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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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  • Denverite

    Just get him to talk about how Patrick Peterson is a bad cornerback. How many more quotes do they need?

    Alternatively, you could send him to Pro Football Focus’s positional grades, which have him as “only” the fourth best CB in football.

  • patrick II

    I would rather listen to Lynch grunt his one word answers than listen to Russell Wilson kick out one more cliche. He seems like a very pleasant young man, but Crash Davis seems to have seriously overschooled him.

    • tsam

      I love Russell Wilson, but yeah, the Godshite is nauseating.

      • patrick II

        For me it came to a head on Thanksgiving when Russell thanked his teammates for this award, and he couldn’t do it without them, and he wanted to share it with them — for a turkey leg. The turkey leg award was for turkey day game mvp. I was looking for the least bit of irony, but he seemed sincere as hell.

        • erick

          I think he meant being named player of the game, not necessarily the Turkey itself

          • patrick II

            I understand that. But the turkey leg is a gag award from the Madden days that everyone has some fun with — and he talked like he was receiving the league mvp and nobel peace prize combined.

  • sleepyirv

    For a person with zero interest in the backstage drama of my favorite sports teams, I have never cared for the sports media’s whining about an uncooperative athlete. The only reason they give why an athlete has to talk to them in a way that actually relates the athlete’s job (instead of their own) is that it expands the brand of the sport. As though even an interesting quote actually makes people care more about NFL, much less a banal quote that a reporter is supposedly happy to get.

    • tsam

      They’re fishing for a controversial quote. The questions are always the same, they’re loaded with bait, and generally useless for gaining any knowledge or perspective about the game or the athlete being questioned.

      Once they get a controversial quote, the media frenzy is ON. Then super geniuses like Stephen A Smith can run their fool mouths about it all day.

      • ChrisS

        Stephen A Smith

        I am truly baffled as to why he still has a job in an audio or visual medium.

        • toberdog

          So, that means he’d be suited for mime on the radio?

        • tsam

          Right there with you. He’s a complete and utter ASS.

        • witlesschum

          He’s among the creepier-looking dudes in the world. He really needs to play a horror villain in some low budget movie.

          • tsam

            He also needs to be kicked in the nuts like a billion times for questioning if Ray Rice’s wife deserved to knocked the fuck out.

            Fucking moron. He’s the worst.

        • Ann Outhouse

          Stephen A Smith

          I am truly baffled as to why he still has a job in an audio or visual medium.

          Because he makes Skip Bayless look like a genius.

  • trollhattan

    Will leave the heavy lifting to Michael Bennett:

    Defensive end Michael Bennett: “It was the best run I’ve ever seen. I felt like he was running for freedom or something. Boy, he was gone. They haven’t had a run like that since the underground railroad.”

    • Awesome.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Shades of the Sweet Sassy Molassy SportsCenter sketch from SNL. Underground Railroad reference comes with about one minute to go.

  • tsam

    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.

    And he might have given away information that the coaches don’t want handed out.

    That ought to be the platonic ideal of an interview question.

    Yes, and nobody in a rich society ought to go hungry. But that’s just a platonic ideal, now isn’t it?

    • GoDeep

      Interviews are part of the job description. These guys make millions of dollars a year. Its not just for football, its also to promote the brand. If it wasn’t about promoting the brand women still wouldn’t be allowed in locker rooms.

    • drkrick

      And repeating “thanks for asking” or “both sides played hard my man” over and over again fulfills the requirement in the job description. So if the job description is sacred and unquestionable we’re all good, right?

  • Joe_JP

    There are better things to do here than defend the sports media (to cite a local columnist, often members of the “clown college,” down to the “sports pope” Mike Blowhard) but wasting time is my thing.

    Seriously, the guy gets paid a lot of money. Part of this is to provided a few mostly canned comments to the press. No reason for him to waste too much time here. But, this “thank you” business is a tad silly. Just provide some one sentence or whatever answers and move on, rest the body & enjoy the funds obtained playing a little boy game. Fans, not just the sports media, want this stuff. It’s part of the package along with celebrities going on talk shows and such. A few words more than “thank you” from such an elite player is not really too much to ask.

    • I’m not sure that “because fans want this stuff” means that a player should be obligated to give it.

      • Joe_JP

        Lol. Well, if it was to have a cam in his house maybe, but a few sentences more than “thank you” at a post game press conference or the like to me is not too much to ask here.

      • tsam

        They do require it of all players, and he shouldn’t get an exception because he doesn’t want to do it. I don’t disagree with your point, but I think that if everyone else is required to do it, he should have to do it too.

