At this point, Super Bowl media day is a lot like Black Friday; it’s a chaotic spectacle that’s deeply embarrassing for everyone involved. The only difference is, on Black Friday people actually come away with something.
Media day was once a useful gathering of sportswriters and reporters who would meet with the teams to get quotes and discover angles for the Super Bowl coverage in the local newspapers where they worked. Now it’s nothing more than an exercise in self-indulgence, an excuse for people in the “media” to ask questions such as “who has the hottest wife on the team” and actually expect a straight answer. People who are ostensibly there to cover the story dress in garish costumes in order to become the story, which is a fundamental perversion of the role of a journalist. Writers brag about getting police escorts to the event, as if the police and state troopers in one of the most densely populated areas of America don’t have anything better to do than ensure a guy dressed up as Mozart makes it through the Lincoln tunnel in time to ask a question to the Seahawks long snapper about his favorite brand of headphones.
In the midst of all this madness, it’s refreshing to see a player who refuses to suffer fools and pretend that this grotesque pageant of professional narcissism is anything but contemptible. Marshawn Lynch, the media-averse running back for the Seattle Seahawks, showed up for his league-mandated six-and-a-half minutes on media day before ducking out of the event. Although the NFL -- who has rescinded their $50,000 fine against Lynch for not speaking with the media during the regular season provided that he follows through with his commitments during Super Bowl week -- confirmed that he had a met his obligation of media accessibility, that didn’t stop the Pro Football Writers of America from complaining Wednesday morning about their “lack of meaningful access” to Lynch on media day. Per a statement issued by PFWA president D. Orlando Ledbetter:
“Several of our long-standing and high profile members were appalled by Mr. Lynch's conduct and refusal to answer any questions.
We find the statement that by the league that "Players are required to participate and he participated" to be an affront to our membership.
However, we are encouraged that the league will continue to closely monitor this situation.”
During Wednesday’s media session, Lynch was once again evasive when asked to answer thoughtful, penetrating questions like “Can you define Beast Mode and what that means to you” and “What did you eat [at dinner last night]?” Sadly, these queries were not answered with any degree of insightfulness, as Lynch simply shifted uncomfortably in his chair and did his best to power-through the conversational equivalent of those alligator-arm tackles he so effortlessly shrugs off in games.
As evidenced by his nervous body language, quick exit from the media day podium, and pretty much every story that’s been written about him this year, Lynch’s dislike for speaking on-camera or into recorders borders on a legitimate phobia. And still reporters ask questions like “What do you think about all this media attention, Marshawn?”
“I don’t know,” Lynch answered with a weary shake of the head. “I really ain’t got all that much to say, boss. I really don’t. I mean, I appreciate it...but...it’s just...I don’t get it.”
Watching Lynch speak to reporters is excruciatingly uncomfortable, but their questions elicited at least two honest answers from the Skittles-loving running back. The first, coming immediately after the quote above, was his response, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” The second was even more telling.
“If y’all say y’all was our bridge from the players to the fans, and the fans ain’t really trippin’...what’s the point? What’s the purpose?”
There you have it. Marshawn Lynch is one of the most popular players on the Seahawks and yet he never really does interviews. The fans love him because he speaks with his play, not because of the platitudes he spouts from his locker. To most members of the media, whose jobs are at least partly contingent on being a conduit between the players and the fans, this is very disturbing. Disturbing enough for the president of one of their associations to call Lynch’s anxious, can-we-please-get-this-over-with attitude "appalling."
I’ve never been to media day, nor sat in a press box. I engage with sports and professional athletes pretty much the same way everyone else does; online and through my home television. But I’m also a member of the media, and speaking as such, what I find appalling isn’t so much Lynch’s refusal to speak with reporters. It's the insultingly stupid and pointless questions they ask him when he finally does.