Editor's note: John Fraley wrote and published this on January 8th. With Marshawn Lynch announcing his retirement, it's time for another read.
Within the cool and cozy confines of FieldGullsville, "shoulda handed it to Marshawn" is the kind of humour noir that fuels our peculiar brand of fandom.
Outside our ramparts, it's not a joke. "Shoulda handed it to Marshawn" is conventional wisdom. Simply, Because Beast.
The man who is known for his jaw-dropping, crotch-grabbing, tectonic-plate-shaking
moments is also revered, feared, admired, mocked, worshipped, trashed, admired unlike any other NFL player in recent memory. Having him around was/is/will be a privilege of the highest order. To have him in the backfield, and not use him, in your hour of greatest need? It's incomprehensible to the average football fan. I mean, look at that Madden rating!?
Still Not A Eulogy
Oh sure, Sunday could be Lynch's last game in Seahawk colors. Quite possibly it could be his last game of pro football, ever. It won't be -- but it could be.
But it won't be. A victorious Beast, and his band of beloved brothers, will win, then they will drag their DVOAsses to Charlotte next weekend, for an epic tilt with the Camolina Camthers, in a game fraught with finality. And when they get there, everyone will be watching. If they move on to a rubber match with the Cardinals, everyone will be watching.
Everyone knows about Beastquake. (My favorite version casts him as Mario.) And around these parts, most everyone knows about Marshawn's second tier of exploits. Let's see three of them anyway, for old times' sake.
A) Since the Cardinals are simultaneously in our rear view mirror and laser scope:
B) You mean the Earth shook again? Gotta include this one or risk malpractice:
C) And this one tragically gets lost in the shuffle, Because Beast:
Pretty pictures aside, this post isn't about Marshawn the football player, because we've seen the epic plays an unholy amount of times. Instead, it's about appreciating Marshawn the personality, the brand, the icon. The guy who is winning at Life, after Life had the audacity to deal him a losing hand. Never again will we have a Seahawk quite like him to cheer on. Hell, never again will any NFL team have a cat quite like this one.
'Shawn The Goofball Businessman
It starts with a throwaway anecdote about how Marshawn's mom used to give him Skittles before a game. To calm his stomach.
Years later, Skittles sell out of local grocery stores during Super Bowl weeks.
What more could Skittles ask for? How about this kind of publicity, on Monday night, as their spokesman dominates yet another helpless defense?
It's not long until Lynch has as much fun with this arrangement as is allowed by law. You know how sometimes you watch a video, then wish for those five minutes of your life back? This is not that video.
But going beyond the obvious candy connection, and random Deon Butler sighting, for a moment: Lynch's own brand of clothing is hot. Even just the logo puts his teammates' apparel to shame, by its simplicity and symmetry.
Sorry, Richard, you're trying too hard.
And Russell, you're not trying hard enough.
Beast Mode know's what's up. He's just bout that sleek design, bosses.
And all about cutting bait, apparently. When his planned biopic turned south, he pulled the plug. It's too bad, because there's a fair amount of story material there. That'll have to get done someday.
Remains that Marshawn Lynch knows exactly how to promote Marshawn Lynch (As if the above clues weren't cluey enough.) Here he is, playing himself, and mocking himself, in an episode of The League. Feel free to scroll ahead to the 0:44 mark.
Marshawn is a funny human. He's a goofball. But also so much more.
'Shawn the Rebel
The manicured image of Goofball Lynch wouldn't seem like a natural fit with the edgy image of Rebel Lynch. And yet, it somehow works.
Here's where the two personas meet.
To embrace Beast Mode is to:
- live in the moment
- not ask permission
- do your own thing.
To channel Beast Mode is to drive a cart around after an overtime win, to swerve around staff and hashmarks, and to get off the impromptu ride with body language that says "Yeah. I did that."
To go Beast Mode is to live the way you wish you could -- if only you weren't so busy being boring all the time.
But Lynch's most visible rebellious moments came at Super Bowl XLVIII's Media Week, when his anti-establishment non-answers won over everyone who's ever wanted to punch a self-important reporter in the junk. (So, in other words, everyone.) And because of that media silence and his mumbled answers, Marshawn remains misunderstood by many. So many casual observers go wrong, casting him as a malcontent, a bully, a thug, an antisocial dude with issues.
Exhibit One: The Conan Segment You've Seen
Exhibit Two: The Action Green Apron
That's a commercial. Yeah, I just made you watch a commercial. Thanks for asking.
If you're not a Starbucks fan, apologies. Retain this point instead: That's not something a guy does unless he is comfy in his own skin, comfy around people, comfy promoting himself.
