WWCD/What Would Crystal Do!?! The Beast Mode Edition

It sounds and feels awfully self involved for me to ask/type the question “What Would Crystal Do!?!”

But before you judge me (be a hater on my life — in my Eb The Celeb voice — and ish, know that I didn’t come up with this saying or its acronym. A friend did, about seven years ago. I certainly am not omniscient, nor do I liken myself to be on Jesus’ level (by any means).

It kind of started out as a joke. Anyone who knows me, especially in a professional capacity, knows that I lean to the “conservative” when it comes to the workplace.

And, let’s be clear, when I say “conservative” I mean: There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way. What to say/what not say. Stay above the fray. Take the high road at all costs. Integrity above all. You know, all the work-related clichés, yup, I preach them.

And sometimes I take it a little too seriously, hence my being clowned by my friends.

But then I found out that my friends actually had started asking themselves, when in a tight spot, “What Would Crystal Do/advise if she was here?”

Awww they love(ded) me…

So instead of being “Jesus-like” (pronounced HEY! Zuce!), apparently I’m like the “angel” on their shoulder when the “devil” is leading them down the wrong path. (Some “friends” are definitely bending over with gut wrenching laughter at the thought of me being an angel…don’t hate cuz I GOT a Halo!)

Over time, this has also grown to apply to friends asking me, “Crystal, if you were so in so’s “person,” what would you do/advise…”

So it wasn’t a surprise that as Marshawn Lynch, star NFL running back for the Seattle Seahawks, increasingly became a “thorn” in the league and media’s respective sides over the past few weeks for what they feel are disrespectful antics, that I was repeatedly asked ‘what would I do if I represented him.’

My knee-jerk reaction: I wanted to shake (the shyt out of) him, and tell him to stop w the shenanigans.

But INSTEAD of jumping on the bandwagon, I took a minute because I learned a long time ago, that judging an Athlete merely by their “Athlete” title is a mistake: even when they choose not to SHOW “you” (read: anyone outside their inner circle) who they are, really.

And in that “minute”…

I observed him. Started taking mental notes. (NO, I have not met him. BUT have been acquainted with who he is through work and as a consumer of the game etc. for more than a year.)

I watched journalists go head-to-head asking:

· What’s wrong with him?

· Is he a knucklehead? (Read: he IS an asshole)

· Does he have a disorder?

· Is he REALLY “uncomfortable”? (Read: or just being an asshole)

· Doesn’t he care about his brand?

· What the hell is wrong with this guy…Why doesn’t he care about the +100,000 in fines?

I’ve had a multitude of conversations about him.

And…I’ve pondered “the issues.”

If I simply answer the question WWCD!?!…my answer would start with…

“Beast Mode…represents one of those moments where I am conflicted.”

“He’s raw. Gritty.”

“He defies convention.”

“He IS outside of the box…and to a great extent I am ok with that.”

If I then answer some of the questions I’ve seen thrown around by the press and on social media…my answer would start with…

“Nothing is WRONG with Marshawn.”

“To some extent, yes, he is being an asshole, but I suspect there’s a reason.”

“I’m not a doctor or psychiatrist, nor have I ‘examined’ him, but I’d guess at nah, I don’t think he has a ‘disorder’.

“Yes, I do think that Marshawn is uncomfortable speaking to/with the press — but I suspect its much more complex than just that.”

“Marshawn DEFINES what HIS brand his. NOT us. And by the standard of BEAST MODE, his brand is, in a word, DISRUPTIVE! So, no, his “antics” do not have ill effect on his brand, in fact they enhance it.”

And what about that money doe…as those zeros have added up, he clearly has started to tweak his ‘show’ “so I won’t get fined.”

WWCD doesn’t end with a simple answer to “shake him or nah?”

At the core of this microcosm that is the NLF Soap Opera: (this week) starting Marshawn Lynch as Beast Mode, are some bigger issues that include career/qualification development and relationship cultivation between Athletes and Journalists.

So, what does Marshawn represent in these press wars?

“We” all just want Marshawn to be how we want him to be. To act like “we” want him to act. According to “our” conventions. According to the social construct. But it seems to me that all Marshawn (or any of the other athletes who don’t follow “the rules”) wants is to simply BE HIM — how he(she) defines.

Yea, I know. I know. I know. There are rules. There are requirements. Qualifications, even.

And while I don’t think that this fully is representative of the “Marshawn-issue” — there are definitely some aspects that are begged…

One of those “begged” aspects is how “we” fail Athletes. On so many levels.

I am not absolving them of their responsibilities, but I have long felt that Athletes are poorly trained for what their jobs REALLY are…the 360 degree of the job…not just what they do on the field/court, but from beginning to end — all in a day’s work.

Years, upon years, are put into training up an Athlete so they can be a PRO.

· Can he run? Check!

· Can he throw? Check!

· Can he pass, dunk, hit straight and so on and so on? CHECK!

