Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why should Journalism have to come with a Burn Notice?

Marshawn Lynch doesn't want to talk to the media in Arizona before the Super Bowl. That should be the end of that discussion, except for the NFL forcing Lynch to at least make himself available to the horde of hungry reporters looking for something, anything, to write about that isn't how the newspaper industry is dying.

Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That statement has been the glowing light in the darkness of many situations, and it has found a home with Marshawn Lynch's contentious relationship with the media. But the media have gotten the stories they want... backhandedly though it may be.

We've all seen the "hot takes" about Lynch and his refusal to deal with the media, with my personal favorite coming from someone named Joseph Arrambidez who said on twitter, "Chris Kyle gave his life for our freedom to speak and live freely. Marshawn Lynch mocks that freedom and makes millions doing so". If the internet hadn't done it already, I'd totally deconstruct this tweet character by character. But there were so many of these "hot takes" that it's becoming abundantly clear that sports journalism is slowly devolving into the Onion, or at least the media horde at the Super Bowl is.

Here's a lesson for sports journalists, broadcasters, and fans: The players have no obligation to give you anything when they are speaking to you at a press conference. If a player doesn't want to speak to you, it's not the end of the world. To be frank, I'd rather receive honesty from someone spending his required 5 minutes at the podium and then bolting than hearing the same canned response for the 500th time. "You know why I'm here".

Whether it's Lynch's job to speak to the media or not, the only obligation he has is to sit at the podium for as long as he needs to, and anything after that comes out of the kindness of his heart. Why the bitterness when you still have your story?

But this isn't really about Lynch, it's about the media that covers him and has inadvertently made him a star. Fine Lynch for doing what he's supposed to do? Suspend Lynch because he didn't give you a canned response about "preparation and working hard to beat the Patriots?" He's making a mockery of free speech? As journalists, broadcasters and fans we need to re-evaluate with the athletes we cover/idolize.

The relationship across the glass between the athlete and the fan/media is symbiotic. They need us as much as we need them. Even when they are giving us nothing of substance, or if they are being confrontational with us, the relationship still works both ways. Calling out athletes makes no sense especially when you will inevitably need their cooperation later. Sports coverage is not always about confrontation, nor should it be. Sports in the end are entertainment, and no matter your thoughts about Marshawn Lynch, or Phil Kessel blasting David Feschuk for his nonsense, they are both entertaining.

Most days in covering sports the average reporter isn't going to break a story the size of Watergate, or the NSA's entire covert operations in Utah, But reporters still have a duty to report what is happening, and do their best to keep opinions and biases out of the basic reporting duties of the day. But of course this isn't the ideal world. Not even close. But even in a world where opinion rules too much of the roost in covering sports, some of these pieces being written about Lynch are getting to the point of parody, and it doesn't reflect badly on him, it reflects badly on us as media and fans.

We apparently crave more of this, and so the ones in charge of bringing us that news therefore have to try to stoke the fires even more, causing more frustration for everyone involved. It starts with us as fans saying we want no more of these "hot takes" about any situation analogous to Marshawn Lynch's, because we demand more thought, effort and consideration put into the art of reporting. And then it is on people like me and the media horde to follow through on those requests.

We should demand better from ourselves, because the media and the coverage they provide is a damn good reflection of us.

Would you want your entire life to be dictated by 140 character "hot takes" about you?

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