'Shawn the Soul
When his teammates calll Lynch the "soul" of the Seattle Seahawks, it does not sound like lip service.
Doug Baldwin's words right before XLIX: "I don't know where we would be without Marshawn Lynch. He is the engine. He is the heart and soul of this offense."
Departed Max Unger once went full As Good As It Gets on his running back: "Marshawn makes you want to do your job better, I guess is the best way to put it."
From the retired Michael Robinson, if you'll allow it: "People don't realize when I went through what I went through [severe illness and weeks of recovery], he was the first person at the hospital, the first person at my bedside at home. And when my wife had to go to the story, he was there to watch my kids because I couldn't do it."
You know what else the soul of a bad-ass team does? this
What else? this too
That was Marshawn's pre-game speech to Thomas Rawls, before the rookie's fourth start in Beast's stead. Coming to town were the Niners; the Seahawks sorely needed the win to climb back to .500, back into the thick of the playoff picture.
255 total yards and two touchdowns later, Rawls had proven to us, to himself, and to Lynch that he knew exactly what to do.
'Shawn the Redemption Story
Appreciating Marshawn Lynch does not mean ignoring his flaws.
In 2008 he pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run incident in Buffalo; in 2009 he was suspended by Commissioner Roger Goodell after facing weapons charges; in 2012 he was arrested on suspicion of DUI, failed a sobriety test and eventually pled down to reckless driving. Young Lynch wasn't getting into Ray Rice-level doo-doo, but he was the farthest thing from a model citizen.
Marshawn faces the music in the extended interview below. He acknowledges his imperfect past. But he doesn't sound overly contrite, or go the forgiveness-begging route. More like he accepts stuff, and moves on. That's certainly one way to seek redemption.
There is so much pure gold in that feature, but one quote has always stood out to me. When asked how he would respond to those who would call him a thug, he offered this:
"I'd like to see them grow up in project housing. Being racially profiled growing up, sometimes not even having nothing to eat, sometimes having to wear the same damn clothes to school for a whole week. Then all of a sudden, a big-ass change in their life, like a dream come true, to the point they're starting their career, at 20 years old, when they still don't know shit. I would like to see some of the mistakes they would make."
Translated from BeastModian: "How about you walk a mile in my shoes first, then pass judgment on me." Except he doesn't say it aggressively, or defensively. The tone is pensive, straightforward, measured, unapologetic, and cuts one to the core, if one takes the time to actually listen.
Personally, Lynch has gone through his share of trials. But right now, his career is on the line too. Because maybe -- just maybe -- Marshawn is mortal, like the rest of us fools. He turns 30 in April. He's amassed 8,768 yards on 2,051 carries while breaking 353 villion tackles. In 2015, he set career lows in yards (375), YPC (3.6) and touchdowns (2).
He hasn't played since Week 10.
That's where we reconnect Lynch the man with Lynch the player. He, like so many of us tethered to the Seattle Seahawks, is on the hunt for some redemption in these playoffs. Far be it from me to psychoanalyze any player, let alone this one. But I do find myself speculating about what keeps Lynch hungry after a surgery that would've ended many seasons. I picture him asking himself, "Am I still on top? Can I deliver the big play when my team needs it?"
Marshawn might be a guy with big balls when the situation calls for it; but more importantly, he has a big heart when that's what is needed.
If you only click on one link in this story, make it this one. The whole url is included because it tells the story too.
They love him. Click the link. Play the video. It opens in a new window. The rest of the post will still be here when you're done.
Lynch's charity event last season at the Edgewater raised $325,000 for his foundation (website here in case you're interested) and was attended by Paul Allen, Pete Carroll, Joe Montana, Shawn Kemp and others.
Or there was the time Lynch drove ten minutes out of his way, on a day he was already visiting a local high school dealing with tragic events, to return a wallet he found at a gas station. That's your basic act of human decency, right? Nothing special, right? But you've got to know, as an athlete of Lynch's caliber, that when you show up on Random Marysville Guy's doorstep to do him a solid, you're also making RMG's day. His whole year, probably.
This list of Lynch's redemptive deeds isn't meant to be exhaustive. More examples are welcome below, in your comments section.
Nobody knows how big a role Marshawn will play on Sunday, or as the playoffs march on, or even next year. Will he return for another season, or is the sun setting on an unforgettable career? I don't think even he knows. He's our man of mystery, doing his job right here in our back yard, but in nobody's box. So rather than be flummoxed by his opaque future, I've chosen to soak in the inimitable story which is Beast Mode, Seattle Seahawk.
And at the end of his historic run, we all know he's going to get got.
But in the meantime, here's to him getting his more than he gets got.