Last week, we highlighted the top moments of Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch. When Lynch first hit the NFL, some viewed him as an enigma. Even before his legendary “injury cart cruise,” Lynch was a guy operating on his own terms. Yet, not necessarily out of the frame work of the team. He owns the talent to speak eloquently and say nothing at all. This mixture of candor and reservation enticed media types for years.
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Part of what makes Lynch such an interesting character is that he says what many others in his position remain afraid to. By far the most famous iteration of this was during the player media session prior to Super Bowl 49 when he uttered his famous “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”. This statement was a catalyst for all manner of double speaks regarding the expectations the media has for players.
In a way, without saying as much, he forced many writers and reports to self-evaluate and consider how important they were to the players and the game at large. Some felt offended that he would be so crass as to “waste everyone’s time” while others applauded his willingness to say what many players feel. The beauty of it? Lynch created a media firestorm that he barely participated in. By and large, media members came to accept that he wasn’t going to change.
Lynch’s willingness to speak his mind is made even more intriguing when considering his checkered past immediately preceding his trade to Seattle. Many knew that Lynch preferred to remain closer to his native Oakland. Some media claim his early brushes with the law attributes to his hometown. That remains ludicrous. Playing for his Raiders means the world to him.
As he has aged his legal issues have slowly faded into the backdrop of a spectacular career, but Lynch has not forgotten the treatment how he was once perceived. Specifically just a couple days after his Super Bowl media session he noted that he did not know what story reporters were trying to tell or how they wanted to portray him. This suggests he is fully-conscious of the lack of control athletes have over media driven stories. Under that situation, if he misspoke, the sound goes viral. In his own way, by not speaking, he flexed his muscles and took control of his own media narratives.
Even more than his candor or self-awareness is the simple fact that Marshawn Lynch fun-loving reputation follows him. From his love of candy to the charismatic way he can crash media sets Lynch stays affable, if mum, to media . That trait is not typically associated with athletes who duck the media. In contrast, this only serves to draw the media closer towards him. His charisma enables him to exist as equal parts media darling and pariah. In that case, writers and bloggers view his quotes as golden eggs, whether about football or not.
When interviewed recently about his National Anthem protest, Lynch gave his take. Clearly, he was avoiding the question altogether. However, he did so in a way that forced all those involved to laugh. This levity makes his biggest critics recognize that he is not making larger statements. Particularly, about how other people should handle themselves. Instead, he is the ultimate embodiment of marching to the beat of his own drum. In addition, people are learning to be ok with it. The Raiders are better with him.