April 15, 2015

"I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy." (My 2006 Seattle Seahawks Story)


In the spring of 2006, the Seahawks were coming off a harrowing defeat in Super Bowl XL and I was going through some major life changes. My son was born that April, and I was getting ready to leave Columbus for a 1-year teaching gig in rural Ohio. Even though Seattle fell two wins shy of a Super Bowl return trip, the 2006 team is one of my favorite squads the franchise has ever fielded. They are somewhat unfairly remembered as simply capitalizing on one of the most gargantuan mistakes in post-season history- But to me they were absolutely heroic. No team in franchise history delivered as many thrilling finishes as the '06ers, and they came much closer to a 2nd consecutive NFC Championship than most remember. Beyond that, they were one of the few handholds I had for hanging onto some sort of sanity through a sleep-deprived year in the Wilderness of Northeast Ohio. 

The offseason began with the Steve Hutchinson debacle, and when the Vikings' front office expertly outmaneuvered Tim Ruskell, Seattle was left with a gaping hole in their offensive line. The Hawks retaliated against Minnesota by using a similar clause in a contract offer to WR Nate Burleson, but the damage was done. The unit that cleared the way for Shaun Alexander's MVP performance of 2005 was irrevocably weakened. On defense, the major offseason acquisition was former All-Pro linebacker Julian Peterson. Expectations were dizzying as the Hawks started the campaign where the 2005 season died: At Ford Field in Detroit. The game itself was a snoozeworthy 9-6 affair, but it ended with a Josh Brown game-winning field goal as time expired, and I celebrated our 1-0 start with humility and dignity (not really): 


The next week, Seattle would trade their 2007 first-round pick for former Super Bowl MVP wideout Deion Branch (No, PCJS didn't invent the Seattle tradition of trading 1st-rounders for what they hoped were game-changing receivers). They'd grind out a win over Arizona and hang on to beat the Giants after building a 35-3 lead to reach 3-0 going into a Sunday Night Football showdown at Soldier Field against Chicago. The 37-6 carpet-bombing the Seahawks absorbed seemed to confirm that they were no match for the Bears in the race for the NFC crown. The Hawks limped into the bye with a huge test looming in St. Louis against the still detestable Rams. 

That year my son, my ex-wife and I were exiled to a part of Ohio so remote that the nearest Target was a 30-minute drive away. How rustic was the setting? There were parking spaces for Amish horse-drawn buggies at the local Wal-Mart. On top of the standard travails of raising any newborn, my son had a serious medical condition: Hirschsprung Disease. His life was in danger during the first few weeks of his life, but thankfully the doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital were able to figure out what was going on and perform corrective surgery before it was too late. In October, he endured a 2nd procedure, on top of my early efforts to indoctrinate him: 


The mixture of caring for a child with major health issues and having to leave Columbus for a year took a toll on my ex-wife and I. It was also around this time that it was dawning on me that I was transgender, and that I would need to figure out how to address that realization. For me, the three hours I spent watching the Seahawks each week took on an added significance. I would forget everything else swirling around in my life and just lose myself in Twelvedom (though I did it quietly if the baby was sleeping). 

The next in a procession of heart-stopping wins came on the road in St. Louis. The Hawks fought back from a 21-7 halftime deficit to take a late 27-21 lead. After a Mo Morris fumble deep in STL territory, Torry Holt made a ridiculous 80-yard TD catch that looked like the death blow. Down by a point, Matt Hasselbeck coolly marched the Hawks into Rams territory. An illegal procedure flag was misinterpreted by St. Louis Coach Scott Linehan as a foul that included a 10-second, game-ending clock runoff. That jabbering ninny was wrong, and jogged off the field slack-jawed after Josh Brown nailed the 54-yard game winner at the final gun to steal a 30-28 victory. 

The season took a dark turn a week later against Minnesota, though. It was bad enough that the defense utterly collapsed and made Chester Taylor look like some mutant hybrid of Chuck Foreman and Robert Smith. I also had the misfortune of watching the game with one of the most downbeat and negative Twelves I've ever known. When E,J. Henderson dived at Matt Hasselbeck's knees and knocked him out of action for a month, that Eeyore literally said "Oh, well. Season's over." Needless to say, I didn't invite him over again after that. 

The season was far from over. Seneca Wallace managed the Hawks to a 2-2 record as Hasselbeck recuperated, with the most notable moment being a thrilling 24-22 win over the Rams at Seahawks Stadium. Nate Burleson jolted the Seahawks to life with an 90-yard punt return TD in the 4th quarter, but it still took a 2-minute drill led by Wallace to set up ANOTHER Brown game-winner as the clock hit triple-zero. I was there, and yes, I owned a Deion Branch jersey: 


When Hasselbeck returned, he'd lead Seattle to a key MNF win in the Seahawks Stadium snowglobe against Green Bay. A week later on Sunday Night Football in Denver, Josh Brown won his FOURTH game of the season on a kick in final seconds. The Hawks were 8-4 and still had a decent shot at winning the top seed in the NFC. Instead, the tailspin began. They fell to the Matt Leinart-led 3-9 Cardinals. They got blown out at home on Thursday Night Football in a driving rainstorm by the 5-8 49ers. In those two games, the Hawks were favored to win by a combined 14 points. They played so badly that a close loss to playoff-bound San Diego the next week was treated more like a victory (it also helped that Seattle backed into winning the NFC West that day, too). 

