Posted by: cousindampier | 4 February 2014

The Seahawks

Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Everything is brighter.

When the Seahawks played the Steelers in 2006, I had the flu. I was so drugged up, I don’t remember halftime nor most of the third quarter. I lay in bed, drifting in and out, and my roommate Chris occasionally awoke me when something important happened.  Given that a referee later wrote an apology letter about his performance, I’m a little glad I was so messed up.  

I always say I am from a city near Seattle. Both of my classes know this, and I had students in each ask me, with bright smiles on their faces, if I enjoyed the Super Bowl (they’re all going to get A’s). And the answer, in so many words, is absolutely.

I both enjoyed and was terrified for every minute of the game. That Defense! Oh, that Defense.  It was beautiful to watch, and Russell Wilson was beautiful to watch as he connected on passes at will.  But Seattle does not win, and so after every touchdown I waited for the flag. I waited for the inevitable Broncos run. At halftime, I waited for the comeback, because in that same room where I drifted in and out to the Seahawks losing to the Steelers, I watched UCLA come back from 13 down and destroy Gonzaga a few months later.

When Percy Harvin ran the second-half kickoff back, I accepted that the Seahawks were in control, but it wasn’t until Russell Wilson seemed to hit Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin with every pass that I started to smile. And it wasn’t until the walk home, at 10:30 in the morning through temperatures below zero in Fahrenheit and in real person temperatures, way too cold, that I laughed.

For the longest time, Seattle sports was in the role of the scrappy, fighting team, teams which I cheered for and fell in love with and never truly expected to win anything. They were teams which caused great upsets, teams which emerged as solid, but unspectacular division winners, and teams which would quickly return to mediocre irrelevance.

So the Super Bowl was watched with excitement – I’ve never loved a group of men as much as I do the Seahawks Defense – as well as dreaded anticipation.

Good things don’t happen to Seattle sports teams.

Every city with a professional team has a myth and a story behind it. With Cleveland, it is tortured frustration. With New York, it is the expectation and tradition of victory. In Seattle, that story has always been mediocrity. Rarely on top, often on bottom, always in the middle. The highlight of the past two decades was 1995-96, when the Mariners overachieved before losing to the Indians in the American League Championship Series, and the Sonics made the NBA finals, before losing to the 72-10 Chicago Bulls.

This was the highlight.

In 2006, The Seahawks lost to the Steelers. The Mariners entered a third year of rebuilding, and the 116-win team seemed decades ago. The Sonics drafted Muhammed Sene, capping a three year run of atrocious draft picks which helped ruin the franchise.

2007 saw a solid-but-unspectacular Seahawks team get pounded by the Packers in the playoffs. The Mariners raised hopes by winning 88 games (somehow this happened). And the Sonics drafted Kevin Durant. And yet all 2007 did was raise hopes.

And then rock bottom hit.

In 2008, the Seahawks finished with four wins and 12 losses. The Mariners finished 61 and 101. And the Sonics moved.

Being a fan of Seattle sports was hard. The Sonics move was devastating. I found myself rooting for the Washington Wizards.  When, as an adult, you find yourself choosing the Wizards as a favorite basketball team, you should seek mental help.  

The next four years were Charlie Whitehurst and Tavaris Jackson (now Super-Bowl WINNING Tavaris Jackson) and Jim Mora. They were Yuniesky Betancourt and Chone Figgins and Carlos Silva and watching Kevin Durant grow into one of the two best basketball players on earth in Oklahoma City.  It was four years knowing that a team in Seattle would be good again, but wondering when that would be.

And then, in 2012, the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson and Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game.

There is no way these two events are related, and yet somehow they are. In 2012, fortune changed, and now, everything has changed.

In one weekend, David Stern – who acquiesced so easily to the Sonics move – retired. Walter Jones was elected to the Football Hall of Fame. Reports say the new NBA commissioner has a priority on restoring a franchise to Seattle.

And the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.

Seattle is a winner, and it is the strangest thing to say because it is Seattle and this doesn’t happen.

***

I don’t really know why I – or anyone – cares for sports teams. I know I’m rooting for laundry. I know players leave for more money and teams move on when its convenient and what matters is my buy-in to the product.

I know this is true, and yet who cares? Because when something like the Seahawks run to the Super Bowl happens, it means an astonishing amount to the community. People are friendlier towards each other. 747’s aren’t sent on a programmed path to form a ‘12’ above the state every weekend.

When George Mason made their run to the final four, I was living in DC. Even there, in a transit city where people come from all over and have their own loyalties, it dominated the news. It beat out the professional teams. The George Mason store was empty – some days quite literally – of stuff to buy. A lot of fans were bandwagon jumpers, but who really cares about that. It brought a community closer together, gave people something to talk about, made people excited and passionate.

When the US Men’s National Team played Algeria in the World Cup and the game was tied going into the final minutes and Landon Donovan scored that goal – that epic goalJon Stewart did a whole segment about how insane the country went (and John Oliver referred to the US as a third world nation). People went crazy in bars. I was working and we had it on over the speakers, and some customers hung out just to listen. And we all were jumping around when he scored. For a brief moment in time, we cared about soccer.

One of the ironies of American sports is this: The most famous moment so far is a hockey game. The Miracle on Ice game was the most insane sports moment in American history, and funny in a way, because football, baseball, and basketball are more popular. Hockey is not anywhere near the most popular American sport, yet it is the most iconic game.

The only moment which may knock the Miracle on Ice off the throne? If the Men’s National Team wins the World Cup. Only soccer and hockey can have the two biggest moments, because only soccer and hockey pit country versus country. One game happened – and someday one game might – in which most every sports fan in the US is on the edge of their seat, cheering for the same team.

***
I was listening to the Grantland NFL podcast today, and the two guys were discussing the moment both felt Denver was in trouble. One guy said the Kam Chancellor hit (Kam Chancellor is a terrifying human being). One guy said the Percy Harvin runback at the start of the third quarter.

I arrived at Julia’s apartment just as the game kicked off – 5:30 am in Almaty – so I missed the pre-game activities. Julia and Phil were already there, and Jon would join later.  It was fun to watch with people, and I was hanging out as much as watching. In re-watching the game today, that moment was the coin toss, because when Seattle won the toss, the stadium got loud. Crazily loud, more so than I remember Super Bowls in the past. Maybe I cared enough to listen to the crowd in this, but it felt like Seattle had travelled well.

And then the tackle on the kickoff was made by a deaf guy who went undrafted. And then the safety happened. And the Kam Chancellor hit. And even before the interceptions started, that Defense was everywhere. Every Denver player was hit by two guys, with two more on the way. Denver couldn’t get a screen play set up because of that speed. Maybe it was just the perfect matchup for that Defense, but it was everything Seattle fans saw all year, come together in one game and at some point it became an experience just to watch.

So I can’t explain why people care about sports teams, except they do and sometimes nothing needs to be explained because a whole community is behind a group of 53 guys playing a game 3,000 miles away, or sometimes 6,100 miles away, and for a brief moment, for a few months, Seattle and the Seahawks and the Fans – are the best.

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