NEWARK, N.J. — My people like athletes honest and talking and open and talking and introspective and, above all else, talking. You see, I'm a sportswriter.
By SAM MELLINGER
The Kansas City Star
You do not need to be convinced of this. You saw what we did with Richard Sherman over the last week or two.
You will not need to search hard for what my people will continue to do with him up to and beyond kickoff of the Super Bowl on Sunday.
But facts are facts, and even if this outcasts me from the sportswriter community, it needs to be said:
Marshawn Lynch won Super Bowl media day.
Lynch, the Seahawks running back, won it by hardly saying anything at all and, more specifically, he won media day because he hardly said anything at all. There is a deeper meaning than what he showed on the surface.
Im just about that action, boss, he told Deion Sanders in a stupendous interview on NFL Nework.
Lynch used the same line earlier with reporters, maybe a hundred of us, in the kind of incredibly silly context that is often produced in a country with too much time on its hands.
Indoors, wearing big sunglasses and a hood pulled tight over a baseball hat, Lynch walked to his designated spot on an arena floor. People paid money to watch him and other football players sit behind microphones and say things. Many fans wore jerseys. Some heckled. You have to guess the people who paid money to heckle football players during media day on a weekday afternoon probably didnt have to take off work, if you know what I mean.
Media day is a circus sideshow. The Wheres Waldo guy showed up again. Same with the Mexican TV reporter whom everyone notices. One guy wore a white wig and hose underneath his trousers as he asked questions, like some sort of Colonial-era Joe Buck.
The players were asked about kids cereal and strippers and not wearing cups (dont you want to protect the little Eric Deckers?) Someone asked Broncos lineman Shaun Phillips if the Super Bowl is a must-win game.
The questions and Lynchs brief answers sample: My fans love me regardless lasted 6 minutes and 21 seconds, at least by my count. Some reporters had it at 6:20. At least one had it at 6:22. Either way, the Seahawks media session lasted 45 minutes, the league-mandated period for all coaches and players to be available.
But after those six minutes or so, Lynch walked away. He went around a corner and sort of hid for a while, until a Seahawks official found him. So then, Lynch came back to his little spot hes a star, but asked not to have a podium because podiums aint my thing and just stood there.
And dozens of reporters just stood there. And watched. Watched him not talk. The whole thing was absurd, even by the impressive standards of Super Bowl media day. Every once in a while, someone would shout a question.
Marshawn, how are you feeling!??
By all appearances, Marshawn felt like a blank stare and detached amusement, though once, he did chuckle when someone asked if hed help out and interview his teammates for us.
Other times he responded to a question:
Marshawn, are you trying to avoid a fine (by at least standing here)?
Marshawn nods yes.
Marshawn, do you think youll get fined anyway (for not talking)?
Marshawn shrugs his shoulders.
Lynch is familiar with league policy here. He was fined $50,000 for not talking during the season. He appealed and told the league hed comply, so the fine was held in abeyance though he was told another violation would mean the money is collected along with an additional fine. Two years ago, the league fined Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora $20,000 for missing a media session.
So Lynch is, in a matter of speaking, putting his money where his mouth isnt with this reluctance to talk publicly. During his brief comments Tuesday and previously, Lynch has painted himself as a bit of a strong-and-silent type in this way.
Im just about working and doing my thing, he says.
In all likelihood, the real story is a bit different. Lynch is a fabulously talented player. He was a first-team All-Pro last season, and led the NFL in rushing touchdowns this season. His ridiculous 67-yard, seven-broken-tackles, one-glorious-stiffarm run that sealed a playoff win against the Saints three years ago is an all-time postseason highlight.
He is the kind of star who could have all the attention he wanted and endorsements, too, beyond the sort of organic deal he recently signed with Skittles.
But that is not his way, or, more specifically, that is not his way to be motivated. Football is a brutal and unforgiving sport played by definition on a razors edge. Running backs, in particular, are constantly beaten and hit and generally pulverized, often by much bigger men. This is a sport that requires a great deal of inner motivation and self-generated purpose, which materializes in different ways with different players.
Some, like Sherman, find it in bravado. Some do it with religion. Some with thoughts of friends and family, some with slights both real and perceived. Others bury their heads in video or otherwise obsess themselves with training.
Maybe silence is Lynchs way. Maybe he feels energy in the mystery, in leaving people wanting more. Maybe he finds the whole process of answering question after question from reporters trying to fill space in a story or a few seconds of a broadcast exhausting, and if thats the case, who could blame him?
Maybe he feels strongest and sharpest and the most comfortable in isolation, just him and his teammates and his family he shouts them out with a catchphrase of sorts, Town Business. Maybe thats why he wears that dark visor on his helmet.
Or, maybe hes pointing out the fundamental silliness of this whole thing.
Good for him, either way.