a specific, tactical question about the Seahawks’ blocking schemes. That reporter was genuinely curious, and if Lynch had answered, it might have helped readers better understand the game. That ought to be the platonic ideal of an interview question.

Instead, Lynch receives a string of lazy “talk about”s and “tell me about”s, and after dealing with that multiple times per week, every week, for the entirety of his adult life, his frustration is every bit as visible and as justified as reporters’. Neither the writers nor players have easy jobs, but I’ll always have more respect for Lynch’s reaction in this spat. After all, he’s the only one who’s not just going through the motions.

Besides, doesn’t Richard Sherman talk enough for the whole Seahawks’ team. Just get him to talk about how Patrick Peterson is a bad cornerback. How many more quotes do they need?

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