The Beauty of the Beast

By Silas Alexander

“You only meet a few real ones in your life, and he’s one.” – Longtime Seahawks Teammate Ricardo Lockette

In a sport that rewards explosive violence and militaristic posturing from overserious coaches, it’s rare to see much time set aside for playful bullshit. Which is part of what makes the contradicting tendencies of the man they call Beast Mode so much fun.

Most famous for his jaw-dropping, playground style combinations of power-waddling steamroller ballet (and his notoriously tight-lipped responses to media blowhards), it’s off-field Marshawn that has cast a shadow over the NFL that won’t fade anytime soon.

The Seattle Savior

Marshawn arrived in Seattle from Buffalo with little heraldry—here was a guy that had been labeled a talented disappointment by many, a guy that thought when he was drafted by Buffalo that he’d be playing in New York City. But Marshawn’s personality never dimmed, even as his media portrayals flitted from charming simpleton to outright thug. He, understandably, began cutting off the media.

Many forget that when he first arrived in Seattle, Marshawn wasn’t even the franchise’s featured running back, splitting carries with Justin Forsett. His first season in Seattle was mired in uncertainty.

Then it happened.

Seattle Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch (24) breaks away from a tackle by the New Orleans Saints defenders to score a touchdown in the second half of an NFL NFC wild card playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) SEA163

A league-defining highlight that shook the Seattle franchise forever. The ferocity, determination, and pure GET-OFF-ME-LITTLE-BOY stiff arm showcased in the “BeastQuake” run cemented a place for Marshawn in Seattle lore…in just his tenth game wearing blue.

The Seahawks organization that has risen—gritty, bruising, carefree yet poised—is largely built in Marshawn Lynch’s image. Without Marshawn forming the team’s backbone, not only do the Seahawks never reach back-to-back Super Bowls, they do not create and live the hard-hitting and passionate identity that we associate with them today.

Kam Chancellor. Richard Sherman. Earl Thomas. If you asked any one of these tremendous talents who the foundational spirit of this franchise has been, without question they would tell you it was, and continues to be, ‘Shawn.

Looking at Lynch’s relationships with fellow members of the Seahawks’ Running Back group and others, it’s clear he views teammates as far more than co-workers.

Advising younger players on wise spending habits and the way to prepare for life after football. Giving his former blocker Michael Robinson, an aspiring sportscaster, exclusive news scoops as a way to boost his media profile. Helping teammates’ extended families through struggles and successes. Ultimately stepping aside and retiring (I suspect) to allow Thomas Rawls to shine, after Marshawn saw that he was ready for a full workload.

The term “real” is used all too often, to the detriment and diffusion of its meaning. When used to describe Lynch, I take it to mean a person who doesn’t hide their roots, doesn’t try to be anyone other than who they are. Regardless of getting judged, harried, harassed, Marshawn is still the kid from Oakland.

Back to the Bay

Despite still being just a couple sweaty chicken wings away from playing shape in 2016, Marshawn has used the last year and a half to focus on his Fam 1st Foundation, an organization that mentors Oakland children on “the importance of education, literacy, and self-esteem.”

Marshawn Lynch and Josh Johnson host youth football camp oakland

According to some observers of Lynch’s work with local youth, he is able to connect and motivate with unique impact:

“Marshawn is really reaching a group and affecting them in a way no one else could. There’s no book on this. What he’s doing is beyond belief.” – San Francisco Police Department officer Yossef Azim.

“It transcends and gives [Oakland children] a sense of optimism that people do give a damn about them and that their lives matter.” – California Liuetenant Governor Gavin Newsom.

For a lot of athletes, financial success and glory on the field are all they aspire to. For Marshawn, however, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

And aside from his foundation bringing him back home, there’s nothing like an Oakland sideshow.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching Marshawn in Seattle for the better part of a decade. His joyful, comical, determined spirit will be deeply missed in the Northwest.

But we are all beyond lucky to have him in the league once more.

Goodbye Marshawn, and welcome back.

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals

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