July 22, 2015

Your 2015 Seattle Seahawks Jersey Buying Guide

With another Seahawks Training Camp looming, it's once again time for that annual DKSB tradition: The Jersey-Buying Guide. First, the usual general information and admonitions: 

As usual, let's start with the 1st Commandment of jersey ownership: NEVER PUT YOUR JERSEY IN THE DRYER! Dryers kill jerseys! Don't do it under any circumstances. If you abide by this decree your jersey(s) should hold up for a nice, long spell. If possible, wash them on the delicate cycle in cold water by themselves.

For the purposes of this article, I'm setting aside throwbacks, personalized jerseys and #12 jerseys (though I've changed my tune on the #12's over the years. I used to be dead-set against them, but given how precarious roster spots are under PCJS's rule, I can't blame a fan for playing it safe with such a substantial investment). I also feel strongly that there's no compelling reason to opt for the more opulent Nike models. The $100 replicas are plenty expensive enough, and will look sharp for years with proper care. If you are lucky enough to fit into a "youth" size, those are only about $70 (and I found out that Youth XL = Women's L, and that saved me $30). 

There's good news and bad news for those in the market for a new jersey this season. On one hand, you can get just about any jersey you can imagine or desire over at the NFL Shop site. However, the terrifying reality is that the Seahawks have THIRTY-THREE players slated for free agency after this season (Holy shit!). Like many of you, I've felt the sting of buying a jersey just to see that player leave Seattle a year (or less) later. My hope is that with this guide, I'll help you get a jersey that A) will be a good investment for years to come and B) will make you stand out from the crowd a bit. 

In general, I'd say stay away from players slated to be free agents in 2016 (see link above). This is a group that includes Bruce Irvin, Russell Okung, Brandon Mebane, Jermaine Kearse, Derrick Coleman, Jon Ryan, and many others. Given his threats of a training camp holdout, it's probably a good idea to stay away from a Michael Bennett jersey. I'd be hesitant to buy the jerseys of guys coming off serious injuries like Jeremy Lane and Paul Richardson, too. Rookies? I know that Marcus Mariota jerseys are flying off the shelves, but it's hard for me to get behind the idea of dropping a Benjamin on a Tyler Lockett or Frank Clark jersey. 

Bobby Wagner is set for free agency after this season, but the Seahawks seem pretty dead-set on retaining the Pro Bowl Linebacker. I think he's a safe investment. Then there's Russell Wilson. Ugh. 

I own a Wilson jersey, and he's my favorite player. So I'll grant that I'm not entirely unbiased here. Despite all the strum und drang, I have a hard time picturing him ever playing an NFL game in anything other than a Seahawks uniform. But here we are, on the eve of training camp without Wilson locked down for the next half-decade or so. I still think a deal will get done, but it might not be until after this season. That small but persistent uncertainty over his long-term future in Seattle makes it hard for me to unreservedly recommend his jersey this season. I'd put Wagner and Wilson at the bottom of my Top 10 Best Jersey Investments For 2015. Here's the top eight: 

8. Steven Hauschka
You read that right. I'm one of many Twelves who snapped up a jersey of The Traitor Josh Brown after the 2006 season, only to see him bolt for St. Louis in free agency. I've said before that I'd never buy another kicker's jersey. However, Haus is a much better placekicker than Brown ever was (despite The Traitor's flair for the dramatic). Hauschka has evolved into one of the NFL's most reliable kickers, and he's now under contract through the 2016 season. I also think I look better in single-digit jerseys, so Haus gets extra points thanks to that weird personal quirk. 

7. K.J. Wright
Itching to buy a defensive players' jersey, but outside the Legion of Boom? With Wagner's contract status unsettled, K.J. Wright is your best bet. Not only is he a key contributor who got named to NFL.Com's "All-Underrated" team- He's also under team control through the 2018 season. 

6. Doug Baldwin
Still one of my favorite Seahawks (though his style seems to be wearing thin with some Twelves), and still the best wide receiver on the roster, 2014 was the most productive season of the former undrafted free agent's career. He's under contract through 2016, and should have another big year with Jimmy Graham drawing defenders away from him. 

5. Jimmy Graham
I've been scorched over and over when I've bought the jersey of a big-name acquisition before they'd even played a down for Seattle (Deion Branch? Ugh), but Graham seems like the safest bet ever if you want to buy an incoming player's jersey. Simply put, Graham is one of the most reliable and dangerous offensive players in football, and probably a safe bet for a dozen (or more) touchdowns. He's under contract through 2017, and everyone looks cool wearing number 88. 