Seattle would end the season with a win at Tampa to scratch their way to 9-7, but along the way they absorbed multiple injuries on defense. They would face Bill Parcells and his Dallas Cowboys with a secondary so depleted they were picking guys off the street and telling them to cover Terrell Owens. No one outside the Twelve Army gave the boys in gun-metal blue much of a chance to beat Dallas in the NFC Wild Card Game. 

I was at that game, and I witnessed an instant classic alongside 66,000 of my closest friends. Former loan officer Pete Hunter somehow helped hold T.O. to 2 catches for 26 yards and Seattle trailed by only 7 midway through the 4th quarter. When the Hawks failed on 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line, the guy in front of me moaned that the game was over, and I snapped. I screamed "DAMN IT! It's not over!" Kelly Jennings proved me right on the following play, causing a Terry Glenn fumble that ended up out of the end zone for a safety. With 4 minutes left, Hasselbeck found Jerramy Stevens for the go-ahead score. 

Dallas would race deep into Seattle territory and into position to kick the game-winning field goal. A savvy timeout by Mike Holmgren jolted the replay official into overturning a catch that would have given Dallas a first down and allowed them to run out the clock before trying the winning kick. On the replayed down Seattle stopped the Cowboys a yard short, setting up one of the craziest sequences in NFL playoff history. 

Yes, everyone remembers Tony Romo dropping the snap, but that handsome fellow picked the ball up and looked like he had a clear path for the go-ahead TD (Or worse, a first-down that would let Dallas run out ALL of the time left before trying another field goal). Just like he did against Dallas a year earlier (to set up- you guessed it- a Josh Brown game-winner), Jordan Babineaux lived up to his "Big Play Babs" moniker. He chased Romo down and tackled him INCHES from a game-ending first down. Seahawks Stadium roared with ecstasy and relief. 

A couple of other things to remember: Even if Dallas had converted that FG attempt, the Seahawks would have had over a minute to get into range for yet another game-winner off Brown's foot. After the Seahawks got the ball back, Dallas still had timeouts remaining. If they had held Seattle to a 3-and-out, they would have gotten the ball back in good field position with time to get back into field goal range. Seattle's victory wasn't sealed until Shaun Alexander tore off a 22-yarder to eat up almost all of the time remaining.

I was left thinking about that line from Martin Scorsese's The Departed: "I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy." That day, the Seahawks did their jobs, and the Cowboys were the other guys. 

Seattle went into Chicago as huge underdogs in the NFC Divisional Playoff, but came achingly close to a stunning upset that would have sent them to New Orleans for the conference championship game. Shaun Alexander had the last great game of his career, rushing for 108 yards and two touchdowns. The last TD gave Seattle a 24-21 lead that it held deep into the 4th quarter, only to see Rex Grossman sling the Bears into range for the tying field goal with 4 minutes left. Despite his solid overall performance, Alexander failed on 3rd AND 4th-and-1 on the edge of Josh Brown's range just before the 2-minute warning. Seattle would get tantalizingly close to Brown's range again, only to see Hasselbeck take a sack and then be forced to let the clock run out. In the biggest moments of the season, Hutchinson's absence was acutely felt. Overtime. 

Seattle won the coin toss, but perhaps chastened by Alexander's earlier failure they threw the ball deep on 3rd and 2. Incomplete. Ryan Plackemeier's 18-yard punt gave Chicago great field position, and a Grossman beat Ken Hamlin deep on 3rd and 10 to set up Robbie Gould's winning boot. 

The Hawks outplayed the eventual NFC Champions, only to squander a chance to return to the Super Bowl. I am still convinced that if Seattle had gotten the job done that day at Soldier Field, they would have beaten the Saints the following week and given Indianapolis all they could have handled in XLI. Sigh. 

Despite the sour ending, the 2006 Seahawks carved out a special place in franchise lore. They were an over-achieving bunch that gave us a disproportionate number of spectacular high definition memories. Over and over, they were declared to be defeated and hopeless, but ended up getting further than almost anyone anticipated they could. In a mentally grueling stretch of my life, they gave me five months of (mostly) joyous distraction. It was the kind of season that reminded me why I'm a Twelve. 

What are your memories of the 2006 Seahawks? What did I miss? Let's keep this going in the comments!

April 7, 2015

Syndication!

Hey guys! I just agreed to a syndication deal with the Seattle P-I website. Nothing will change here. I'll simply be porting PG versions of my posts on this page over there. Anything I post over there that isn't on this page? I'll link to it.... Like this.

This is still home. The P-I thing is my flat in the city.

What do you think, sirs?

April 2, 2015

The 10 Most Traumatic Plays in Seahawks History


On Saturday I turn 40, which has put me in a reflective mood. Unfortunately, early April is also when I think about the death of Kurt Cobain, which makes me both reflective and depressed.

