It’s easy to forget that professional athletes are people. And, despite the fact that for a while I majored in journalism, I sometimes find it very hard to believe that most journalists are even slightly human. Let me explain why.One of my favorite players on the current Seahawks roster is Marshawn Lynch, a big running back who is just amazing to watch on the field. Despite him being my favorite, I was unaware that earlier this year, the League had threatened to fine him because he kept ducking out of press conferences. Player contracts require them to be available to the press, because most of the money the League makes comes from the networks and so forth.
Anyway, you only have to watch a couple minutes of this video of him to see that he isn’t being some sort of prima donna about the press. He is clearly extremely uncomfortable with all the mics and cameras. As he says early on, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined, boss.”
The other player in the clip, Michael Robinson, attempts to take the heat off by answering for Marshawn. He does a fairly humorous imitation, and gets Marshawn laughing. Eventually Marshawn makes what I think is an excellent answer to several of the reporters asking why he doesn’t want to talk to them, since the press is supposed to be a bridge to the fans: “If y’all say y’all is a bridge from the players to the fans, and the fans really ain’t really tripping, then what’s the point? What’s the purpose? They got my back. I appreciate that. But I don’t get what’s the bridge being built for.”
The thing is, I don’t understand how anyone with a gram of empathy in their souls can watch Marshawn squirming in that chair and not understand how deeply uncomfortable he is. Not just understand, but squirm a bit yourself!
I understand about the need to get the story in order to keep your job. But when three or four other guys have already asked almost exactly the same question—including that phrase about a bridge to the fans!—what’s the point of repeating it?
If he was a public official, and the reporters were trying to get answers about an incident where it seems action by the official or his underlings had caused harm to the public, then it’s perfectly understandable for journalists to keep asking the same question. In that case the subtext is, “None of us are going to quit bugging you about this until we get an answer.” In that kind of situation, they’re serving a public interest. But this is football, for heaven’s sakes!
The really interesting thing is that Lynch gave an interview later in the week, in a one-on-one situation, where he was quite talkative, and he didn’t just spout of a string of sports clichés:
“And I’m not as comfortable, especially at the position I play, making it about me. As a running back, it takes five offensive linemen, a tight end, a fullback and possibly two wide receivers, in order to make my job successful. But when I do interviews, most of the time it’ll come back to me. There are only so many times I can say, ‘I owe it to my offensive linemen,’ or, ‘The credit should go to my teammates,’ before it becomes run down.
“This goes back even to Pop Warner. You’d have a good game and they’d want you to give a couple of quotes for the newspaper, and I would let my other teammates be the ones to talk. That’s how it was in high school, too. At Cal, I’d have my cousin, Robert Jordan, and Justin Forsett do it.
“Football’s just always been hella fun to me, not expressing myself in the media. I don’t do it to get attention; I just do it ’cause I love that (expletive).”