The entire lead up to the 49th Super Bowl game has been filled with tangential Super Bowl news. On one hand we have the flap over the New England Patriots and what we now call “deflate-gate.” Apparently, during the AFC Championship game with the Indianapolis Colts playing the New England Patriots the Patriots played with under inflated footballs. For those who do not know much about football, under inflated footballs are easier to grip, throw, and catch. No one seriously believes that the under inflated balls made the difference in the outcome of the game. New England was clearly the superior team. Rather, the under inflated balls represented yet another “dirty trick” that the Patriots—or more specifically, Coach Bill Belichick—were playing to attempt to get an advantage. Some years ago the Patriots were caught illegally videotaping an opponent to try to get their signals. The deflated balls just add to the aura of a shifty, underhanded coach who will do anything to win.
The other non-Super Bowl story was that of Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. For some reason, Lynch does not like to speak to the media. Earlier in the season Lynch was fined for failing to show up for a media interview. After receiving that hefty fine Lynch came up with a strategy for dealing with a media he could not avoid. Instead of not showing up for interviews Marshawn Lynch began coming to them but answering with repeated phrases whether they made sense or not. There was his, “Thank you for asking” interview and his “Thank you for being here” interview. In each interview he kept repeating the same phrase regardless of the question the reporters posed.
Of course, by the time we got to Media Day at the Super Bowl, all eyes and ears were attuned to Marshawn Lynch. This time his phrased was, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” He said it over and over and over. What I loved about that phrase was that it was the most genuine, honest statement uttered at Super Bowl media day. Everywhere else people were spouting the same old tired sports clichés—“We’re so honored to be here;” We’re just going to go out and play our game;” “Everybody counted us out but we believed in ourselves.” We have heard these statements over and over and over. Finally, we have a player who says EXACTLY what was on his mind—“I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”
Now it seems lots of people are mad at Marshawn. Some people felt that he was being disrespectful and in violation of his contract. As a sports figure he is supposed to talk to the media. Others feel he is making a mockery of the interviews and is an embarrassment to the team and himself. I have another take on Marshawn Lynch’s responses. I presume that Marshawn Lynch is just not comfortable speaking in public. He is not alone in this sentiment. For decades there have been athletes and other people in the public eye who have struggled to be as articulate as they wanted to be in front of a microphone. Heavy weight champion Joe Louis sounded practically illiterate in post-fight interviews. Oakland Raider all pro safety, Lester Hayes revealed his serious stuttering problems when forced to give a post-game interview after the Raiders won the Super Bowl. His embarrassment was palatable and painful. Similarly, Chicago Bulls guard, Ron Harper, who played with the great Michael Jordan could barely get his words out in a post championship game where he hit the winning shot. Some people just don’t want to give public interviews. Does it make them bad people? I think not.
In the 1980s when the Philadelphia Phillies were the powerhouse team in the National Baseball League they had an all-star pitcher named Steve Carleton. Carleton had a wicked slider and recorded countless strikeouts with a pitch that just dropped off the table as it crossed the plate. When he was in the rotation a Phillies’ win was almost automatic. But, Carleton refused to speak to the media. In fact, Carleton hardly spoke to anyone on his team. After his masterful pitching performances he would retreat to a private room and get treatment to keep him arm and shoulder in good shape. No one said Carleton was rude or in violation of his contract. Instead what people said about him was that he was “quirky” or “eccentric.” His pitching genius was seen as good enough to give him a media pass. He didn’t need to say anything as long as he kept pitching.
So, why doesn’t Marshawn Lynch get the same consideration? Why is the media so set on interviewing him? Why don’t they focus on his quarterback Russell Wilson? His story is actually more compelling. He was an under-sized, late round draft choice who has led his team to remarkable success. He loves talking to the media and is good at it!
I love Marshawn Lynch because he is saying exactly what I have wanted to say in countless situations. I have been in situations where I really did not want to talk to people and wished I could have conveyed that sentiment to them. I know there are people annoyed at Marshawn but I ain’t mad at him! I’m just here so I won’t get fined!
Stay Black & Smart!