        • Vance Maverick

          I get the force of this argument, and at the same time I think workers should be able to push back against the definition of their jobs — maybe ideally in organized fashion, but also individually.

          • GoDeep

            I think workers should be able to push back against the definition of their jobs — maybe ideally in organized fashion, but also individually.

            Where in the NFL players union’s list of priorities is “not having to take questions from the media”? The family watched the game last night and I actually wondered if the man had a learning disability. Even millionaires have some grunt work occas’ly. If he doesn’t have a disabilty he needs to get w/ the progrm.

            • Brien Jackson

              Yeah, I’m not seeing where it’s some high priority of the players as a collective to do away with the requirement to be available for brief media sessions at certain times.

            • drkrick

              The man actually has an anxiety disorder that makes interviews difficult for him. And very damn few fans really care that much anyway. Most athletes don’t have anything more interesting than the Crash Davis script to offer most of the time, it’s no great loss.

              This isn’t about fans, it’s mostly about reporters trying to get one back from stand ins for the jocks they really wanted to be but couldn’t measure up to in high school.

        • witlesschum

          I’m not really persuaded by ‘let’s be equally unfair to everyone arguments.’ It’s better to just let him or any other player who doesn’t want to say anything slide and let the guys who want to talk, talk.

          • tsam

            I’m not exactly persuaded by it either… I’m on Lynch’s side in this one, but the argument that everyone is contractually required to do it is a bit compelling too. But then he already paid a $100,000 fine for refusing to do it, so maybe they should just get off his nuts about it.

        • Ann Outhouse

          They do require it of all players,

          ]

          But they don’t require it of all players equally. High-profile skill players get trotted out every frickin game. The linemen and bench warmers don’t.

          • Brien Jackson

            I’m gonna venture that there’s a larger gap between relative pay than between relative time spent unwillingly talking to the media.

            • Ann Outhouse

              Not necessarily, but irrelevant in any case. Nobody’s salary is based on how well they perform at the press cattle call.

      • tsam

        Though I love to sip on the sweet sweet tears of crybaby sports writers. I really dislike those people with few exceptions. So watching Lynch poke them in the eye is fun.

      • Protagoras

        They are basically entertainers. Obviously, they’re not obligated to give fans whatever they want no matter how absurd, but having something to say to the press? I don’t think it’s indefensible for the NFL to include that as part of the job.

        • TopsyJane

          Movie stars are often contractually obligated to do press for their new pictures. Other sports organizations also fine athletes who refuse to talk to the press or are no-shows at press conferences. If Lynch doesn’t want to do it and is willing to cough up the dough,fine, but it’s not some hideous injustice being inflicted on him, it’s just part of the job. That’s showbiz.

        • Isn’t this all entertaining? I mean, it’s clear that loads of people are enjoying all this. He could become a heel.

      • Brien Jackson

        I mean, I think the stuff is pretty silly, but at the same time the fairly sparse amount of time players and coaches have to be available to reporters as required by the league isn’t that much of a burden. While I don’t carry much water for beat writers, I also think Lynch is very much being a spoiled brat.

        • phalamir

          The questions are the same tired crap you hear after every game. And the answers are the same, tired non-answers dreamed up in the Paleolithic Age by PR drones afraid of anything that wasn’t pre-approved and pre-digested to be non-threatening to skittish chihuahuas after 50 espressos. It is not being a spoiled brat to actually admit this is kabuki theater farce. If anything, he is doing exactly what is done every other time: make a completely meaning-devoid word salad in response to some random string of words recited by a parrot with severe brain damage. His answers to those questions are no less informationally devoid than the answers any other football player or coach has made – and if they did actually answer a question is cogent manner, they would be fired. At least Lynch is being entertaining; it is hardly being a “spoiled brat” to learn an answer not written down in the reign of Hammurabi and relentlessly drilled into football players’ heads via physical imprinting.

          If he really wanted to up his game, he ought to release The Official Marshawn Lynch Response Sheet, with number-coded strings of bog-standard sports Tourettes; and then spend each press conference randomly reciting numbers in the range on TOMLRS. I am willing to bet the reporters layering in the canned text from such an arrangement would not in any way differ from the truly torturous drivel they disgrace the English language with on an hourly basis.

          • Brien Jackson

            Well…then give interesting answers, I guess. I watched an interview he did with Michael Robinson on NFL Network a few weeks ago that was really intriguing. If you want to give deeper answers, do it.

