Top of the Docs #10 – Marshawn Lynch: A History

Marshawn Lynch: A History is not so much a documentary about sport as it is a documentary that examines the world around sport. It looks at American football star Marshawn Lynch, and through the format of a clip compilation, tracks the way in which his image has been projected through the media. This is a film less concerned with the game played on the field, but instead with the secondary industry nestled within the NFL: punditry. And through using Lynch as a case study, it manages to shed some light on its toxicity.

Clip compilation documentaries are difficult to perfect, but when they hit right, they tend to be amazing, and Lynch: A History is no exception. The film takes Lynch as the forerunner of the modern politicisation of American football, through the radical act of silence. We watch how his persona, and the way in which he deals with the press, changes through time. Beginning the film with a bright and energetic persona, this gradually disappears, as Lynch refuses to act in the way the pundits want him to, which, to put it bluntly, is for Lynch to act in a way that betrays his roots. The film is very clear in pointing out that those who conform to curtailing the way in which they talk, behave, and express themselves on the field, get a much easier ride in the media. And this was certainly not the case for Lynch.

So what is one to do in the light of this situation? Continue to get hounded by the press for simply expressing yourself, or conform and perform in the way the pundit class desires? Lynch had no choice but to take radical action. By refusing to speak at press conferences, Lynch, though still hounded by the press, managed to bring to the foreground the way in which they expected him to act. If he was going to get hounded either way, why waste the effort of actually answering their questions? Lynch’s move sparked widespread criticism of the pundit class, as well as introspection into how black footballers are treated, and what is expected of them. The heroic protests of Colin Kaepernick are supported by Lynch, and the film posits that through his protests, Lynch gave others such as Kaepernick the confidence to take a stand.

Lynch: A History uses the clip compilation format to turn footage used by the pundit class against them, allowing for critical thought about how we treat sports stars, and in particular what political agendas are at play behind the scenes of the sports industry. Lynch has sparked a wave of radicalism throughout the NFL that, in turn, gives wider publicity to issues black Americans face every day. Lynch has become more than just a legend of the game, he stands as a role model for non-conformity, and this film tracks that journey, showcasing it as even more remarkable than his sporting triumphs.

Trailer for Lynch: A History