It’s Super Bowl Sunday! Who are you rooting for? The Seattle Seahawks or The New Eng… — Oh, I don’t care. I’ve never watched a Super Bowl. Nothing about it interests me. All the Super Bowl talk leading up to the game bores me. Except this week’s coverage. The Seahawks’s Marshawn Lynch’s press conference during NFL Media Day in which he answered every question asked with “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” fascinated me. I thought “finally an athlete I can relate to.”
(If you don’t know about it, just Google “Marshawn Lynch” and “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”)
This guy is clearly uncomfortable …talking? Sharing? Talking and sharing in front of cameras and a bunch of people? It doesn’t matter. He didn’t want to do it. He’s not Muhammad Ali. He seems to be an introvert. Why is he (and other professional athletes) continually forced to do something he finds uncomfortable and has nothing to do with what happens on the field?
I admired him because he could have done what most athletes do who have trouble communicating in a dynamic and engaged way — talk in clichés and platitudes, give canned answers and bore anyone hearing the sound of his monotone voice.
But he didn’t do that. He refused to play the media’s game and told the truth. He refused to share and perform in an arena he wasn’t comfortable in and when he didn’t want to.
Things don’t change by maintaining the status quo or enduring it. There will be a real quiet revolution when introverts fight the extroverted ideal by not playing by extroverted rules. It means saying no, upsetting people and dealing with the fucking consequences.
You may be thinking “talking to the media is part of a professional athlete’s job”. Should it be? Maybe Anne Helen Petersen is right when she wrote in her article “Marshawn Lynch and the Future of Sports Celebrity” that “Lynch’s refusal (to speak), coupled with the rise of Twitter, the decline of traditional sports outlets like Sports Illustrated, and the power of TMZ Sports, speaks to an overarching shift in the way that information about sports is disseminated and consumed.” Maybe athletes talking to the media doesn’t help the NFL’s bottom line. We don’t know unless someone (or many someones) doesn’t do it.
By not giving in, Lynch exposed the NFL’s stupid policy, proved traditional sports media coverage of football or the Super Bowl is increasingly meaningless, and increased his exposure and brand.
He’s shown us the real power of introverts. Changing the world by being yourself.