      • Brien Jackson

        I mean, I see the point, but there’s going to have to be some level of requirement to pander to fans/sponsors in any form of entertainment business.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Fans, not just the sports media, want this stuff.

      I’d love to see the evidence for this assertion. My guess is that the media cares about this stuff much more than the fans do.

      • brugroffil

        The existence of talk radio, sports columns and endless ESPN talking heads seems to indicate that fans want at least some of this stuff.

        I know I’m enjoying the Chicago Bears complete dysfunctional meltdown this year.

        • Scott Lemieux

          The existence of talk radio, sports columns and endless ESPN talking heads seems to indicate that fans want at least some of this stuff.

          Well, no it doesn’t, since the vast majority of this discourse does not involve the cliches players tell beat reporters. I am very confident that this industry would remain robust if every player emulated Lynch.

          • howard

            as a very crude approximation, we could compare the audience for sports talk radio to the audience for watching nfl broadcasts: the people who do care are a very small percentage of the whole.

            • GoDeep

              But they drive a disproportionate amt of the marketplace. What you call ‘core consumers’.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Yes, but again only a trivial fraction of this industry is driven by the cliches players tell reporters after the game.

                • Brien Jackson

                  I wouldn’t be so sure about that. I can’t speak to the dynamics of the NFL specifically, but certainly in the world of baseball the inane Crash Davis quotes are just about literally the only thing keeping the job of “beat reporter” in existence.

                • Scott Lemieux

                  Right, but he was talking about columnists and paid trolls, not beat writers. None of their jobs are remotely dependent on getting players to say they gave 400%.

              • phalamir

                I severely doubt it, since the amount of mental retardation to not run screaming into the night at the pablum spewed in sports interviews generally results in an inability to earn money (or even breath without mechanical assistance).

      • Ann Outhouse

        Fans, not just the sports media, want this stuff.

        I’d love to see the evidence for this assertion. My guess is that the media cares about this stuff much more than the fans do.

        I was going to say much the same thing. Maybe some fans enjoy hearing their favorite athlete spew cliches and evasions, but I also doubt they would even notice it if it stopped tomorrow.

        As far as I’m concerned, you can get rid of all the in-game interviews and post-game press conferences and 98% of the human interest crap and watching sports broadcasts would be about 3000% more enjoyable. But there would be a lot fewer sports “journalists” employed.

        • phalamir

          I have finally trained my friends to enjoy watching games with the mute on; we will turn the sound on for judicial reviews and odd happenstances, but otherwise the Dummy Brigade is blessedly absent.

          • Ann Outhouse

            I’ve gone all-mute + DVR on nearly all sporting events. The chief exception is when Doc Emrick is doing hockey,

            • drkrick

              Pretty judicious use of a waiver there.

            • Richard Gadsden

              BBC used to have a secondary audio broadcast with just the FX mics on for some events. It was great if you were following closely, but terrible the moment you got distracted.

      • stinapag

        I HATE post game interviews, and the only one that I’ve ever seen that was remotely interesting was the Richard Sherman pounding on Michael Crabtree. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with the questions Erin Andrews was asking. I’m a huge Andre Johnson fan, but I can’t remember a single thing he’s ever said after a game.

  • Lee Rudolph

    I thought this was going to be about Patrick Lynch.

    Now, there’s a guy I wish the media would be glad to let talk to an empty room.

    • GoDeep

      That’s what I thought this was going to be about. That’s a Lynch I could lynch.

      • PhoenixRising

        +1 I was disappointed that this was about a guy who catches a football for a living.

  • Davis

    Quotes from athletes in any sport? Boring.

    • Muhammad Ali had a few quotable zingers. But I’ll allow that he’s likely the exception that proves the rule…

  • FirstDano

    As a young boy I read Ball Four and Joe, You Coulda Made Us Proud and never looked at reporters in the same light again.

    Best,

    D

  • Joshua

    We all have dumb stuff we have to do at work. We do it, because it’s expected of us and we are paid in part to do it. I would expect the same from Lynch.

  • randy khan

    There is an interesting comparison here to interviews with movie stars promoting movies. It’s well known that quite a few of them hate the publicity grind, but they understand it’s part of the price of admission and go along with it. Most of the questions in those interviews are just as original as the ones that Lynch hears after every game, too.

