Greg Popovich Marshawn Lynch)
Of Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch’s near legendary truculence when confronted by tape recorders and notepads, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press’ Brian Murphy opines the Skittles enthusiast’s “tired sphinx act masks the hard truth that without the media NFL players would be playing in a parking lot for $8 an hour.” I guess we’ll have to assume that denied the opportunity to write about the exploits of the NFL’s workface, Murphy would be curing diseases or winning Drama Desk awards (as opposed to, y’know, manning the mop at an adult bookstore). The argument seems to be that Lynch desperately needs the media to do his job, not the other way around, with Murphy insisting, “Lynch mocks the $2 billion TV networks pay to broadcast his profession and paying fans who consume NFL coverage across every medium.” Given that Lynch cashes his paychecks, I’m not sure he’s mocking the league’s TV partners. He might, however, be mocking journalists who have a very inflated sense of their own importance. In the wake of all this outrage, The Atlantic’s Dashiell Bennett suggests Lynch’s act is in the very rich tradition of another World Champion, albeit one from another sport who is generally treated with far more deference by the reporters who line up for his abuse.
Lynch isn’t the only media-averse sports figure. Gregg Popovich, the head coach for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, is another famous interview malcontent. He participates in the mandatory shakedowns with sideline reporters, but unlike most NBA coaches, he responds with only the most terse answers, or with open disdain for the interviewers. Also, unlike almost every other NBA coach, his media moments are a must-watch.
In that sense, it’s hard to argue that refusing to pal around with reporters is unprofessional. Not cooperating with the machine actually generates better stories. And it only underlines the point that reporters need the athletes way more than the athletes need them. It seems likely that every news outlet in the country could fire their sports reporters tomorrow (please don’t!), but the NFL would keep filling stadiums. Lynch’s (high-paying) job will continue to be playing football, not giving quotes. Although if the media paid a little closer attention, they’d realize he’s graciously giving them the second part for free.