Lynch careens off the high road
Of all the scrapes Marshawn Lynch has had with the law, the most bizarre is an incident for which he was not arrested. It occurred on Dec. 7, 2009, in a restaurant outside Buffalo, where the running back was winding down his Pro Bowl season with the Bills.
A woman at the cash register was settling her tab with a $20 bill. According to the Buffalo News, Lynch snatched the $20 from her hand. That’s right – I told you this was bizarre – he stole $20 from a stranger in a restaurant.
The woman returned to her table to tell her friend about what had just happened, and the friend, also a woman, confronted Lynch. He didn’t deny stealing the money. He didn’t make up some yarn about a misunderstanding.
He said: “Do you know who I am?”
If the friends were insistent on pressing the issue, Lynch added, “there’s going to be consequences.”
A complaint was filed the next day, and charges were pressed a few months later, after Lynch had left Buffalo for the offseason. He avoided prosecution, but I don’t doubt the Buffalo News’ story, nor the account of the victim, who was married to a Buffalo policeman.
I was reminded of that strange encounter after learning some details of Lynch’s arrest early Saturday for suspicion of driving under the influence. According to the California Highway Patrol officer who made the 3:20 a.m. arrest, Lynch’s 2012 Ford van was pulled over because it was observed weaving from lane to lane, nearly causing two collisions.
Lynch cooperated with the officer, and because he hasn’t been charged yet, it’s possible a DUI rap won’t be added to a record that includes leaving the scene of an accident (his car once nicked a pedestrian outside a Buffalo bar ) and a misdemeanor weapons charge in California.
Still, an officer saw Lynch as a menace – can we agree that nearly causing two accidents on a highway at 3:20 a.m. qualifies for the definition of “menace” – and you wonder: What in the blazes was he thinking?
I get the sense he thought it was right to drive as recklessly as he wanted because he was Marshawn Lynch, a star running back for the Seattle Seahawks.
In Lynch’s jaded world, if you’re rich and famous and talented, you can do whatever you want. You can weave from lane to lane at 3:20 in the morning. You can drive away after your car clips a pedestrian. You can pack a gun in a vehicle.
Heck, you can even nab a $20 bill from the hand of an unsuspecting restaurant patron. You’re Marshawn Lynch, and if anybody takes you to task for acting like a first-class creep, you snap back with a question:
“Do you know who I am?”
Since the Seahawks acquired him from the Bills in a trade made midway through the 2010 season, Lynch had been on his best behavior. Granted, the behavior bar wasn’t set especially high, but at least he managed to avoid legal troubles after getting a chance to salvage his career in Seattle.
Lynch appeared to be a low-risk, high-payoff gamble in 2010, and the gamble turned out better than anybody expected. Seahawks fans embraced the battering-ram back who runs in a self-described “Beast Mode” style, choosing to believe Lynch’s off-field problems in Buffalo could be washed away by the daily drizzle that awaited him in the Pacific Northwest.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks organization – from owner Paul Allen on down – concluded that Lynch was more than an old-school power runner in a league that has turned pass crazy. He’d be the rock upon which Pete Carroll’s defiantly unconventional offense shall be built. The designation never was official, but when Lynch agreed to a $32 million contract during the offseason, with more than half of that guaranteed, he became the franchise’s face, the franchise’s heart, the franchise’s soul.
The first player seen wearing the new Seahawks jersey on the wall outside the northwest entrance to Century-Link Field? Marshawn Lynch. He adorns the billboard-sized poster posing in full Beast Mode. As a franchise rock, Lynch looks more appealing in a blue football uniform than he might in orange coveralls.
But scotched marketing opportunities are the least of the organization’s concerns right now. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t much enjoyed the summer – every morning seems to bring news of another NFL player’s arrest – and his tolerance for miscreants long ago reached zero.
Whether Lynch is charged with a DUI doesn’t matter. The reckless driving that almost caused two accidents on a highway last weekend will prevent Lynch from participating in the season opener, and given his already substantial police record, it’s likely he’ll be forced to sit out a minimum of three games.
And if the DUI charge is tagged on? The penalty will be doubled.
In hindsight, it was absurd for the Seahawks to guarantee $18 million to a 26-year-old athlete with a checkered history. But hindsight shouldn’t be used cavalierly. Lynch arrived in Seattle and personified the identity of a team that didn’t have one. The Seahawks saw him as the ultimate franchise player, and can you blame them?
Thing is, Lynch also saw himself as the ultimate franchise player. After signing a contract that made him lucky for life, he inhabited a poster that depicted him as larger than life.
Life was good, so good he assumed he was entitled to make his own rules. My way or the highway? No, not exactly. For Lynch, it was more like “my way on the highway, so get out of the way, you useless fool, because my destination is more important than yours.”
Marshawn Lynch isn’t known for his eloquent musings, but on the night he stole $20 from a woman in a restaurant, he said something that made him sound profound.
There will be consequences.