SIDEBAR: I was a freshman at Western in 1993-1994. I was already a Nirvana fan, but "In Utero" came out in the Fall of 1993 and became the oddly specific soundtrack of an intense friendship that curdled into obsession for me and then spectacularly, devastatingly disintegrated. Years later, when "You Know You're Right" was finally released, it seemed to be EXACTLY describing my headspace in the Spring of 1994. I'll never forget the day news broke of Kurt's death- I remember walking through the courtyard at the Fairhaven dorms, with people leaning out their windows wailing in rage and despair. Cobain wasn't just an incredibly talented musician- He was also someone who was a devoted feminist and anti-racist, and had very progressive views on gender identity for the late 80s/early 90s. So yeah... About this time every year a wave of sadness tends to wash over me.

Why not use it to be productive, then? Here's my list of the ten most traumatic SINGLE PLAYS in Seahawks history. I'm sure #1 will surprise no one, but let's take a stroll through the darkest passages of the Twelve Hive Mind anyway...

10. John Elway: Seattle Soul Eater
This one gets a spot on the list for its personal significance...

That friend I got obsessed with a couple paragraphs above? Well, I was going to take her to this Seahawks/Broncos dust-up in November 1993. At the very last minute, she told me that not only was she not going to the game with me, but that she would get a ride back to Bellingham with her new boyfriend.

SIDEBAR: With the benefit of maturity and hindsight, I know that I was a total shitheel about that whole situation. Thankfully her and I fleeced everything out a few years ago. 

I wish I could tell you that I took the news with grim stoicism and class. Nope. I had a panic attack and by the time I got my shit together, it was 9 am and I had to hustle to make it to the game by kickoff. For the first time, I'd be going to a game solo.

I hit Seattle about 12:30, and drove right into the gaping maw of pre-game traffic, which I usually missed by being ridiculously early. So I found myself sitting on the ramp off I-90, within sight of the Dome, gridlocked. I didn't get into the stadium until a few minutes into the first quarter, but there was no score yet.

I got to my seat in the 300 level, just in time to see the pivotal play of the game, and of Seattle's season. I hadn't even sat down yet... It was 3rd and long for Denver from midfield. 65,000 twelves combined to make a deafening roar, and it looked like Antonio Edwards was going to force a 3-and-out or a turnover with a vicious blindside hit on Mr. Ed...

Somehow, Elway pulled a Ben Kenobi, sensed his impending doom, ducked under Edwards and fired a perfect 50-yard TD strike to Shannon Sharpe. 7-0 Denver, but it felt like 70-0.

The Hawks would get it together, sacking Elway 4 times (including once for a safety) and picking him once, but once Rod Bernstine punched it in late in the 4th to make it 17-9 the game and Seattle's season was over (nope, no two-point conversions in the NFL until 1994, boys and girls).

The Seahawks would finish with a 1-4 Death March towards a disappointing 6-10 finish (yes, much better than 2-14 in 1992, but still a gut punch after a 5-5 start), while Denver once again made the playoffs. When you couple that play with what was going on in my personal life, that play is still one of my most unpleasant memories as a Seahawks fan.

9. Mike Harden's Dirty Hit on Steve Largent 
8. Curt Warner's Knee Injury in 1984 opener 
Steve Largent's REVENGE upon Mike Harden is rightfully legendary...


But back in week 1, Harden obliterated #80 with a late and dirty forearm that broke Largent's facemask and a handful of his milk-strengthened teeth as well. I honestly thought our best player might have just been killed on the field. It felt like Ivan Drago murdering Apollo Creed. It was awful.

Back in 1984, the Seahawks began the season with stratospheric expectations after reaching the AFC Championship Game the previous year. Rookie running back Curt Warner was a proto-Barry Sanders in his initial NFL campaign, and seemed set on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory. On Kickoff Weekend, Warner took a toss on a sweep near Cleveland's goal line. Without being touched, he collapsed in a heap. His ACL was shredded. Yes, the Hawks would have a great season anyway, going 12-4 and winning a playoff game. Yes, Warner would come back in 1985 and have multiple 1000-yard seasons and Pro Bowl appearances. But that injury robbed him (and the Seahawks) of quite a few triumphant moments.

7. Shawn McDonald's OT TD to Finish Off Epic Seattle Collapse 
6. Bobby Engram's Dropped TD in 2004 NFC Wild Card Game
Two from the unspeakably gruesome 2004 season!

First, the biggest 4th-quarter collapse in franchise history: For 54 minutes, the Seahawks dominated the defending NFC West Champion Rams. They led 27-10. Shaun Alexander shredded the St. Louis defense for 150 yards and the defense forced three Marc Bulger interceptions. Then, it was like a switch got flipped- Seattle's offense became a 3-and-out machine, and the defense absolutely could not stop St. Louis' air attack. 27-10 became 27-17, 27-24 and then 27-27 before millions of stunned Twelves could comprehend what was happening. In overtime, Shaun McDonald hauled in a 52-yard Bulger TD and the implosion was complete. Even though I was a 29-year-old semi-adult, I collapsed into a sobbing heap after that play.

