On Marshawn Lynch and Making Sounds

There’s been a “controversy” of sorts with Beast Mode lately. Marshawn Lynch’s non-answers to media questions over the past month or so and at Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday have sent the sports media into a collective tizzy. Between the superficial debating about how much he should be fined by the NFL or how much he should be talking, questions tend to center around what this all says about Lynch himself.

I’ve never met Marshawn Lynch, so that puts me in the majority. Most of us really have no idea.

But few are asking perhaps a more important question: what does this say about the sports media members who find Lynch’s refusals to respond an issue in the first place?

We tend to forget that a great deal of athletes really say just as little as Lynch; they just tend to put answers in words that the media finds more acceptable and diplomatic. Athletes do this in the way of tired and old clichés, and it happens all the time.

For example, I had the opportunity to write a few stories from Eagles training camp. After practice concluded, we writers would wade en masse onto the field in search of our prey in the form of athletes who are mostly trying to sneak to the locker room unseen. We swarm around a guy, and the majority of the players would say a bunch of words that work in stories but really say nothing.

“It’s great to be out here with my teammates.”

“We’re just trying to get better every day.”

“We’re focused on getting ready for this season.”

None of these statements really say much, because there is no other side to them. Nobody is going to say “I hate my teammates’” or “We’re trying to get worse” or “We’re going to be awful this season so we’re looking five years down the line.” This is why the media, in the Eagles’ case, loves guys like Cary Williams, Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce – or in the Seahawks’ case, a guy like Richard Sherman – because they’re liable to say what’s on their mind without a cliché or public relations filter. They’re liable to says something, well, meaningful, something that has depth and invokes more thought.

Media members eat those clichéd quotes up, though, because they sound fine in a story and sound nice in sound bites, even if nothing is really being said in the end. This is reinforced when the people who complain about Lynch talk about the reason he needs to talk is that they have to do their job. It all quickly starts to sound like “Just give me what you know I need, so I can file my story and go home.”

In the middle of this little stir, Bryan Curtis of Grantland wrote about the dreaded “Talk About” question non-question that plagues too much of the media world. Pieces of his commentary emphasize the whole point further, as Ray Ratto of CSN Bay Area is quoted saying the “Talk About” questions are essentially the peak of the media that “just want sounds we can verify came from an athlete or coach.”

All they really want from Lynch is sounds. And they’re not getting them. And dammit they’re mad.

And, in the end, this whole argument begins to say more about the sports media members who take issue with it all in the first place than it really says about Marshawn Lynch.

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