When it comes to sports I’m generally what you’d call an “old school” kind of guy. Basically I believe in good sportsmanship – I’ll let you define that – and I don’t much care for showboating. That probably explains why I have what probably looks like contradictory opinions about two very good football players: Marshawn “The Beast” Lynch and Cam “Superman” Newton. I love watching Lynch play and Newton just makes me shake my head.
Here’s my reasoning in a nutshell: Newton is know for his “Superman” pose that he strikes after scoring a touchdown. That does indeed irk me, but touchdown’s are hard enough to come by that I long ago accepted touchdown celebrations as part of the game and I definitely understand why people do them. On the other hand, Newton has a habit of doing this goofy pointing thing (seen here) whenever he’s gotten a first down and that just drives me around the bend. Getting a first down is kind of a minimum expectation of a quarterback’s job – it’s like getting a √ on your report card when you were in kindergarten. Celebrating it is like me running around my desk after sending a fairly well written email.
Another thing that gets me about Newton is that he can seem so disengaged and sometimes just looks like he lacks a fire in the belly. Certainly some of that can just be outward appearances – some players are truly so gifted that they look like they aren’t trying because they’re literally so good that they make it look effortless. Newton, however, has some fairly significant swings between his good and bad games and those bad games seem to coincide with those instances where it looks like he’s not 100% there.
Then there’s The Beast. While he will do his share of smack talking during the game he most certainly is always 100% engaged on the field. He seems to relish playing hard, initiating contact with the defense and never taking a down “off.” The guy’s earned his nickname and if you like football then you have to appreciate how hard he plays. He definitely defines an “old school” or “throwback” runner who resembles players like Walter Payton who play with a fire in the belly that’s apparent to everyone watching.
Off the field is where this comparison gets even more interesting, and where I think people might find my opinion of these two players to be contradictory. Newton is personable, affable and seems to generally be a “good interview” with the press. Lynch, on the other hand, can appear surly and dour, and most definitely is not a favorite of the press. Hell, Lynch is becoming just as well known for his non-answer-answers as he is for his play on the field, but to be honest that’s one of the reasons I like him and also why I think he defines “old school.” Over at The Week Sarah Jaffe explains why better than I ever could:
Having been fined $100,000 over the last two seasons for refusing to play nice at press conferences, Lynch showed up at Media Day in a cap and dark sunglasses with one answer for reporters’ questions: “I’m here so I won’t get fined.” He gave that same answer some 25 times.
Rumor had it that Lynch was threatened with a $500,000 fine if he didn’t show up for the conference; instead, he made it very clear that his appearance was compelled, and that there was only so far the NFL could push him…
There is no doubt that Lynch gives the game everything he’s got and more — we should always remember when we watch football or any other physical, contact sport that we are watching people literally putting theirsafety and lives on the line for our entertainment. So why, on top of all that, does the NFL demand that its players show up at press conferences and answer the same inane questions with a ready smile?…
After many in the media branded him a “thug,” Richard Sherman embarked on a press tour in which he mostly made mincemeat of his critics, but public debating is a particular skill that few people have mastered. It’s not surprising that Lynch, who has heard the T-word a few times in his life (and even, when playing in Buffalo, was stopped so routinely by police that he finally called a meeting with a local chief to discuss the problem) wants no part of it. His job, as he sees it, is on the field. When he wants to give back to the community, to the fans, he does it with his charity in his hometown of Oakland.
That, my friends, is why I’ll be cheering Mr. Lynch during the Super Bowl. I just like the way he rolls and I also like that he’s found a way to expose the NFL brass’ hypocrisy and general crappiness.