Just over two months later, Seattle would meet the Rams in the NFC Wild Card Game. The Hawks came out oddly flat and fell behind 14-3. Shaun Alexander disappeared, only scratching out 40 yards on the ground, but Hasselbeck and Jackson were magnificent- Matthew scorched the Rams for 341 yards passing, 128 of which were snagged by D-Jack. Once again, the Seahawks would fight back and lead 20-17 in the final quarter. Once again, the defense would squander that lead. Hasselbeck, Jackson and the rest of the Seahawks sprinted downfield on a desperate final drive, trailing 27-20. They'd reach the St. Louis 5-yard-line before stalling. 4th Down. Hasselbeck would avoid pressure and chuck a little sidearm toss at Bobby Engram. It wasn't the easiest catch to make, but it was one you have to make in the playoffs.

Engram didn't. Game over. Season over.

5. Fredd Young's OT interception waved off in Wild Card loss at Houston
In the 1987 AFC Wild Card game, the Hawks were severely outplayed for about 58 minutes. After a missed Houston FG gave the Hawks the ball down by seven in the waning moments, Dave Krieg led an amazing TD drive that included a 4th and 10 conversion BY INCHES on a diving Steve Largent snag, a long bomb to Ray Butler and the tying score on a lazer-beam strike to Largent. This was probably the single greatest performance of #80's career: 7 catches for 132 yards and both Seattle touchdowns. Largent had more impressive statistical performances, but none on a bigger stage, and none with the team's main offensive weapon (Curt Warner) sidelined with an injury.

In overtime, All-Pro linebacker Fredd Young picked off a deflected Warren Moon pass deep in Oilers territory. Unfortunately, the INT was waved off and declared incomplete despite clear visual evidence that the ball never touched the astroturf. There was no Instant Replay in 1987, and this would just be start of a long and traumatic relationship between the Seattle Seahawks NFL officiating incompetence. On the next Seattle possession, Krieg would throw a pick, setting up the Oilers in our territory. Tony Zendejas wouldn't miss again, and I retreated to my room to cry out the cruel end of a promising season.

4. Vinny Testaverde's Phantom Touchdown
The 1998 Seahawks were 6-6 and fighting not only for their playoff lives, but to keep Coach Dennis Erickson employed. They played their best game of the year, on the road, at 10 am Seattle time, and against the playoff-bound Jets. All they had to do to hold on to a 31-26 season-defining, coach-saving victory was to stop the Jets on 4th and goal... and they did.

Until uber-dipshit official Phil Luckett signaled touchdown. Later, he would say that he thought that Testaverde's helmet was the ball. I was so incensed that I broke numerous items in my tiny Bellingham apartment. Seattle would limp to 8-8, and Dennis Erickson would get canned.

Two very important things happened because of this game. The NFL brought back Instant Replay, and Paul Allen hired Mike Holmgren to run and coach the Seahawks. In the end, it all worked out- But I'll never forget the rage and hopelessness I felt that day.

Nope.

3. "We Want The Ball And We're Gonna Score."
When Matt Hasselbeck uttered those fateful words after Seattle won the coin toss to start overtime of the 2003 NFC Wild Card Game against Green Bay, I honestly thought "Cool! That's our Hass! Bad ass!"

After his pass intended for Alex Bannister was intercepted by Al Harris and returned for a season-murdering score, Beck's boast won immortal infamy. Oh well... We kinda returned the favor last January.

Squarsies, Cheeseheads?


2. Ticky-Tack Holing Call on Sean Locklear in Super Bowl XL derails Seattle Comeback 
As the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XL began, the Seahawks only trailed 14-10. Despite playing in a unprecedentedly hostile environment for a Super Bowl and being hamstrung by incompetent, frightened, and intimidated officiating, Seattle was in the midst of what seemed destined to be a 98-yard go-ahead touchdown drive. Matt Hasselbeck delivered a strike to Jerramy Stevens to set up the Hawks on Pittsburgh's 1-yard line. Surely NFL MVP Shaun Alexander would punch it in on the next play and Seattle would pull away for the franchise's first Championship. Mike Holmgren would become the first coach to win Super Bowls with two different franchises. Matt Hasselbeck would instantly be considered an "elite" quarterback. Everything would change, forever.

Then you noticed the flag.

Sean Locklear got flagged for holding. Was it technically holding? Maybe. Would it have been called against the Steelers that day? No fucking way. On the next play Hasselbeck threw a crushing interception, and Pittsburgh exploited their advantage with the officials and the limitations of Etric Pruitt to win their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

Bastards.

1. Malcom Butler's Interception in Super Bowl XLIX
Ugh. I really didn't want to watch this again. I don't really want to THINK about it ever again. Here's what I said strolling through the debris field of our collective shattered minds two months ago:

On Sunday night and into Monday, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone enraged that Carroll didn't just give it to Shawn at the 1-yard-line. I'm glad I waited to write about the game until now, though. For one thing, I didn't fall into the trap of espousing dipshit conspiracy theories about the play call (Sidebar: If there was a conspiracy to get Wilson the MVP instead of Lynch, why was Shawn's number called on first down?). Beyond that, upon reflection, calling a pass on 2nd down in that situation made a LOT of sense.

