The Disobedience of Marshawn Lynch

NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks Team Media Availability

I have a confession to make: I kind of love Marshawn Lynch.

For some of you this is no big deal, for others–the 49ers fans of my friends and family–this is a huge deal, even a deal breaker. Lynch is on the biggest rival of my precious 49ers–the Seattle Seahawks. Not only that, but he is a sort of 49ers killer, seemingly unstoppable even with the 49ers’ top tier defense.

Now in the world of 49er fandom it’s not entirely unacceptable to like Seahawks’ players. Russell Wilson is an acceptable choice, his humble demeanor and religious beliefs do a lot for him, making him a likable figure. But Lynch is a somewhat cocky and brazen figure, not quite on the level of Richard Sherman, but close.

Yet I can’t help but admire the performance he has put on for the media this week. He has been known previously to dislike talking to the media (read Dashiell Bennet’s piece if you want an outline of his history and Bennett’s opinion on why it’s okay ) but this week he really went for it. Lynch completely trolled them, only showing up so that he wouldn’t get fined (as he repeatedly stated) and then left after his minimum time had been reached.

I love this for a couple of reasons. The first reason is it is almost a form of civil disobedience. Lynch doesn’t want to be put into this situation–we can debate whether he is right for not wanting to–so he responds to it in a way that sheds light on how stupid the situation is. He could show up and regretfully answer questions or he could skip the whole thing and get fined, instead he shows up and holds a mirror to the parade, showing us all how ridiculous we look.

Now I like the spectacle of the Super Bowl, it’s a fun event that at this point is probably the seventh largest holiday that America celebrates (1. Christmas 2. Thanksgiving 3. Easter 4. New Year’s Eve 5. Fourth of July 6. Valentine’s Day). Without the large media coverage, it probably would not be as fun of a day, so I’m accepting of the situation. But one thing I hate–which leads into the second reason I love what Lynch is doing–is the sports media.

Think about the kind of coverage we get from them, Michele Tafoya’s interview with coaches headed to the locker room–“Well, we’re trying our best and hopefully we’ll score more and be able to win”–OH REALLY!?! The coaches and players almost certainly don’t want to talk to media during the game and probably aren’t thrilled to talk to them after. The information we receive from them usually isn’t anything important, because they are not going to give us their actual, real game plan, and so we are left with some sort of pre-scripted statement that essentially means nothing. Pre- and post-game coverage wastes everyone’s time, well, except for maybe Michele Tafoya’s!

Yet players are forced to participate in this even while they must maintain league standards for what they say and how they present themselves. You must be subject to this interview and you must wear our brand and you must not say anything controversial or WE WILL FINE YOU. Civil disobedience may actually be necessary.

Lynch’s actions will certainly impact how other players behave in interviews just like it will impact the NFL’s policies. The NFL will try to stop this, likely with larger and stricter fines, but perhaps by loosening the types of forced interviews. Players will continue to figure out ways to undermine the NFL’s efforts at controlling acceptable behaviors. But my question is about what happens to the media–how will they evolve and adapt?

They are–for me–an insufficient and uninteresting part of sports, but there is potential there. Longer forms of sports journalism can bring insights into the minds of athletes, coaching decisions, and other larger sociological parts of sports. The media either needs to put more effort into getting grander results in the moment or needs to figure out better questions to ask to get better results. “What was going through your mind when you made that play?” and “How are you going to approach [insert athlete name] tomorrow?” aren’t going to cut it. We live in the age of Marshawn Lynch and until somebody does figure this out, let’s celebrate Lynch and his Skittles.

In Defense of the Patriots

belichick brady

Casual sports conversations typically devolve in three ways: The first is the fan bro-down, in which two fans of the same team talk about “our” struggles as a franchise, complain about certain players, and riot at coaching decisions. If it turns out, there is no overlapping fandom the conversation then turns to the big event, revolving around a discussion of which team will win. After this, who will win changes into who we want to win as we present our criteria for who we like and why that story is what we are pushing for.

This NFL season–for those of us without a home team to cheer for (*sob*)–those teams whom people believe to be deserving have been the Broncos–with non-controversial QB god Peyton Manning–and the Colts–with heir to the non-controversial QB god Andrew Luck. The Seahawks have gotten a lot of hate, but the team that seems to have the ire of the people that I regularly converse with is the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady lead New England Patriots.

The Patriots are in the middle of a couple of familiar things right now. They are entering into their sixth Super Bowl in the last 13 years and are in the middle of another fairly large cheating scandal. These two things lead to acceptable reasoning for not liking the Pats. Continued success is just the worst for an outsider, and I would probably cheer for the Yankees to lose every game even if they had lost every game for five straight years, just because I perceive them to have won so much. The cheating things are also unacceptable, but there are too many unknown details to truly have any strong opinion on this. These are enticing reasons to hate the Pats, but I feel like the dislike is strangely directed at Belichick/Brady.

This is where I must put forth my opinion, because I, 49ers faithful that I am, find myself constantly cheering for the Patriots in non-49ers related scenarios. Part of this likely harkens back to that first 2002 Super Bowl, in which Brady miraculously leads the underdog Patriots to a victory over the “greatest show on turf” St. Louis Rams. These underdog charms may still be in some part of my heart even as Bellichick/Brady have gone from rebels to brazen kings.

But I don’t think that’s it entirely. There is something about seeing the best be able to be the best and to do it over and over. Unlike the aforementioned Yankees franchise, the Pats don’t have unlimited wealth and have risen to the top despite very flawed teams. Their continuous success is instead based in the brilliance in Belichick’s work as a head coach. He finds ways to exploit other teams, avoiding convention to instead do what he thinks will work and his success at doing this is undeniable. Brady too has turned subpar receivers into record breaking All-Pros with his amazing ability. There is something inspiring to seeing this approach work over and over again.

We must address their personalities as well, because there is no denying they come off as cocky. Brady is dating a supermodel and seems to boss around his teammates, the portrait of the jock Homecoming King everyone hates in all the movies. Belichick looks like a slob and his social graces are lacking at best. Both are flawed characters in the story lines we make up in choosing who to cheer for.

And I think this is exactly why I like them. Instead of plastering himself in all sorts of annoying commercials about State Farm and Papa John’s, Brady is only seen in ads where he is made to look like a model. Sure this is absolutely ridiculous, but at least Brady isn’t feigning to be anybody else. So many sports stars are treated like celebrities and they try to live up to this, creating these marketing campaigns to make themselves look good. Brady is good at what he does, he’s rich, and he doesn’t want to feign that this isn’t true–he doesn’t want to hang out with us commoners. Good for him, he doesn’t have to, his foremost responsibility is to perform and I like to watch him do it.

I’ve heard others complain about the Belichick press conferences, his short worded answers to the media are hardly insightful and don’t have the candor and charm of other personnel. That is great, in fact it helps his image as this man who was just on a completely different level than everyone else and would be one of the greatest coaches of all time. If anything Belichick is hilarious in his response to the media, who tend to be more annoying than the sports stars themselves.

I’ve written this before, but I still believe it–sports stars do not have to live up to our strangely moral expectations–they are people who are doing a job that is for some reason the most watched piece of entertainment in America. Sure I’d like it if Belichick/Brady were super nice people; I’d also like it if you gave half of your money away to support charities who work amongst the poor.

You don’t have to cheer for the Patriots this upcoming Super Bowl, but I would suggest doing so, because those Seahawks are a bunch of jerks!