4. Marshawn Lynch
Year after year, I've discouraged people from buying Beast Mode jerseys. His long-term presence in Seattle always seemed precarious, and it might still be- But let's be honest: Lynch is the best running back in Seahawks' history, and at the moment it's hard to argue against him as the best back in the entire NFL today. He's reached legendary status among Twelves, and now it's reasonable to snag his jersey not just for now, but to hold onto after he retires for his inevitable Ring of Honor ceremony. Side note: I say it's better than even odds that we'll see some sort of Fury Road-themed end zone celebration from Shawn this season. WITNESS! MARSHAWN IS AWAITED IN VALHALLA! 

3. Kam Chancellor
2. Richard Sherman
1. Earl Thomas III 
It's a virtual tie among the Hall-of-Fame-bound triumvirate that anchors the Legion of Boom, and in a larger sense the best defense in the NFL. Sherm and ETIII get a slight nod over Bam Bam Kam because they are under team control for an additional year (free agency in 2019 v 2018 for Chancellor). Thomas edges Sherman for the top spot simply because I think he's SLIGHTLY more important to Seattle's defensive dominance. If I am fortunate enough to snag a new jersey this summer, I'm probably going with the former Longhorn Thomas. 

What do you think, sirs? Did I leave anyone or anything out? Let me know in the comments!  

May 4, 2015

12 For Life/Columbus Til I Die

This Saturday, the Seattle Sounders will visit Ohio to battle Columbus Crew SC. I'm sure the vast majority of my readers will be rooting for the Rave Green. I'll be at the match, clad in Black and Gold (I know... Steelers colors! Horror!) and pulling for the Crew. Every year, when this match approaches, I get bombarded with variations on a single question: Why aren't you a Sounders supporter? I aim to answer that here, as well as dig a bit into the psychology of how fandom grows, puts down roots, and sometimes even dies. 

I've written extensively about the roots of my Seahawks fandom before. The short version? I grew up in Eastern Washington, which was a hotbed of Twelvedom in the early 80s. I was a weird, bookish, sensitive kid, so when I expressed an interest in something "normal" like football, my family aggressively cultivated it. The magical 1983 season, which included my first trip to a Seahawks game at the Kingdome, hooked me for good. Watching the Hawks became a family activity in my house, and a lifelong attachment was born. 

That attachment survived The Forgotten Years of the 1990s for a complex melange of reasons. Even though the Seahawks veered between being god awful and merely mediocre, they were one of the few positive things I shared with my estranged father. From 1993 to 1999, I was in Bellingham getting my B.A. and then my M.A. at Western. I had such a blast during those years that a pile of Seahawks losses taller than Sehome Hill didn't sting quite as much as it would have otherwise. I also was then, as I am now, a contrarian at heart. As everyone around me donned Ken Griffey Jr. and Shawn Kemp jerseys in the mid-90s, I defiantly strode around campus in my Joey Galloway jersey, feeling like the only Twelve in Bellingham. I threw myself into the campaign to get funding for Seahawks Stadium approved, and when new owner Paul Allen started selling $10 tickets, I snapped up a pair of Season Tickets in the top row of the Kingdome South End Zone for $200 (tickets which I still have today, thanks to parental subsidies... though now they are $50 apiece/$1000 for the pair). 

In 1999 I moved to Columbus for graduate school, and my Seahawks fandom became even more central to my identity. I was the first and only Twelve most Ohioans had ever met, and even though I'd have some awkward moments, I LOVED being an ambassador for the 12 Army in the Wilderness of Central Ohio. It made me feel special, but more importantly, as the years passed and my roots in Columbus deepened, 12ing represented the cultivation and renewal of my connection to my home state of Washington. Every time I would come home and go to a game, and join 66,000 other Twelves in collective hysteria, I felt reborn. After drifting away from shore, it was like the tide created by that massive Blue Wave brought me home. 

But Columbus IS home for me now. I fought that idea for a long time, but since I met my partner and started my transition a few years ago here in the Arch City, I've accepted that barring some crazy unforeseen circumstance, I'm not going to move back to Washington State (though... Damn... I really miss Bellingham). Columbus is actually a pretty spectacular place to live. It's got a high quality of life, a relatively low cost of living, and it's one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the Midwest. As I dug myself a happy little rut in Ohio's Capital, I realized that I needed sports teams to root for. 

