By John Boyle Herald Columnist
NEWARK, N.J. — Richard Sherman was so poised, not even a question about strippers could throw him off. (Don’t worry, we’ll get back to this in a minute).
So no, the most talked-about football player of past two weeks did nothing controversial during Super Bowl media day.
Marshawn Lynch, meanwhile was a man of few words, as Lynch so often is, and as a result he was the anti-Sherman, a player who creates controversy for what he doesn’t say.
Lynch’s and Sherman’s appearances were the two most anticipated at media day, one for what he might say, and one for what he probably wouldn’t. Yet if you’ve been paying any attention to either this year, nothing that happened Tuesday at the Prudential Center was remotely surprising.
Even so, there is sure to be a portion of the media disappointed by the lack of outlandish statements coming from Sherman, or the lack of anything coming from Lynch after he abruptly ended his interview with reporters a little more than six minutes into the designated hour of Seahawks media availability.
When the NFL put out a list of names Monday of players who would speak at podiums during media day and Lynch’s name wasn’t on it — podium appearances are the norm for star players — there was speculation he might not even attend the event, something that would have cost him at least $100,000 in fines from the NFL. Instead Lynch was there, but he talked off to the side where other less-notable players usually stand.
Lynch seemed genuinely surprised when he came into the arena and saw it filled with fans, saying to reporters, “Are there fans watching y’all do this? Man, I appreciate this. This is love right here, straight up. They came to watch people get interviewed? This is amazing right here, man.”
But when it came time to answer questions, Lynch was his usual, brief self, explaining, “I’m just about action. You say ‘hut’ and there’s action. All the unnecessary talk, it don’t do nothing for me. I appreciate that people want to hear from me, but I just go to work and do my thing. Just chilling, you feel me?”
Six or so minutes later, Lynch ended an answer saying he still had work to do, then walked away. He did come back, but stood to the side and didn’t answer questions other than granting a couple of one-on-one interviews, including one to Deion Sanders of the NFL Network.
And of course this became a big topic of debate — after all, there are literally thousands of media members in the NY/NJ area and the game is still days away, we have to talk about something, right? The debate ranges from “Good for him, let his action speak for him” to, “The league must take a stand and fine Lynch for cutting his session off early.”
Selfishly, I’d love to see Lynch open up more — he was always a good quote before the 2012 season, at which point he decided he was done with media, save a few rare exceptions. However, if he wants to risk fines for not talking, something, that’s his prerogative as well. (Players are contractually obligated to speak to the media.) What wasn’t at all shocking on a day designed for shock value was the fact that Lynch wasn’t all that interested in participating.
And speaking of not shocking, let’s get back to Sherman for a second.
Ever since Sherman’s now famous postgame rant in the NFC Championship, people have been wondering what he might have in store with the spotlight shining so brightly on him at media day. But here’s the thing, if you’ve been paying attention, Sherman’s outburst are A) rare; B) usually heat-of-the-moment situations like the moments after a game, or a conversation with ESPN’s Skip Bayless, who is an expert at getting under people’s skin, and C) are frequently provoked, at least in his mind. So why, exactly, were we expecting anything outlandish just because there were a lot of cameras pointed at Sherman?
Instead, Sherman was the Sherman we see on a much more regular basis — the intelligent and oftentimes funny athlete who spent nearly an hour praising teammates, complimenting Peyton Manning and giving thoughtful answers to every question, even the absurd ones. Which brings us back to the strippers (how often do you get to write that sentence in a sports column?).
Because Super Bowl media day is full of people trying to one-up each other with outlandish questions, you never know what might be asked, and one woman decided to go with “All of you football guys going into the strip clubs, and throwing … raining down on these strippers.” She then asked how that behavior can be stopped so as to avoid setting a bad example for women?
“Well I’ve never gone to a strip club and thrown money, so I couldn’t tell you,” Sherman said. “I guess, uh, trying to understand that there are other avenues and other ways you can make money, that women can do anything they want in this world. You can go out there and be a CEO of a company. The same can be said for kids in the inner cities — the ceiling is limitless if you don’t limit yourself to those possibilities and those circumstances.”
And if that question wasn’t odd enough for you, then maybe seeing a guy dressed as Thomas Jefferson walk past the guy dressed as Waldo of “Where’s Waldo?” fame would do the trick. Or maybe it’s was having a “halftime” show featuring a Springsteen cover band and members of the cast of the Broadway musical “Motown.”
You could call Super Bowl media day a circus, but the Ringling Brothers were much more organized than this collection of sports reporters, who-know-what reporters, and everyone’ favorite category of “reporters,” people who come in strange costumes but still got their hands on credentials.
“It’s a circus, it’s a zoo,” receiver Doug Baldwin said. “There’s a lot of things I’d like to say, but I’m not going to.”
Players for the most part seemed to embrace the weird, Lynch not included; Golden Tate even wore a GoPro camera on his head to turn the table on the media. Brandon Mebane, however, drew the line at being asked by a young female to kiss him on the cheek.
“I can’t kiss you, I’m married,” Mebane said. “The only kisses go to my wife and my daughter about to be born. I don’t even kiss my mom that way. I’m not trying to get a divorce. I want a happy home, a happy wife.”
So yeah, there was plenty of absurdity at Super Bowl media day. But the two most anticipated appearances by Seahawks went pretty much exactly as expected. At least if you’ve been paying attention to either this year.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.