Why Marshawn Lynch's silences make sense

Society often seems to favor the extrovert, not wanting someone to take time before deciding to speak.
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Marshawn Lynch, with hat and just where he doesn't want to be (Media Day for the 2014 Super Bowl)

Society often seems to favor the extrovert, not wanting someone to take time before deciding to speak.

Super Bowl Week is not exactly renowned as a holiday tied by longstanding family tradition to moments of quiet reflection.  No, holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas fit that bill.  Even so, there's no denying that the nation's annual gridiron spectacle has morphed into a major holiday -- perhaps for some of us even the highest and holiest, most American holiday of all.  And so it is that the wondrous phenomenon know as Media Day found me contemplating just how much I might have in common with The Beast -- Marshawn Lynch -- the Seattle Seahawks' enigmatic and intimidating star running back.

Ironically, Marshawn is the reluctant media darling this week and all the rage in Seattle and other far flung towns across the land despite adamantly insisting he has nothing Big Game-related to share with us -- not willingly anyway.  Nothing, nada.  See, the Beast does not like talking to the media hordes.  Unfortunately for him, his boss's enforcers feel differently. The NFL powers-that-be (Commissioner Roger Goodell and the rest of his powerful Empire) have threatened to come down hard if he refuses.  As in $500,000 hard.  

So, understandably, not wanting to enrich the league's already overflowing coffers, Marshawn ("I'm just 'bout the action, Boss") Lynch complied, answering all questions Tuesday during his appointed Media Day spotlight moment with some variation of this "just the facts, ma'am" line: "I'm just here so I won't get fined."  In a four-minute command performance, Lynch repeated his mantra over and over, kind of like invoking the Fifth Amendment I guess. 

Lynch's near silent treatment (well, as close as one can get) of the oh-so-curious press corps apparently struck a nerve.  Everybody -- from 12th Man and Woman fanatics to the "I'm only here for the chips, dip and commercials," once-a-year casual observers --- seemingly has a strong opinion.  Should Marshawn be compelled to talk?  Does he owe it to the league?  To the big spending, not-at-all bashful SB advertisers?  To an admiring Emerald City?

Some argue that it's his obligation as a professional football player under contract.  Others defend his right to privacy and stress that his earthquake-inducing, joy-producing runs do all the talking necessary.  Both sides have staked out passionate positions.  How do I know?  I posted a playful hash tag (or so I thought at first) on my Facebook status the other evening, and then comments began multiplying at a startling rate, like digital rabbits.  I watched bemused over the next half-hour as more than 100 comments darted down my laptop screen fast as Kam Chancellor sprinting 90 yards for a TD with a Cam Newton interception.  It was comment punch, then counterpunch.  If not for our cyber-created physical separation, I'd have feared that fisticuffs were looming among friends.

What to make of all the controversy then?  Richard Sherman weighed in with an insightful and telling clue in a recent Sports Illustrated column by Peter KIng: "Marshawn talking to the press is the equivalent of putting a reporter on a football field and telling him to tackle Adrian Peterson."  Ouch!  That's gonna leave a mark. 

And that's when I really got to thinking seriously about the Beast and me.  If asked, friends and family would no doubt peg me as an introvert.  Though I can pick and choose times to be outgoing and engaging, most times and places find me solidly ensconced in the shy camp.  It's a personality trait that shapes my world and others' perception of my role in it -- it's part of my behavioral DNA. And, I have to say, sometimes it's a problem. No, that's not quite right, sometimes it's a big pain in the ass.

Here's why. Modern 21st century popular culture -- particularly here in America, likely more so than anywhere else on the globe -- places a premium on Type-A, driven, confident, self-promoting personalities.  From Fortune 500 CEOs to Oscar-winning actors to charismatic politicians to imposing pro athletes, from the preacher's pulpit to late-night talk show couches to the connected classrooms of today, from Facebook to Twitter to the local watering hole, this is the model American citizen to be raised and praised.  And sure, I'll admit, it's easy to make jokes about the Seattle Beast and his outgoing exuberance about Skittles and wonder if -- in the end -- it's all an act.  Maybe so, I don't know.

But I'd argue that there's much more likely a serious issue here, for Lynch and others. There's a case to be made that society generally imposes a set of extrovert-oriented rules and expectations upon the social games played out by millions everyday in America's public arenas.  In a way these societal expectations ultimately pile up to create an at-times hostile and uncomfortable environment for introverts.  For many folks in the life-of-the-party, go-go, loud-and-proud camp, it's just not OK to be quiet, sit back, observe, contemplate, and then -- maybe – talk or act in the moment.  Sensing this, the introvert often chooses to communicate instead in a more familiar social setting, or within a smaller, more trusted group.

But hold on, it's high time we get back to Holy Week, aka Super Bowl XLIX!  As the Big Game inexorably draws closer, I just ask that you pause to consider this: Perhaps Mr. Lynch is shy like many of down deep in his soul.  Maybe that's the default mode for both the Beast and me, and maybe you too.

Know this Marshawn, some of us have your back. Actions do speak louder than words, Boss. We introverts need to flock together, like the Seahawks. 


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