Watching Marshawn Lynch run with the football these days is like watching Jim Brown in short bursts. (Brown ran like Lynch all the time, and that’s why he’s the greatest football player who ever lived.) Watching him in interviews is to see an artist at work — a natural deconstructionist, fashioning a media event to his own intriguing style.
Lynch doesn’t like to talk — and despite all the criticism he’s received, this seems to stem from a genuine reluctance almost bordering on shyness. But he has moved beyond simply not commenting. He now turns the very odd waltz between the reporter and the athlete into something resembling a parody of itself. Lynch was threatened with a half-million-dollar fine if he didn’t show up to take questions from people dressed like carrots at media day. (This, it must be said, is from a league that originally gave Ray Rice a two-game suspension.) So Lynch showed up, and he answered every question with the phrase, “I’m here so I won’t get fined.” To me, this seems a perfectly reasonable answer, and it clearly is the unvarnished truth. However, it was not received that way. All the people who had ginned themselves up beyond all recall to defend Western values against deflated footballs now rose up against Lynch for disrespecting … well … something anyway.
…Lynch owes only an honest day’s play for an honest day’s dollar, something he does with fair regularity, by my calculations. He doesn’t owe me or any mook like me any more than that. He does not owe The Brand any more than that, either. And in a way, that’s what the whole mad week was about. The Brand. The Patriots were accused of offending the league’s brand with deflated footballs. Kraft chose to try to protect his own brand instead of the league’s. And Lynch, god bless him, accused of heresy against all the brands, chose to laugh up his sleeve at the whole idea. In his own way, following his own drummer, Lynch is in rebellion against the tyranny of The Brand, and against all the artificial and corporatized encrustation that has covered all of our sports, and especially the NFL, and especially this one event. He may not be doing this consciously; I think he still just doesn’t like talking to strangers. But he’s striking a genuine blow against a genuine empire.
[Photo Credit: USATSI]