Amazon is making a huge push to become a real player in broadcasting NFL games, to the point that they will be the sole carrier of Thursday Night football in 2022. The big headlines have been about the potential commentator crew with giant names like Al Michaels, Peyton Manning, and Troy Aikman being bandied about. On a minor note, details have been linked about ongoing negotiations about the panel handling the pre/post-game shows and halftime. One name elevates above the rest, Marshawn Lynch.
Marshawn has been an ever-present entity since his multiple retirements; you can’t watch an NFL Sunday without seeing one of his ads. He’s appeared on television programs, numerous talk shows, and in-game broadcasts. He’s become a media savant, something that’s usually only reserved for quarterbacks of the highest echelon. As good of a running back as he was, Lynch has truly become a prominent voice, a unique happenstance for an NFL player.
His success has landed him as the first-ever Chief Brand Ambassador for the NFL Players Union, to serve as a voice and confidant to others in their quest to expand their influence outside of the game. He has now added trailblazer to his resume.
Even with all those accolades, though, it’s fair to wonder if Amazon would be making a mistake by putting him on a panel. As funny, intelligent, and relatable as a person he is, as great as a player he was, the one thing no one has really seen him do is sit down and analyze the game.
He may be great at that, or he might not. A big chunk of his popularity has come from soundbites. “I’m just here, so I don’t get fined.” “Take care, y’all chicken.” “I’m just about that action, boss.” All were funny, all had dual meanings as well. Getting fined – a statement about how the NFL forces players to always be available to the media… whether they want to or not. About the chicken – It was in response to a question about his money handling during and in his post-playing career. It was a statement about not overextending oneself as a player, even if it seems like you have a never-ending supply of money. I’m just about that action? Ok… well, that was just about how much of a monster he is on the football field. But you get the point.
He’s a man that has something to say. Unfortunately for panel shows in recent years, people that talk on them don’t get the opportunity to say much. It’s become a medium to fill dead air between games rather than a place to truly learn about football.
My guess is that Amazon wants him to create moments, flashpoints that dictate discussion on social media. Former NBA star Charles Barkley has filled that function for the NBA on TNT. He’s funny, he calls guys out, and overall makes the show a good hang. But to do all those things, Barkley needs to at least pose as someone who can say something meaningful about the games he’s assigned to. I’m not sure Marshawn can do that.
It might go great if whoever pairs him in the studio lets him be him. Have big, open discussions about the game itself. It goes wrong if they restrict him to only a minute or two of air time while trying to poke and prod him to say something funny to go viral. It needs to be genuine, something that NFL shows have always had trouble doing. Amazon has the potential to do things differently than what other studios have done in the past 30 years. Using Marshawn to his full potential would be a step in the right direction.