It's natural to become obsessed with that fateful play. We were one yard away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls. We were one yard away from football immortality. What if Bevell had called a fade to Matthews to the back corner? What if Russell had pulled it down and just walked into the end zone? What if Lockette had fought a little harder for the ball? What if it was an ever-so-slightly more accurate pass? It's so easy to tumble into that bottomless rabbit hole. 

I did. I'm still kinda there. Aren't you, too? The Jimmy Graham trade helped, and my mental state will improve greatly once the games start again in September. However, we all know the only cure for this malady will be another Super Bowl victory. Even then, it will be incredibly hard to avoid the nagging notion that we were ONE YARD AWAY from back-to-back World Championships.

Two out of three won't be bad, though... :)

What do you think, sirs? Any big omissions on my part?

February 5, 2015

Ranking The Squads: #2 (2014)


2. 2014
Record: 12-4
Offensive Rank: 10th out of 32 teams
Defensive Rank: 1st out of 32
Turnover Ratio Rank: 4th out of 32
Team MVP: Marshawn Lynch
High Point: Seahawks 28, Packers 22 (OT)
Low Point: Rams 28, Seahawks 26

So another season is in the books. I'm sitting here listening to Death Cab for Cutie and feeling like I'm resting where disappointment and regret collide. However, I've taken two big lessons away from the process of transitioning from a Miserable Depressed Hobo to a Relatively Content Woman: Regret is Corrosive and Concentrate on How Far You've Come, NOT How Far You Have Left to Go.

It's SO easy focus on regret if you are trans. For me, I could wallow in regret about waiting until I was in my late 30s to transition, or about how I hurt people I cared about while I was still figuring myself out, or about fifty other supremely obvious things. I could lose myself in wondering about how different my life would be if I had transitioned 20 years ago. Sure would have been great to have been a woman back in your early 20s... Right, Ramona?

What would that do for me, though? How would it help? It wouldn't make my life any better or easier, or make my future any brighter. It would just be an anchor. Dead weight. Beyond that, everything that happened made me the person I am today. I like myself. The path I took led me to having the two best children ever and meeting the love of my life. I wouldn't change a god damn thing. I don't need Regret burning an ulcer into my soul.

The other counterproductive thought process I've overcome is fixation on the things I still want to change about myself. Things from wishing I had the money to get the last remaining bits of beard shadow permanently zapped off my face, to wanting to lose 20 more pounds, to not being entirely satisfied with my hair or my voice, and on and on and on. What I SHOULD focus on is how far I've come over the last five years. Back then, I had absolutely no hope for the future. I was sleeping on a basement couch five feet from a litter box while being squeezed to death by the twin pythons of depression and anxiety. Today, I've never been happier. My life is imperfect, but it's also bursting with joy and wonder.

Since Sunday, I've been fairly zombified outside of random crying jags. I know to many Twelves XLIX is the most devastating defeat in franchise history. I'd still rank it behind XL, because today I'm sad but not left tortured by an overwhelming feeling of injustice... Plus, we put a Lombardi in our trophy case just one year ago.

On Sunday night and into Monday, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone enraged that Carroll didn't just give it to Shawn at the 1-yard-line. I'm glad I waited to write about the game until now, though. For one thing, I didn't fall into the trap of espousing dipshit conspiracy theories about the play call (Sidebar: If there was a conspiracy to get Wilson the MVP instead of Lynch, why was Shawn's number called on first down?). Beyond that, upon reflection, calling a pass on 2nd down in that situation made a LOT of sense.

It's natural to become obsessed with that fateful play. We were one yard away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls. We were one yard away from football immortality. What if Bevell had called a fade to Matthews to the back corner? What if Russell had pulled it down and just walked into the end zone? What if Lockette had fought a little harder for the ball? What if it was an ever-so-slightly more accurate pass? It's so easy to tumble into that bottomless rabbit hole. But what if we DON'T focus on that? What if we don't become consumed by regret? We might realize that...

-Our team was a yard away from winning the Super Bowl despite facing the 2nd best quarterback of all time with a severely hobbled defense. Beyond the tide-turning injuries to Jeremy Lane and Cliff Avril, our three best defensive players probably shouldn't have even been on the field. Earl Thomas III? Torn labrum. Richard Sherman? An elbow so jacked up that he needs Tommy John surgery. Kam Chancellor? He played with a TORN MCL. AND HE MADE 10 TACKLES. They played with almost unfathomable desire and courage. They crave that mineral (so to speak), and defeat is only going to make that craving more intense.

-We might have found a legit deep threat in Chris Matthews, who had a NFCCG/Super Bowl performance that oddly mirrored Malcolm Smith's a year earlier.

-Until the final play, Russell Wilson played magnificently. There are probably a good 27 or 28 teams that would commit unspeakable atrocities to have what we are on the verge of possessing: A franchise quarterback who will have us contending for Super Bowls well into Hillary Clinton's second term.

