Green: It's not a Super Bowl without a bad guy

Jerry Green
Special to The Detroit News

Phoenix — Every Super Bowl needs a villain.

This year, it's Marshawn Lynch, the self-gagged power running back for the Seahawks. The guy who has been fined for not addressing the press. The guy who was fined $20,000 for grabbing his crotch in the end zone after scoring in the NFC Championship.

Tuesday during Media Day, Lynch marched toward his assigned podium, led by several security guards, through the mob of 400 or so journalists

The fact Lynch showed up was a positive gain for the NFL, which runs these events on a stopwatch.

He climbed up the steps. He appeared very affable. Not offensive at all.

Then he leaned toward the microphone and spoke ...

"I'm here so I don't get fined," he said. He answered more questions the same way.

Then he left.

That was it.

In less than five minutes, Lynch's required appearance was over. Seven muttered words repeated, and he vanished.

Down the steps, guided by a security guy out a players' exit.

And into a locker room or perhaps out into the street or a bus or someplace.

And believe it or not, it was the best Super Bowl scene of the previous dozen or so Media Days.

A true villain behaving at his villainous best.

Villains galore

Of course, this Super Bowl is top-heavy with stories about villains.

Lingering for 10 days or so has been the overblown — and never proven — story about the Patriots deflating their AFC Championship game footballs. It was fueled by Bill Belichick's reputation and long-ago fine for spying on an opponent.

Old quarterbacks — without any positive knowledge and perhaps envy — accused Tom Brady of being a liar.

And then there's Pete Carroll, the Seahawks coach who was caught in a scandal that cost USC a national championship when he was at the college.

But villains at the Super Bowl are nothing new.

Chiefs defensive back Fred Williamson bragged incessantly and threatened the Packers.

Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson took over the role when he said Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw lacked the smarts to "spell CAT without the C and the A."

And Bears quarterback Jim McMahon was front and center because he mocked then-commissioner Pete Rozelle and also mooned a TV helicopter that hovered over practice in New Orleans.

Thomas was tops

But they weren't my favorite.

That tag belongs to Cowboys running back Duane Thomas, known as "Othello the Regal" in the Super Bowl's infancy.

Media Day was quite informal before 1971. That's when Thomas sat on the outfield grass at the Yankees spring training home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. A few of us sat around him.

"My philosophy is not to be excited," Thomas said, definitely not excited by the scene. "How happy can I get? It's unlimited. Everything's unlimited."

But what about playing in the ultimate football game?

"To me, nobody reaches the ultimate," Thomas said. "And if the Super Bowl was the ultimate, it wouldn't happen again next year."

It did. And one of the top stories of the 1971 season was Thomas' silence. His only comments during camp were about Tom Landry, his coach, and Tex Schramm, then the team's president.

Landry was "a plastic man, no man at all." Schramm was "sick, demented and dishonest."

And with that, the Cowboys sent Thomas to the Patriots, who then kicked him off the team and exiled back to the Cowboys.

He had an excellent year, and the Cowboys returned to the Super Bowl. And when Media Day arrived, Thomas sat on a splintery bench — and said nothing when asked several questions.

He would end up playing a fine game as the Cowboys defeated the Dolphins.

And after he entered the locker room, former NFL great-turned TV broadcaster Tom Brookshier asked Thomas for a postgame interview.

Thomas agreed.

"You have a lot of speed for a big man," Brookshier gushed.

"Evidently," Thomas said.

And the interview was over.

Lynch could not have said it better.

Retired Detroit News sports writer Jerry Green has covered every Super Bowl since its inception.