All these boxes are being checked off, but where is the professional development box? You know the boxes that should include “professional decorum,” “corporate culture” and low and behold “media training-relations”…

Ok, maybe you would argue, “Crystal, that’s their responsibility!” Yes, they have some responsibility too. Responsibility to understand what is what; their jobs are not just to “play” their sport…there are many other qualifications.

But then I could come back and say hey, “I had a job description to review before I took a job…shoot before I chose a career path…and even before I steped into a position, I was REQUIRED to take classes in college that applied, and had mentors for my 20-some odd year prep who told me the As the Bs and the Cs to this corporate thang!”

Tell me, who taught you how to move in your professional world? Were you just taught your craft and none of the other aspects? The nuances? The protocols? Were you “given” a job description?

When I look at other professions…where professionals will have to interact with the press…they are trained. Groomed. Given context.

Yes, sometimes it’s a flash pan, thrown into the fire experience. Some succeed. And others, well, they fail.

And I know very well, there are executives who, like Marshawn, ARE the outside of the box.

I’ve known executives who have cursed out their beat reporters. They weren’t fined…no loot taken from their pay check before that direct deposit hit.

I have known executives who NEVER follow the rules. I have never seen them called a “dick” in an article, mumbled under a reporter’s breath or tweeted about. Ijs.

So no, he’s not a problem child that you just need to give a Ritalin to…part of what Marshawn represents is a group of professionals, of which, some of them need, more than others, professional development. That I contend needs to start long before they are drafted into the pros (regardless of the sport), or the varied programming they are presented with in college.

Hey, what do I know.

What is up with the love/hate relationship between athletes and the press?

I love the journalistic profession. It is an art form that simply amazes me.

I’m journalistically trained, but I work in the “sister” profession of communications. I work closely with the press and its safe to say that the two professions have a love/hate relationship at times too.

The relationship between a PR person and member of the media is a delicate one. At first site, like any relationship, you offer up the benefit of the doubt that each are going to “do right by” the other. Some of these relationships have to be cultivated. Trust must be developed. Its not always easy, but there is a level of mutual respect.

When I look at the relationship between Athletes and Journalists, there always seems to be this subtext of lack of trust and disrespect.

Journalists expect athletes to implicitly trust them. To give them “access.” To sit there and take “it” — the (“inane”) questions, the criticism et al, day in, week out, year after year.

Athletes have a hard time respecting journalists for many reasons. Some feel that journalists hide behind their pens. That they don’t know what it takes to do what they do, so who are they to analyze (“criticize”) etc.

Where is the same consideration for relationship cultivation?

“I don’t like you!”

Those aren’t just the words of the NBA’s Russell Westbrook to the Oklahoma Thunder beat writer…

I’ve heard a million pro-athletes say those same words. These athletes are easily dismissed…he’s just being a “jackass.” And maybe some are…but many aren’t.

Their feelings are based on real life experiences.

Yes, athletes can be thin-skinned. But, some journalists are equally thin-skinned and reckless in how they interact with and characterize these men and women.

Some of my Sports Journalist friends gripe about athletes, but at the same time some of them “get it” — the context (age, maturity, background etc).

The overall reality is that there isn’t an absolute on either side of the table. Not all Athletes should be viewed one way or the other, put in a box marked “Athlete,” nor should Journalists (just because they didn’t play the sport — a common gripe from athletes).

Someone has to “give-in” first…who’s going to be the proverbial bigger man in these situations?

If I’m a Journalist interviewing Seahawks Cornerback Richard Sherman…he’s already made it beyond clear that he can intellectually/verbally spar with the best of them…he wears his Stanford University degree on his chest…I would actually approach him a different way, instead of with the same of stuff, talking down to him (putting him in his pace — that dumb jock box). When you don’t, you do two things…you continue to instill in him that reporters are not to be trusted and instead of getting a good story you become the story! ::Wagging finger vigorously, Dikembe-style::

And Marshawn…we know he can do his job, on the field and off the field. He gives his time to journalists he trusts; Kenny Mayne is a prime example. So clearly there is a deeper relational issue. And if you really want to spurn him…calling him a “dick” ain’t gonna do it…Just. Stop. Fueling. His. Fame. Duh! He WANTS to be disruptive, and you are helping him do that…and again, becoming the story! ::Double finger wag::

The WWCD in the case of Beast Mode…

…is complex. It doesn’t simply follow a “conservative” “do what I say cuz the world doesn’t like what you are doing”…line of thinking. And, there are others who play a role in the matrix that is the media frenzy around his “needing” to get some “act right.”

His brand isn’t “our” brand. How he grows his brand doesn’t have to take a “coloring in the lines” path.

So, the only real advise I would give Marshawn…

(I don’t know for sure if Marshawn sees himself as a “Role Model” but based on his off the field activities through his foundation, coaching high school football in Oakland etc. I have to believe that he does.)

…is to consider the message his perceived and actual behavior (including/especially the dick grabs) sends to those who look up to him — anyone who is impressionable — cuz what works for Marshawn might not work for everyone else.

Otherwise…Beast on Beast Mode!

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