-We have a team composed of men who are supremely confident and unafraid to speak their minds. Defeat won't change that, nor does it make those qualities any less admirable.

So the boulder rolled all the way back to the bottom of the mountain on Sunday. That sucks, but do you know who else has experienced that? Don Shula, Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells, John Elway, Mike Holmgren, Brett Favre, Ben Rothlisberger, Tom Brady, and Bill Belichick. All of those coaches and quarterbacks have lost one or more Super Bowls, and NONE of their legacies are defined by those defeats. The same will be true of Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson, who have combined in three seasons to go 43-14(!) together, including the postseason.

Let's look at how far the Seahawks have come in the 5 years since Carroll took over. In the 34 seasons before he arrived? 7 playoff wins, 10 playoff appearances, 6 division titles, 1 conference championship. In the last 5 years? 7 playoff wins, 4 playoff appearances, 3 division titles, 2 conference championships, and one Super Bowl win. Our franchise has grown from a South Alaskan footnote to a perennial NFL powerhouse. One play, no matter how traumatic, cannot change that reality. Carroll and Schneider have built an infernal machine: Youthful, Talented, Tough, and Brazenly Confident. This loss won't haunt them. It will FUEL them. Their terrorizing of the National Football League is far from complete.

The sadness I'm feeling isn't just from the defeat in XLIX, but also from the sudden absence of this wonderful team in my life. Despite the way things ended, the 2014 Seahawks will always hold a special place in my heart (akin to the 1986 and 2012 teams). I've never seen a team fight through so much adversity to accomplish so much... and they just didn't win, they won with style and verve and brutality. What will I remember forever about this season?

-BEAST MODE. Marshawn Lynch defines these Seahawks every bit as much as Pete Carroll or Russell Wilson or the Legion of Boom. He was a EASY choice for team MVP. 2014 was absolutely littered with additions to Money Lynch's legend. The winning OT score vs Denver. His amazing three-yard TD v Oakland. BeastQuake II (Thanks for asking). A dominant performance and the go-ahead TD in the NFC Championship Game. "I'm just here so I won't get fined." His nearly superhuman level of effort, his spectacular success (particularly in the postseason), and his iconoclastic style have made him perhaps the most beloved Seahawks player of all time. It's hard to imagine a trip to Santa Clara for Super Bowl L without our favorite Skittles pitchman in the backfield.

-THE INDOMITABLE HAWKS. Stagger to a 3-3 start, while tossing your high-priced/high-maintenance/high-risk/high-reward star wide receiver off the team bus? Death blow, right? Carroll was losing the locker room! Russell Wilson wasn't black enough! Grind out a few wins, but absorb an improbable string of serious injuries to key players, and lose at Kansas City? Toast at 6-4. Three games out of first, they'd be lucky to sneak into the playoffs as a Wild Card. The post-Super Bowl hangover strikes again! (Spoiler alert: Nope)

-THE SPRINT. We might not ever know exactly what was said in the team meeting after the loss at Arrowhead, but it whatever it was, it certainly worked. Over the next six games, the Seahawks would stomp out Arizona and Santa Clara. They'd beat the Eagles in Philly and keep them out of the playoffs. They got Jim Harbaugh fired. They wrecked what was shaping up to be the best season in Cardinals' history. They MARAUDED their way into the playoffs, and it was fucking glorious.

-BAM BAM KAM FOREVER. Kam Chancellor delivered one of the most stunning individual defensive performances of all time in the divisional playoff against Charlotte. He dropped sentient boulder Mike Tolbert like an anvil off the Fremont Bridge, terrorized the Panthers' field goal kicking unit, and sealed a trip to the NFC Championship Game with a pick-6 for the ages.

-THE EMERALD CITY MIRACLE. From despair to resignation to hope to euphoria to anxiety to HOLY SHIT WE WON HOW THE FUCK DID WE WIN WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK to crying Russell Wilson to Michael Bennett on a bicycle. The most incredible thing I've ever seen at a sporting event... and I'm 39. I've been watching this shit for a spell.

I'm not just proud of this team. I'm proud of all of you. I'm proud to be a Twelve. I feel connected to all of you, and that gives me comfort. It makes me feel better to know that all of you are hurting like I am. I'm not alone, and neither are you. We have each other, and before too long we'll be throwing another parade for our team, triumphant and covered in glory. Our destiny isn't that of the Kurt Warner Rams or the Brett Favre Packers. It's not a lone Lombardi. It's immortality. It's to achieve things that have never been seen before in this game. It's to build an Emerald Empire whose impact echos through the decades. What happened Sunday simply delayed the inevitable. Brady and Belichick won four rings in 13 seasons. We can beat that. We WILL beat that.

I love my team, and I love y'all. GO HAWKS.

For your entertainment (and debate): Here's the updated ranking of every team in franchise history- Enjoy!

