Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Boss of New Jersey, Boss

My roommate for my freshman year at college had a theory. It was Steve's belief that there was a foolproof means of obtaining international celebrity. Just go mute. Refuse to say another word and stick to it, he argued, and you'll be the most famous person on earth within six weeks or less.

Nearly 50 years later, Marshawn Lynch has gone a long way towards validation of my roommate's hypothesis. The Seattle Seahawks running back has become the most famous/notorious person at the Super Bowl not by going mute, but simply by not saying much. Had he really clammed up, Lynch might already have been voted MVP.

Lynch did not go Trappist for sordid financial reasons. He didn't want to draw the heavy fines the NFL lays on players and coaches for failure to cooperate in the sacred process of Super Bowl hype. So he has attended the mandatory sessions for about five minutes of the scheduled hour, and spoke a few sentences about how weird he finds the whole thing and how he doesn't really want to speak to the media.

Lynch also, at least to my eye, appeared stoned as a loon in his brief interview with Hall of Famer and professional clown Deion Sanders at Media Day. I doubt he was, but if so, congratulations, Marshawn! First sensible idea about Media Day anyone's ever had.

Lynch knew the audience he didn't want to address. Nothing gets the sports media more interested in someone than if said someone shuns them. Before Media Day ended, Lynch, not motormouth teammate Richard Sherman, was the symbol of All That's Wrong With American Jockdom.

 Being that symbol has been a very good deal for most of the half-century I've followed sports in this country. From Muhammad Ali to Ray Lewis, the Bad Guy has been a most well-paid role. Lynch is much better known outside the football world than he was last week. If he was exploiting the media for profit, good for him. My former peers are supposed to be professional skeptics. Getting played is their bad, not his.

Of course, the babble is that Lynch's quasi-silence was one of those dread Super Bowl "distractions." So was Sherman saying too much, which appears to create a logical contradiction, but logic and the Super Bowl parted ways around the time of the first Up With People halftime show.

The Seahawks don't seem distracted. They appear to be getting a hoot out of Lynch's position. Nothing much seems to bother Seattle. It's one reason I fancy their chances against a team led by the gifted Fusspot di Tutti Fusspots Peyton Manning.

I prefer a simpler explanation than manipulation for Lynch's bashful pose. He's not saying much because he doesn't want to. His motives for that reluctance are irrelevant. I'd like to think it's because he finds the usual "insert banal quote" here structure of the average sports story as rigid and obsolete as the sonnet, but I doubt it. Point is, he's entitled to his motives and his taciturnity. Lynch is being himself. That's what sports journalists should hope for, not resent.

His few words are an inconvenience for the sports journalists engaged in hype creation, but that's all they are, and a minor one at that. What good, after all, is testimony/quotes uttered under duress?

Today was the last mandatory media session. All the players and coaches are in a cone of silence until the game's over Sunday night. I hope with all my heart Lynch spends his free time until kickoff calling his friends and relatives long-distance. And I hope even harder that if Seattle does win, and Lynch is voted MVP,. he holds the Lombardi Trophy aloft and spills his guts to an audience of millions.

I want to hear Marshawn Lynch exult, "How nice for us."


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