Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Best left unspoken

On a day reserved for strangeness, the strangest thing on Super Bowl Media Day was not the TV reporter who interviewed a pair of puppets. Nor was it the fact that civilians actually paid $28.50 a head to watch media folk in their natural habitat.

No. The strangest thing on Super Bowl Media Day was watching 200 of those media folk crowd around a booth to hear a man say next to nothing.

That was the scene at Marshawn Lynch's station, where the Seahawks' fabled non-communicator Greta Garbo-ed his way through four minutes and 51 seconds before getting up to leave. His only words, repeated in variations over and over: "I'm here so I won't get fined."

Two hundred or so media creatures excitedly tweeted that, or got audio of it, or shot video of it. Then, presumably, they just sort of stared blankly at Lynch as he stared blankly back.

Finally he stood up and left.

Listen, when the going gets weird, the weird go to Media Day. Everyone knows that. But nothing I  personally saw in two of 'em was as weird as that -- not even the Telemundo reporter in Miami who spent the whole of Media Day interviewing players via sock puppet.

That was weird. This was weirder. And weirdest of all, frankly, is the fact that the NFL compelled Lynch to be there in the first place.

I've said it before, and I'll say it until palm trees grow in the Arctic: If Lynch doesn't want to talk, he shouldn't have to talk. There are plenty of other guys who will. And there always will be, even if professional sports in particular have become such a huge engine of industry they don't need the media anymore.

It's a curious thing. At the same time that the NFL has grown beyond whatever value traditional media once held for it, it continues to demand its employees make themselves available to media. The availability is on the NFL's terms, of course, but it is availability. And it happens not because the NFL would suffer if it didn't provide it, but because even corporate monoliths are occasionally susceptible to bad publicity.

 No one wants to be compared to the Kremlin or the North Korea of Kim Jong-Un. So they provide media availability, and fine players who don't go along, to make sure that doesn't happen.

Well. Enough with that charade. Enough with presenting yourself as media friendly, when you really couldn't care less if the media feels befriended or not.

I did the sports deal for almost four decades, and what I noticed across all that time was the more the media pumped up a thing, the less access it got. When I began, college basketball and football locker rooms were open after games, and you didn't have to wade through three layers of flacks to get a one-on-one sitdown with someone. Now a lot of those locker rooms have been closed for years, and getting an interview with the freshman point guard is at times like scheduling face time with Beyonce.

And it's yea worse in many high-end pro sports. When NASCAR first came to Indy, it was perceived as being much more fan and media friendly than IndyCar. Then, with the help of those fans and that media, it blew up into the multi-platform industry it is today. Now it's IndyCar that's often perceived as being more accessible.

So Marshawn Lynch not talking is simply Marshawn Lynch not wanting to play nice with the charade. And that's fine. I frankly think the honesty of it is refreshing. And besides, if he isn't going to say anything, he's of no value to me as a journalist, anyway.

So let him go with God. Silently.

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