Van Pelt works to get words from Marshawn

© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

Scott Van Pelt, an expert at asking questions, was matched up against Marshawn Lynch, an expert at what he does, which is avoiding questions.

This was Monday Night/Tuesday morning on ESPN's SportsCenter, and, Lynch, a.k.a. “Beast Mode” for the way he ran with a football, the kid from Oakland Tech and Cal who just turned 34, deserves some credit for sitting uncomfortably in his car and connecting via Zoom.

Van Pelt, knowing the reputation of his subject, also deserves some credit for sitting uncomfortably in a studio and using flattery and code words to extend a conversation that was — phew — fascinating rather than enlightening.

“Well, it’s almost on that ‘expect the unexpected,’“ Lynch told Van Pelt. “But just as far as right now, I’m keeping it solid. My agent (Doug Hendrickson) has been in talks with Seattle. So like I said, we’ll see what happens.”

Sometimes we forget who Marshawn Lynch is, a one-time kid from the mean streets raised by a single mother. He never forgets.

Marshawn and his cousins, Marcus Peters and Josh Johnson, both also in the NFL, founded the Oakland-based Fam 1st Family Foundation. This past week, Lynch drove around the area and, concerned with spread of the coronavirus, passed out “Beast Mode” masks.

This hardly seems like the guy who, during media sessions before Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015, repeated ad nauseum, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” — and then a few months later had the phrase copyrighted. As if anyone else will use it.

What Van Pelt used to keep things going before Lynch was ready to go — literally, since he was in a vehicle — was a blend of sweet talk and advice.

“You have the ability to spread joy,” Van Pelt told Lynch. “You put a smile on people’s faces.”

Excluding, certainly, sporting journalists waiting for a few kind words — or even unkind words.

In a way, short of turning the ignition key, he was trapped.

“Some people are scared,” said Lynch, alluding to neighborhood reactions to the virus. “I see a lot of extremes. Some take precautions and aren’t going outside. Others move around without taking precautions. If you want to put yourself at risk, it’s up to you.”

There were a lot of beeps during Lynch’s response, as obscene comments were deleted, the interview having been done a short time earlier.

“I have to watch my mouth,” Lynch said apologetically. Van Pelt symbolically shrugged.

What had gone on “The Last Dance,” said Van Pelt, may have set a new broadcast standard. That was true locker-room talk. These comments were almost incidental, genuine, perhaps.

“After Jordan,” said Van Pelt, “you basically say anything you want.”

Lynch was with the Seahawks from 2010 through 2015, and with the aggressive nobody-alive-can-stop-me style that gained the nickname, helped Seattle twice reach the Super Bowl.

The first was a win. The second was not, because on the goal line instead of giving the ball to Marshawn, Seattle threw a pass that was intercepted.

Weeks later, in Turkey on an NFL promotional trip, Lynch told other players and Turkish TV, “To be honest, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I was expecting the ball. But in life, these things happen.”

What happened the other night was Scott Van Pelt got more than he or the audience expected. Marshawn, fortunately, wasn’t only there to keep from getting fined.