1. 2013
2. 2014
3. 2005
4. 1984
5. 1983
6. 2012
7. 2007
8. 1986
9. 2003
10. 2006
11. 1988
12. 1987
13. 2010
14. 1979
15. 1990
16. 1978
17. 2001
18. 1999
19. 2004
20. 1998
21. 1985
22. 1997
23. 1995
24. 2011
25. 2002
26. 1991
27. 1996
28. 1989
29. 1982
30. 1977
31. 1981
32. 1993
33. 1994
34. 2000
35. 2008
36. 1980
37. 1976
38. 1992
39. 2009

January 22, 2015

Debasers and Negative Creeps: A Rivalry in 16 Parts


For the second year in a row, both #1 seeds have reached the Super Bowl (and it was also probably the modal preseason Super Bowl prediction, just like Seattle v Denver was last season). Right now the Seahawks v Patriots XLIX matchup is considered a toss-up, which is fitting because the two teams have split their previous 16 meetings right down the middle. Let's take a look back at 30+ years of the "Interstate 90" rivalry (It's just a 3,041 mile/42 hour drive)...

BONUS GAME! 12/7/08: Patriots 24 @ Seahawks 21
The 2008 Seahawks were an awful team, but they didn't lay down and die like their 2009 Mora-"led" successors. Facing a Patriots team fighting for the playoffs (and in the middle of an 8-game winning streak), Seattle held leads of 14-3 and 21-13. Seneca Wallace had the best game of his career, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. Marcus Trufant shut down a still-All-Pro Randy Moss, but it wasn't enough. Matt Cassel led New England to the winning score late in the 4th, and Holmgren's farewell tour/death march continued unabated- But at least we put a scare into the Bostonians.

8. 9/20/92 Seahawks 10 @ Patriots 6
Yay! The Seahawks won!

(3 months and 12 horrific losses later)

Shit! Why'd we win that game? We lost our shot to draft Drew Bledsoe!

(Sigh)

Chris Warren racked up 122 yards and scored Seattle's lone TD. Cortez Kennedy sacked Hugh Millen three times and started building his resume for Defensive Player of The Year.

7. 9/24/89 Seahawks 24 @ Patriots 3
As late as 1989, box scores for Seattle were still filled with names like Krieg, Warner, Nash, and Green. Dave Krieg fired three touchdown passes (including one to John L. Williams, who stacked up 135 all-purpose yards), Jacob Green, Joe Nash and Rufus Porter all sacked Tony Eason... Wait. Did this game actually happen in 1986?

6. 10/7/90 Seahawks 33 @ Patriots 20
Fun fact: The Seahawks played six games at Foxboro from 1986 to 1993 (Huh?) and won five of them. This one was nothing to brag about, as the Patriots would eventually limp to a 1-15 record. John L. Williams was the offensive standout again, with 108 total yards. Derrick Fenner chipped in 77 yards and two touchdowns and Green and Porter sacked Marc Wilson (the next man up in a sad succession of pre-Bledsoe Patriots quarterbacks).

5. 9/19/93 Seahawks 17 @ Patriots 14
4.10/24/93 Seahawks 10, Patriots 9
I have no idea why we played a non-divisional foe twice in the 1993 regular season. Was that a common practice then? Did I just blank on this? 1993 was also one of those weird-ass seasons where everyone had TWO bye weeks- maybe that had something to do with it? In any case, the NFL saw fit to have the two worst teams from 1992 grapple twice the following season- They must have REALLY wanted to see Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer go at it, huh?

Both these games are particularly vivid for me personally. The September match-up at Foxboro happened on the day I moved into my dorm at Western Washington University. My new roommate was fairly aghast to see that the first thing I did was hook up the TV and yell at it for three hours. Then again, he once made everyone who shared the Fairhaven Stack 8, Floor 3 bathroom come look at a particularly gigantic deuce he dropped... So he wasn't exactly a great exemplar of social grace himself. Chris Warren pulverized the Patriots defense for 174 yards on 36 carries and helped the Hawks build a 17-0 lead... Which the defense tried to crap away, of course. Bledsoe led two 4th-quarter TD drives for the Pats, but Seattle held on to win 17-14.

A month later, I attended the rematch with a girl who was my best friend... but I was also madly in love with her (it was indeed a long story filled with sighs) ... As I wrote in this space before:

Being an 18-year-old dipshit, I had some weird ways of trying to woo her, like taking her to a Seahawks game. Kurt Cobain was still alive (in fact, Nirvana had released In Utero just a month before... it would become the soundtrack of my freshman year), as were the Seahawks chances of a competitive season.

Drew Bledsoe's homecoming wasn't to be... With #11 out with an injury, Scott Zolak faced the Seahawks. But even with that advantage, the Hawks trailed 9-3 late in a very boring game. I was in a near-panic that she wasn't having a good time, and this whole thing was a very bad idea.

Suddenly, Rick Mirer was doing his best Joe Montana impression. He drove us down the field, and with only seconds to play, threw the winning touchdown pass. The crowd went apeshit... even my lady friend got into it, and I got a nice prolonged, semi-passionate hug out of it. At that moment, the future was ablaze with possibilities, both for the Seahawks and my personal life. The Hawks were 4-3, and Rick Mirer was going to lead Seattle to football glory.