    Lynch’s situation is like that, although not identical for several reasons. A Meryl Streep or a George Clooney has a personal brand to manage, and future success depends in large part on maintaining that brand, so there’s a direct connection between doing the interviews and enjoying the benefits of their stardom. Lynch, on the other hand, is paid by his team for what he does on the field. Any benefits that come from being accessible to the media accrue mostly to the team and only slightly to him (presumably through endorsement deals and the like). Perhaps if he were looking ahead more, he might think that being nice to the media could accrue more personal benefits – a better chance at a post-football career as a commentator, or increase likelihood of getting into the Hall of Fame – but even that is sort of on the margin. As a result, it’s probably not nearly as much in his interest to make nice with the media as it is for a movie star.

    All of that said, and even accounting for the possibility that after all these years he thinks it’s incredibly tedious and pointless, and that he might be shy, he is still being a bit of a jerk. The reporters have a job to do, and as the post points out, asking him questions is an important part of it. Even the banal questions – “Walk us through the play when you . . .” – are intended to obtain some information that’s not available anywhere else – what he saw, why he reacted the way he did. It really doesn’t take any significant effort to say the few words necessary to give them what they need.

    Mind you, I don’t think this is a big deal in any way. It’s just that I also don’t think he really should be left entirely off the hook here for what obviously is intentional behavior intended to annoy the reporters, who aren’t doing anything wrong.

    • ColBatGuano

      Well, if he was more accessible, it might lead to more endorsement deals, but Lynch just doesn’t seem to care.

      • tsam

        Stop freakin’ and call Beacon.

    • NonyNony

      A Meryl Streep or a George Clooney has a personal brand to manage, and future success depends in large part on maintaining that brand, so there’s a direct connection between doing the interviews and enjoying the benefits of their stardom.

      But that really isn’t the same thing, is it? An actor on a publicity tour is just acting – they’re doing their day job, just in a different setting. There might even be a bit of pride involved in being able to act so well that nobody can tell you think the interviewers are morons. I’d imagine being a politician would be much the same – you have to sit through a lot of tedious interviews, but when you’re on the campaign it’s your day job so suck it up and do it.

      A football player sitting through a tedious bit of sports press idiocy isn’t doing anything related to his core job of either moving a ball down the field or stopping the ball from being moved down the field. So I can see why they tend to give canned cliched responses (because they aren’t actors or politicians), and why some would decide that they were done with it and were going to avoid it as much as possible.

      • Richard Gadsden

        Depends whether you think their job is playing sports or entertaining the public.

        • TopsyJane

          Sports are also entertainment. By speaking to the press athletes help to promote their sport. They can also benefit personally by maintaining good will with the press, if they want. Again, if they don’t want, fine – not all actors do the publicity rounds, either — but it’s just another professional obligation.

          So I can see why they tend to give canned cliched responses (because they aren’t actors or politicians),

          Sounds as if you haven’t watched many interviews with actors or politicians.

  • calling all toasters

    Like the political consultants always advise, Lynch stayed on message.

  • erick

    Whenever the press complains about Lynch’s non answers I remember Belehik answering every question about the game they just played with “on to Cincinnati” and how easy it is to see the same reporters writing that it shows how focused Belechik is.

    • ChrisS

      Indeed. For all the shit they’re giving Lynch, they should be piling it high on Belicheck, as well – since he’s the face of the team and all.

    • Four Krustys

      African-American males do not have the right to be weird, shy, or eccentric in this country. Behavior that would be coded as merely weird coming from a white guy gets treated as thuggish, antisocial, or ignorant coming from an AA male.

      • tsam

        Don’t forget, we have to act majorly surprised when black people are smart and articulate.

        • BubbaDave

          Also clean.

    • FlipYrWhig

      Reporters don’t like Bill Belichick either, though.

      • Brien Jackson

        Yeah, I was going to say, Belichick gets absolutely lambasted when he throws up weak shit like that. No one spins it out as a positive.

    • witlesschum

      I haven’t observed this myself, because I don’t care about the Patriots at all, but supposedly if you ask Belichek an actual xs and os type football question he responds politely and gives interesting answers and it’s the “Coach, how do you lead with leadership?” stuff that pisses him off.

      • Brien Jackson

        This seems right. I can distinctly remember some insightful answers from Belichick, and I remember him being on one of the Superbowl pre-show deals one year and being EXTREMELY insightful and entertaining in breaking down film on both teams (I want to say it was SB 45). So I don’t think he’s such an ass per se, it’s the stupid questions/questions the reporter knows he won’t answer that get his goat.

    • ASV

      I think if you check the record, you’ll find that “on to Cincinnati” was taken as evidence that the Patriots were finished. They were 2-2, had just gotten throttled by Kansas City, and football’s greatest genius could no longer take the heat. You may also find that, while Belicheck is widely considered a curt asshole, his “on to Cincinnati” performance was a one-off of resolute non-answering.