The Buckeyes? Umm... No. Not only did I not particularly like college football, but I found the culture surrounding Ohio State Football to be both oppressive and a bit frightening. That left the NHL's Blue Jackets and Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew. I embraced the Jackets first, because I grew up rooting for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, and I didn't have an existing NHL allegiance to betray (Nope, I never became a Canucks fan back in the old days). My support for the Crew came later, and only after a long evolution of my feelings about soccer as a sport. 20 years ago, I though soccer was a boring, foreign waste of time (Halfback passes back to center... Center holds it... holds it... HOLDS IT!). 

Gradually, I started paying more attention to the World Cup every four years, and I'd catch the occasional Crew match (usually on Buck-a-Brat nights). In 2011, I went to my first Crew match in years with my partner and we had a rollicking good time. My deepening commitment to Columbus, combined with my rising interest in the world's most popular sport, as well as a shared experience with the woman I loved, ignited and fueled my Crew fandom. The Sounders? Bad timing, guys. Y'all didn't join MLS until 2008- Years after I moved away, but before soccer became my 2nd favorite sport after football. Plus, it irks me to no end when you call 40,000 people in a stadium that holds 67,000 a "sellout." The team I root for that plays in that stadium has sold EVERY seat in the place for EVERY game since September of 2003. Yeah, I respect Sounders supporters- Seattle fans are pretty consistently RABID when given any sort of Championship hopes- But you guys are always forgetting that Columbus is the capital of American soccer. I know a TON of Sounders supporters, so this Saturday's match is a particularly big deal to me. 

My Seahawks fandom is evergreen, but the Crew and Jackets serve two really important needs for me: They scratch my sports-fanaticism itch when the Hawks aren't playing, and they give me something that connects me to my new home without forcing me to root for Ohio State. I've explained how my sports fandom has grown and evolved... But how does it die? And why? 

From 1986 to 2014, I was a huge Boston Red Sox fan. I even wrote a piece about my Sox fandom a few years back for Field Gulls. I was devastated by Bill Buckner's gaffe and Aaron Boone's homer, and elated by hard-won championships in 2004, 2007 and 2013. Today, my allegiance to the Red Sox is on indefinite hiatus. Why? One reason is my waning interest in baseball as a sport. Rooting for the Crew only demands two hours of my time a week. The Seahawks? 3 or 4. A baseball team? 3-4 hours a day, 5-6 days a week. Just thinking about that has become exhausting for me. 

The bigger reason? I find the idea of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a LOT of the same people who celebrated one of the most painful moments of my life NAUSEATING. I just can't stomach stuff like Tom Brady throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park right now... And I'm not sure if or when I'll feel good about rooting for a team from Boston again. I have deep emotional connections to the Pacific Northwest and Central Ohio that fuel my fire for those teams. For Boston teams? None of that for a city I've only visited twice in my life (though Massachusetts' Capital is indeed a lovely place to visit). 

So fandom can die. Could anything kill my Seahawks fandom? If they ever moved away from Seattle, that would do it (Sidebar: If Ken Behring had succeeded in moving the team to L.A. in the mid-90s, I was all set to become a fan of the... Ugh... New England Patriots. I loved Drew Bledsoe, and I was already a Red Sox fan, so it made sense at the time). A long stretch of subpar play couldn't do the trick... What if the Seahawks started employing a gaggle of reprobates? I have to admit I find our drafting of Frank Clark distasteful (I'm not going to run out and buy the jersey of a suspected domestic abuser, that's for sure), but it's not nearly enough to eat away at my bond to the franchise. At the moment, I'm just hoping that John Schneider is right about him, and that he stays out of trouble from this point on. 

What about everyone else? Do you just root for Seattle-area teams (or, all the local teams from where-ever you are)? If you don't, how did you get attached to teams you aren't geographically connected to? Let's hash it out in the comments! 

(Almost forgot... GLORY TO COLUMBUS!)

April 30, 2015

Almost Hawks: Brett Favre, Steve Young, Drew Bledsoe and the NFL Draft Crapshoot

It's widely expected that Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston and Oregon Quarterback Marcus Mariota will go #1 and #2 in the first round of tonight's NFL Draft. If history is any indication, one of them will be a hugely successful NFL QB (A Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb or Andrew Luck), and the other will be a spectacular failure (A Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, or Robert Griffin III). In 1993 the Seahawks and Patriots held the top 2 picks in the draft, and both were in desperate need of a franchise quarterback. The Patriots would land a signal-caller who would only be surpassed in New England football annals by Tom Brady. The Hawks? The TL;DR version is that they drew the short straw. But you came here for the long version, didn't you?

