Sports journalism used to abide by a set of standards. It was about the key error, the go-ahead touchdown, the clutch shot, the coaching X’s and O’s, and ultimately, the wins and the losses. You know, the competition.
Every so often, you’d have athletes who were bigger than the sport itself, the Ali’s, the Namath’s, the Magic’s, the kind of guys that practically wrote the stories for a reporter or columnist. Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is not one of those athletes. Whatever the opposite of Muhammad Ali is outside the lines, say a hermit, that’s what Mr. Lynch prefers to emulate.
And that should be all right with Seahawks fans. They help pay his lofty salary because of the unique value he brings to the field. No football player makes a home crowd roar quite like Lynch does for Seattle.
The NFL doesn’t see it that way.
On Wednesday the NFL’s headquarters sent Mr. Lynch a $100,000 bill for not speaking to to the press. And by doing so, they indirectly reminded the rest of it’s participating athletes that they are open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
And by fining a player of Mr. Lynch’s caliber more money than the average American teacher will earn in three years, the league would have us, the consumer, believe that the Seattle star is an insubordinate worker. Actually, it’s the majority of the sporting press that hasn’t done their job in practicing ethics and prioritizing journalistic standards for a very long time. And since Mr. Lynch refuses to jump into bed with the rest of the crooked, crowded establishment, as a result he must hand over a lot of Skittles.
The sellout spectacle has gotten so bad since the emergence of social media that many sports writers are no longer labeled as reporters or journalists. They are often dubbed, among many other colloquialisms as “Insiders”. How do you get to be an “Insider”? Tweet about the prospect of someone getting fired or benched, then hide behind the “multiple sources” shield as often as possible. Anonymous sources used to work off the record, helping journalists only to find the right stones to turn over. If an anonymous source was referenced in something you read, the issue was probably located five feet from the cashier at your neighborhood grocery store. Fringe journalism.
Bob Woodward used an anonymous source to help expose laws that were broken by the most powerful man in the world, not so fantasy football fans could know whether or not a groin injury will keep someone out of a game a week from now. If Mr. Woodward had been wrong, not only would the paper lose its credibility, and probably a majority of it’s audience, but both he, Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee would have been canned.
For every Bob Ryan, Dick Schaap, Bill Rhoden, or Buzz Bissinger, there are gaggles of Jordan Belfort types trying to waste your valuable time, manufacturing news because Subway has a deal to put an ad next to something that will attract an audience as soon as it can be posted. Checks and balances? Not in sensationalism. Not in today’s sports reporting.
Like the NFL, Subway doesn’t close much either.
Not only does he play the game with a lot of heart, but I’m going to assume Mr. Lynch is also smarter than he looks (or eats), and knows that no one can be trusted in a heartless industry. His tendency to shy away from public speaking is not his problem, it’s the media’s problem. They need to deal with it, not Mr. Lynch’s accountant.
Mr. Lynch, has since appealed the fine, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a chance to right a wrong here. The football player, Mr. Lynch, is a well-paid one because of his ability to move the pile on the field, not the needle that gauges how many page views an article receives.
If he doesn’t talk the league and writers will, and always have, find someone else to.