    • drkrick

      The ESPN Santa as Belichik commercials for the Christmas NBA marathon are pretty great.

  • RobertL

    Hasn’t he seen Bull Durham? It’s supposed to be:

    * I’m just happy to help the team
    * We’re just taking it one game at a time
    * The good lord willing…

  • Richard Hershberger

    It would be so easy to make these things fun. Here we have a tedious job requirement, which will have no bearing on salary increases or job retention: In other words, a golden opportunity! Respond to a stupid question with some Shakespeare quote, or recite the Gettysburg Address, or come up with complete gibberish. Lots of people have pointless job requirements, which they have to at least make a pretense of taking seriously. Lynch has the stupid requirement, but no real need to pretend.

    • stinapag

      Arian Foster has taken to doing press conferences in accents.

  • toberdog

    The reporters should try asking him what kind of tree he would like to be.

    • phalamir

      That would require sports writers to have brains that actually functioned. They have the canned questions memorized through a regimen of waterboarding-reinforced mantras. Most can’t even write, and simply draw the shapes they have been taught to correspond to the canned answers to the canned questions they ask. When banging a hooker, a sports writer probably asks her what the key to success is, and how does she expect to deal with the defensive end this week.

  • keta

    Two different theories:

    1)Lynch is a genius. Would there be articles about his post-game “comments” if they’d been the boilerplate bullshit? Absolutely not.

    2) Lynch is shy and inarticulate. A really, really bad speaker (or thinks he is) to the point that he’d much rather risk the ire of media and fans than comment in public.

    If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the latter.

    • trollhattan

      The regional guys (pretty sure they’re all guys) who cover the Seahawks all seem to like Lynch and aren’t especially bothered by his reticence. When he does (very) occasionally drop his guard he’s evidently quite funny (calls everybody “boss.”)

      This has become elevated way beyond proportion, starting last season around the Superbowl when he was fined $50k, the fine suspended providing he “behaved” in the future. One game a few weeks back he left the locker room without talking and the fine was reinstated and doubled.

      Nobody would care if he were a defensive lineman or third-string wide receiver. It’s only becaue he’s good that anybody gives a shit and now that he’s pissed off the village his ass is marked. If Patrick Peterson could tackle he’d be happy to pay the damn fine on Lynch’s behalf. In the meantime, Marshawn says words and avoids more fines. End of story.

      • keta

        Sports Reporter; Are you getting a Christmas tree this year, Marshawn?

        ML; Sure.

        Sports Reporter; Are you putting it up yourself?

        ML; No you sick fuck! I’m putting it up in my living room!

    • Brien Jackson

      Nope, not at all. Lynch is a very intelligent and insightful speaker on football.

      • keta

        Then I admire him completely!

  • Manju

    Lynch needs to talk.

    Fans deserve to know if he’s taking it one game at a time, or two. Is he giving 110%, or 1000? And if offense is the best defense, does that make him a better defender than Richard Sherman?

    • tsam

      I”m dying to know if he gives all the credit to his lord and savior Jesus Christ.

      • phalamir

        I would personally blow a player who declared his deep and abiding faith in Asatru and how Thor personally mandated he win the game (do it after winning vs. Minnesota, and I’ll throw in a little prostate action)

        • tsam

          Challenge ACCEPTED

  • It reminds me of Bob Dylan here at about 0:51.

    Q: Do you prefer songs with a subtle or obvious message?

    A: A what?

    Q: A subtle or obvious message.

    A: Message? You mean like what song with a message?

    Q: Well, like Eve of Destruction and things like that.

    A: Do I prefer that to what?

    Q: I don’t know, but your songs are supposed to have a subtle message.

    A: Subtle message?

    Q: Well, they’re supposed to.

    A: Where’d you hear that?

    Q: In a movie magazine.

  • joe from Lowell

    It’s that they want canned cliched quotes to make their jobs easier and fill word counts.

    I’ve noticed that in a lot of sports reporting: a lot of it is just verbatim transcription of a player saying banal things that don’t have anything to do with the rest of the story except that the player who was the subject of the story is the one saying them.

    Yet another way that sports journalism is similar to political journalism.

  • howard

    i was on a flight from seattle to los angeles a few weeks ago, and when i got off, the flight attendants were saying that marshawn had been on the flight.

    in coach.

    that is a rare nfler right there….

    • PhoenixRising

      …more to the point, what airline?

      If Marshawn Lynch can fit in a coach seat, inquiring minds want to know.

      • erick

        Alaska would be my guess

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