The 1992 Seahawks were one of the worst teams to ever see a gridiron. There were bright spots in 1000-yard rusher Chris Warren, a surprisingly stout defense, and in the dominant performance of NFL Defensive Player of the Year Cortez Kennedy- But no team in the 16-game schedule era scored as few points as the '92 Hawks. Before the 1992 season, long-time Head Coach Chuck Knox was jettisoned because he refused to bench the still-serviceable Dave Krieg (this followed Knox being overruled in the Seattle War Room on Draft Day 1991: He wanted the Hawks to draft Brett Favre and groom him to take over for Krieg. The team went with noted Ent Dan McGwire instead). Hated ex-Raiders Coach Tom Flores took over, and a Cerberus of incompetent quarterbacking (McGwire, Kelly Stouffer, and Stan Gelbaugh) combined for this stat-line in 1992:

2323 yards, 9 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 48.3 pass completion rate, and a 48.9 passer rating.

Only two years after spending a first-rounder on McGwire (while Favre was getting started on a Hall-of-Fame career in Green Bay), Seattle's most pressing need was at QB. Thanks to their putrid 2-14 campaign in '92, the Hawks held the 2nd pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. They picked after New England thanks to a 10-6 win over the Patriots in September of 1992, and that result would have massive consequences for both teams.

Washington State's Drew Bledsoe was touted as possibly the next Dan Marino. The kid out of Walla Walla (I grew up in the Tri-Cities, and I remember watching Bledsoe absolutely torch my Richland Bombers while I was a freshman at RHS in 1989) had three explosive seasons in the Palouse before declaring himself eligible for the '93 draft. Like most Twelves, I hoped that the homegrown Bledsoe would end up setting records in the Kingdome,

Notre Dame's Rick Mirer wore Joe Montana's #3 for the Fighting Irish, and Mirer was compared to the SF Hall-of-Famer ad nauseam leading up to the draft. Like Montana, Mirer was a mobile QB who was effective with his legs as well as his arm. In fact, San Francisco was so enamored with Mirer that they wanted to trade Steve Young to the Seahawks for the #2 pick in the 1993 draft. The Niners' plan was to keep Montana to groom Mirer, but Montana was already dead-set on moving on from San Francisco after perceived slights from the front office during the 1992 season- So Young stayed in the Bay Area, Montana was traded to Kansas City, and the Seahawks kept that draft pick.

New England took Bledsoe #1, and Seattle snapped up Mirer with the subsequent pick. I remember quickly moving from disappointment to optimism- Sure, it would have been nice to see Bledsoe in Seahawks blue, but Mirer was going to be just a great... Maybe even better, right?

Early on, it looked like Seattle might have snagged the better quarterback. In a week 3 contest at Foxboro, Mirer outplayed Bledsoe and the Hawks ground out a 17-14 win. In late October the teams would play again at the Kingdome, but Bledsoe would miss the rematch with an injury. The Seahawks trailed 9-3 late in the 4th quarter, but Mirer led the Hawks to the winning TD with only seconds left. The dramatic win got Seattle to 4-3, already doubling their win total from the previous season. The Patriots fell to 1-6, and the whispers they might have taken the wrong quarterback began.

The Hawks would crater with a 2-7 stretch to finish 1993 at 6-10, but Mirer would be named AP AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year. 1993 would end up as his Seattle peak. He never built upon the potential he flashed in his rookie season, but the Hawks would somehow convince the Bears to give up a 1st-round pick for him in February 1997 (allowing Seattle to take both Shawn Springs and Walter Jones in the 1997 Draft).

By 1996, Bledsoe was established as an elite NFL quarterback. He'd lead the Patriots to Super Bowl XXXI and go on to set franchise passing records that would stand until Tom Brady rolled into town.

It's bracing to reflect on how close we came to seeing Brett Favre, Steve Young or Drew Bledsoe in a Seahawks uniform. How different is franchise history if Knox won the War Room argument? If Montana stayed in SF? If we had lost at Foxboro in '92?

Since we're already speculating wildly: Who's more likely to become a Bledsoe or a Mirer? Mariota or Winston? Will a blockbuster trade like the one we didn't see in '93 go down tonight?

What do you think, sirs?

April 23, 2015

OFF TOPIC: Interview with Vox

I participated in an "oral history" piece about transgender folks over on Vox. Read it all, but the "Ramona P." stuff is me.

Check it out here and here, and let me know what you think.

