For a week leading up to perhaps the biggest game in professional sports, the news has been filled with just about anything but. Between “Deflate-gate”, Tom Brady’s sniffles and late night fire drills, the football game being played on Sunday has settled comfortably into the back seat – for now.
One of the big stories this week has been the ongoing soap opera between Marshawn Lynch and reporters. Let it be known, Lynch has not exactly been complicit in such matters. He was already fined $50,000 for not speaking to the media in November. Reporters are understandably frustrated about his unwillingness to participate, and Lynch continues to challenge them to keep showing up even though he has already told them on many occasions that he would not answer their questions.
Lynch was under the biggest spotlight yet this week as everyone had to endure media day. Now before I get into my opinion on how both sides are behaving, lets make something very clear about media day. It has become an absolute joke. Anyone expecting anything serious to come out of this day is fooling themselves. Rob Gronkowski read a selection from an erotic novel named for him and Bill Belichick gave up perhaps his most lucrative secret – his favorite stuffed animal. Perhaps if the NFL didn’t treat it like a joke and allow in anyone who could afford the $30 admission, the approach might change.
That said, this still touches on an issue that has been the subject of great debate this week. Should Marshawn Lynch be excused from his contractual obligation or should he have to just suck it up and answer their questions for five minutes? Yes, he should have to follow through on what was agreed to in his contract, which we must remember was collectively bargained, but I argue that the issue is more about the rule itself.
Lynch claims his behavior is more about not wanting to make it about him, that he doesn’t have anything to say, that it is “superficial”. And yet he has absolutely made this about himself. In fact, by handling interviews the way he has this week, he actually attracts more attention to something non football related than if he just answered their questions about the game.
But perhaps more ridiculous than Lynch’s antics, are the members of the press who continue to show up and ask him questions. Maybe if the media stops showing up, this issue with Lynch goes away. Its like asking a 5 year old the same question over and over while they answer “I’m not talking to you” over and over. Either Lynch or the media needs to be the adult here. Neither one of them are stepping up. If you’re so upset about Lynch being immature, stop coming. There are 52 other players more than happy to talk to you.
And honestly, what kind of answers are they being robbed of? “We just gotta play as a team”, “They’re a really tough opponent”, “I’m looking forward to getting out there on the field”. Come on. Athletes in the Premier League aren’t required to talk, and – wait for it – it is still covered by reporters. Incredible!
More importantly, Lynch’s “silence” is still a story. In fact, its probably an even bigger story! So while journalists are complaining about him “shutting out” the media, they are still getting plenty to cover in print, on television, radio, Twitter, and the list goes on.
I, being both an actor and an introvert, knows first-hand that the same person can feel completely comfortable being onstage in front of large crowds doing what they love and yet shy when in front of cameras or just a few people. I do not believe that athletes speaking to reporters as often as they are asked to is any more “part of the job” than celebrities going on talk shows or being photographed by paparazzi is. Actors make millions too, are very public figures, and yet many very successful ones rarely show up in the tabloids or in interviews at all. In fact, many celebrities who don’t do interviews are respected for putting the work first. They still get written about and their projects still get supported.
I don’t think either party is necessarily right in the case of “Lynch v. Media”, but I do think there is a better solution to this than the one currently in place. Maybe if there were to be an incentive in the players’ contracts to encourage athletes to talk, a bonus of some kind, instead of a penalty for refusal. So if someone doesn’t want to answer questions, they just don’t make that money. It offers a positive incentive as opposed to a penalty that doesn’t seem to be respected.
If only there were something to distract us from all of this. Like the biggest football game of the year.
Oh, yeah. That.