Perhaps the least surprising story of Media Day was Marshawn Lynch doing the bare minimum, and perhaps less than that, to fulfill his media obligations ahead of the Super Bowl. One of the bigger stories leading up to the circus that is Super Bowl Media Day was whether or not Lynch would even show up. It's no secret that he hates doing media work, and hates scrums even more.
The reaction was as expected: indignant responses, a statement from the Pro Football Writers Association and plenty of debate over whether Lynch should be fined. He's been fined once, only to have the fine rescinded so long as he plays by the rules and does media (if he doesn't, the fine doubles to $100,000).
Reacting to Lynch's unwillingness to participate, beyond a few small token quotes and an interview with Deion Sanders on NFL Network, is easy. The root of the story, though, is trying to figure out why Lynch is so averse to interviews, especially in groups. It's not as though he's never sat down to talk, but often Lynch gives short answers, if anything at all, in a group setting. And that frustrates reporters.
Lynch is an interesting guy; in part, because he is so guarded. But there are bits and pieces of information that help explain why he is how he is. This E:60 interview provides a lot of insight, both from Lynch himself and from his high school coach (start at about 2:30):
Delton Edwards, Lynch's high school coach, explains that Lynch keeps his guard up, but holds grudges if people let him down. Lynch explains that he keeps his guard up because his dad used to walk out on him all the time and was rarely in the picture, and as a result he started to expect the worst out of people.
If you look at who Lynch has opened up to in the media, especially as of late, there's a pattern. He gave a wide-ranging interview to Mike Silver, a Cal guy (like Lynch). Silver has known Lynch for a long time, and there seems to be a level of trust there, so the quiet running back gives the national reporter the in-depth interview.
This is frustrating to the reporters who cover Lynch on a day-to-day basis, and I get that. They spend months, even years, trying to pry the tiniest bit of information out of him, or just one good quote, and a national reporter swoops in and gets all the money quotes. This is also what makes covering Lynch such a difficult exercise.
Beyond trusting those around him, though, Lynch had an interesting take on media and Media Day that explains a lot:
"If you're forced to do something, it's not as good as if you choose to do it," Lynch told NFL Media last week during an expansive interview, making an exception to his three (words) and out approach to answering questions from reporters. "So no, I won't have a lot of interesting things to say. When you're forced to do something and you know it, it kind of just takes away from the whole experience of what it could be if (it were) natural. So, I'll probably give forced answers."
He's not wrong, frustrating as it might be to those who cover him on a daily basis, or those who drop in for the Super Bowl. There's little to glean out of a Super Bowl Media Day, besides the circus, personalities dressed as all sorts of characters, and silly questions meant to try and shape a "unique" story. In a scrum of hundreds of reporters, all chasing the same angles, nobody was going to get anything worthwhile or long-lasting anyway.
Think about Media Day and what the consumer gets out of it every year. Large swaths of reporters descend on a bunch of podiums, and they have an hour with each team to try to pull out something meaningful, all the while surrounded by people angling for the same story, the same quotes. Players humor the media, but give the same canned answers we've heard year after year. There are exceptions, but typically these are silly sideshow stories that are blips on the radar in the scheme of things.
Yet every year, the media shows up in droves and we expect players to give genuine answers to both serious, probing questions and silly gimmicks (is this game a must-win?). It's an odd expectation, and Media Day is an odd time to take a stand against uncooperative players.
Lynch makes the job of media members covering him harder; that's no secret. Trying to wring information out of him is like pulling teeth. Crafting a meaningful story about him is one of the more difficult things a journalist assigned to the Seahawks beat faces. Local reporters in Seattle have the biggest right to complain: They spend all year trying to get something -- anything -- yet have been basically stonewalled at every turn.
Expecting Lynch to come to Media Day or any other Super Bowl week event, open up, and share some deep insight, or anything beyond skin-deep answers, is a fantasy. In the middle of a massive media circus, ahead of the biggest game of most of these players' lives, the media obligations are a buzzing mosquito, an obligation that has to be fulfilled even if the real show is Sunday (and people will tune into that show no matter what is said or not throughout the week). The columns chastising him are just more noise in the middle of the rock concert that is Super Bowl week.
Marshawn Lynch is an interesting, complicated person, and it's no wonder that every media member -- and there are lots -- in New York wants to write the story. But it was never going to happen at Media Day, or during Super Bowl week for that matter. Lynch is in his Beast Mode already, focused on the game and playing football -- the part of the job he enjoys -- not the attention.
Why? Because in his own words, words he said at Media Day in what was the best quote of the day, he's "just bout that action, boss."
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