That 4-3 start turned into a 6-10 lead turd of a season. That game was the high point of Mirer's career... It was all downhill after that. A couple of months later, my best friend started dating someone. I told her I was in love with her. It wasn't reciprocal. I didn't take it well. Crash. Burn. Despair. 


Yay?

3. 9/21/86 Seahawks 38 @ Patriots 31 
The Seahawks visited the defending AFC Champs, but the defense evidently decided to chill out at the hotel rather than face the Pats. Tony Eason torched the Hawks for 414 yards passing and three TDs, and New England held a seemingly secure 10-point lead with less than three minutes left to play. A Norm Johnson FG cut the lead to 7, and after a three-and-out Patrick Hunter blocked a punt that Paul Moyer scooped up in the end zone for the tying touchdown. After another Patriots three-and-out, Dave Krieg hit Ray Butler on a 67-yard rainbow for the winning margin. Krieg would only complete 9 out of his 20 pass attempts, but two were long TDs to Butler (54 and 67 yards). Take that, Tony Eason! There were 38 points scored in the 4th quarter, and this was also the first time I blurted out a curse word during a Seahawks game in front of my parents (I was 11. It was "Fuck!").

2. 10/14/12 Seahawks 24, Patriots 23
The 3-2 Seahawks faced an early-season challenge against the defending AFC Champion Patriots, and sadly I was forced to watch at a sports bar next to a clump of particularly obnoxious New England fans... As I wrote back then:

Despite the dropped interceptions, the fumbles, the mangled punt attempt, the roughing calls, and the lack of a rushing attack, it was only 23-10. Then Russell Wilson hit on a deep ball to Golden Tate... Then on 4th and Goal he threw a perfect pass to Braylon Edwards (who made a spectacular catch). I let out a yelp and a few fist pumps. The Patri-douche reminded me that it was futile. TWICE the defense stopped Tom Brady (one of the top 5 QBs to ever play the game) and gave the ball back to Seattle's offense. First, a flaccid 3-and-out. The Pats then seemed largely content to let their defense win the game. Russell Wilson wasn't going to beat them, right? King Jackass of Greater Massachusetts reminded me of that at maximum volume.

Play-action. Half-roll-out. Perfect rainbow dropped right into Sidney Rice's mitts. Touchdown.

I snapped. All inhibitions were sloughed off in an instant. The Social Contract was shredded. I was 8 years old. It was 1983. I was watching the Seahawks beat the Patriots in the Kingdome to clinch their first playoff spot ever. I screamed at the top of my lungs. I jumped and spun around like Oprah had just given me a new car. It was pure, uncut delirium- The joy that only comes from an unexpected victory. Diamond Joe Assmunch yelled "Too much time!" In my heart, I knew he was right. Over a minute on the clock, and Brady just needed a field goal. We all knew how this one was supposed to end.

Then Tom Brady found out the same thing Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton already learned via bitter experience this season: When the Seattle Seahawks absolutely, positively need to stop you, they don't check your resume first. They will simply brutalize you and your teammates and let you sort through the wreckage. As we stopped the Patriots on 4th down, Mr. Douche England BOLTED for the exit. He wanted NO part of my celebration. It was only then that it hit me... This team is built beat the fucking shit out of you.

Even as New England built a lead, they were getting beaten to a bloody pulp. Finally, in the game's waning moments, it paid the greatest of dividends. Terrific Tom Brady seemed jittery in the face of Seattle's relentless pass rush. Their superstar WRs and TEs racked up some nice fantasy numbers, but couldn't make the plays that would have put the game out of Russell Wilson's reach.

Russell Wilson? All that kid did today was outplay Tom Brady. I am rapturously happy to be wrong about him. I am overjoyed that everything I've written about him now looks laughably obtuse, like those articles from the 1930s telling pregnant women they should smoke in order to relax. He's already a valuable asset only 6 games into his career, able to win games with his arm and his legs when given the chance, and the limit to his potential isn't even visible yet. Go ahead, Twelves. Embrace this. Go buy a Wilson jersey, dagnabit!

1. 12/18/83 Seahawks 24, Patriots 6
The 8-7 Seahawks found themselves needing a home win against the 8-7 Patriots to clinch the franchise's first-ever playoff berth. My Dad took me to that game (my 1st ever, at age 8), and EVERYTHING about it was awe-inspiring; from the first moment I saw the Kingdome driving in from I-90, to the dizzying cavernous grandeur of the Dome's interior. Of course, as I grew older I began to consider King County Stadium more or less a shithole, but on that day, it was the Louvre to me.

I screamed for what seemed like 4 hours straight, starting with a shrieking series of boos aimed at the Patriots as they took the field for warm-ups. We were in the 300 level, and there was no way they could possibly have heard me, but I still roared until my voice was gone. What an annoying little shit, huh?

The game itself was perfect: The deafening roar of the 12th Man, a Largent touchdown, and an easy blowout victory. Famously, the Seahawks came out of the locker room after the game to mingle with the remaining Soldiers of Twelve left in the Dome. If I wasn't already hooked for life, this game sealed the deal.

In less than two weeks, that epochal victory will be bumped out of the top spot on this list.

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