April 22, 2015

The Seahawks All-Time/All-Drafted Team (2015)

I'll be blunt and admit that I know next to nothing about who the Seahawks should draft next week. If you're itching for actual knowledge and insight about that, you should amble over to Seahawks Draft Blog for a bit before coming back over here... I don't really pay any significant attention to college football, and my preferences have been proven dead wrong WAY too many times in the past for me to trust my own prospective judgments about the NFL draft. I've been ecstatic about us drafting duds like Aaron Curry, a bit puzzled by picks like Russell Wilson, and disappointed by our selection of future Hall-of-Famers like Earl Thomas. Like the Sea Captain on The Simpsons, sometimes I am just left muttering "Yarr... I don't know what I'm doing." 

Thankfully, judging the performance of our front office in the draft retrospectively is much easier. A few years back I posted an "All-Time/All-Drafted" Seahawks team. Six years later, a reboot is LONG past due... First, the rules: 

A) players must have been drafted by the Seahawks (no undrafted players like Doug Baldwin or Dave Krieg)

B) players must have made a significant contribution with Seattle (no Ahman Greens, for example).

Quarterback: Russell Wilson
You know who was the best quarterback drafted by the Seahawks before 2012? Seneca Wallace. Jim Zorn, Dave Krieg and Matt Hasselbeck were all acquired via means other than the draft. Yes, Wilson has only been the league for 3 years, but he's already not just the best quarterback the Seahawks have ever drafted- He's the best QB we've ever had, period. Easiest decision on this list. 

Running Back: Shaun Alexander; Fullback: John L. Williams
Curt Warner and Chris Warren had stellar runs in Seattle, but no other RB the Hawks have ever drafted comes close 2005 NFL MVP Alexander's resume. He's the all-time franchise leader in rushing yards and touchdowns scored and is a sure bet for a spot in the Seahawks Ring of Honor. 1986 first-round pick John L. Williams deserves a to have his name splayed across the Seahawks Stadium upper deck, too. Only Steve Largent and Brian Blades caught more passes for Seattle than the multi-talented fullback, and Williams stacked up nearly 8700 total yards from scrimmage as the Ground Chuck Era bled into The Forgotten Years. 

Wide Receivers: Brian Blades and Darrell Jackson
While it was tempting to try to slip Joey Galloway or Golden Tate into one of these slots, Blades and Jackson hold the #2 and #3 spots on the franchise's all-time receiving leaderboard. For all the grief D-Jack got over his bouts of the dropsies, only Largent has caught more TDs for Seattle than Jackson. He's still probably the best player in franchise history to never play in a Pro Bowl.  

Offensive Line: Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy, Russell Okung
Jones and Hutchinson are the only offensive linemen in Seahawks history to be named All-Pro multiple times, so they were the easy picks here for one side of the line. I give Unger the nod over Kevin Mawai because the vast majority (and all of the Pro Bowls) of Mawai's storied career happened after he left Seattle. Sweezy gets the guard spot across from Hutch over Pete Kendall, and I cheated a little bit by sliding Okung over to right tackle opposite Big Walt. 

Tight End: John Carlson
How bad were the Seahawks back in 2008 and 2009? Carlson was the team MVP both seasons. When you look at how slim the pickings were at tight end through our team's history, current Cardinal Carlson is still the obvious choice. 

Defensive line: Jacob Green, Cortez Kennedy, Brandon Mebane, Michael Sinclair
Cantonite Tez anchors this formidable theoretical d-line, and end rushers Green and Sinclair combined for a whopping 171 sacks wearing blue and green. Bane gets the other tackle spot, nudging aside Red Bryant and Rocky Bernard.

Linebackers: Bobby Wagner, Lofa Tatupu, K.J. Wright 
Wags and Wright are the cornerstones of the current Seattle linebacking corps, while Tatupu anchored the middle of Seahawks' defense through the playoff runs of the late-Holmgren era.

Defensive Backs: Richard Sherman, Kenny Easley, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor
Yes, I know I have three safeties and just one corner here. But would you rather have Shawn Springs/Marcus Trufant on the field over ANY one of Easley/ET/Bam-Bam Kam? Let them murder the enemy WRs and Sherm can cover whomever happens to survive.

The Traitor Josh Brown is still the best placekicker the Seahawks have ever drafted, and Ruben Rodriguez gets punting duties basically by default. Charlie Rogers and Bobbie Joe Edmonds were the most versatile/effective kick/punt returners Seattle's ever seen, and Fredd Young had absolute murder in his heart covering kicks for the Hawks in the mid-80s.

What do you think, sirs? Any glaring omissions? Let's hash it out in the comments!