May 18, 2010

Welcome to the Terrordome: My 1990 Seahawks Story

I just spent a week back home in the Tri-Cities, and it got me thinking about a significant but somewhat forgotten chapter in Seahawks history: the 1990 season.

My 1990 Seahawks story actually starts in December 1989, when I was lucky enough to attend Steve Largent's final NFL game. We all hoped he'd catch 15 balls for 200+ yards and 4 TDs, capped by an OT game-winning touchdown, but the stupid reality ended up being just two catches for #80 in a soul-crushing 29-0 beating. I cried as Largent left the field, and I wondered if my relationship with the Seahawks would ever be the same.

Just like those kids who grew up during the depression and were shocked when they realized that someone other than FDR could be President, in some sense it felt weird to me that the Seahawks franchise would continue to exist without Steve Largent. Largent WAS the Seahawks... not just the best player in team history, but the public face of the franchise as well. If the casual NFL fan knew ANYTHING about the Seahawks (beside trivia about that Boz jackass), they knew about Largent and his All-Pro exploits. After the '89 season ended, the future looked bleak in multiple ways.

In my personal life, I was dealing with my the disintegration of my parents' marriage (which was OK... my Dad was an emotionally distant, immature fucktard who could only really connect to me at all through our common interest in the Seahawks), a lot of other turmoil in my family life, and the grim death march that high school can be for us nerds...

I was a freshman at Richland High School, and I had recently quit football to write for the school paper (the Bombers had little need for a short, slow wide receiver with awful hands). I had dates once in a while, but most of my Saturday nights were spent with Dr. Crusher and Counselor Troi. I was also developing an obsession with Public Enemy, which for a white kid in Eastern Washington was... odd. With all this going on in my life, and with the end of the Largent (and Curt Warner) era, my interest in the Seahawks was at a low ebb as the 1990 season began.

Starting the season with a shutout loss in Chicago seemed like a particularly bad omen, and the Hawks followed that pummeling up with losses to the Raiders and Broncos by a total of 7 points. Things just looked dank. The team seemed like a bad combination of faded veterans and young newbies without enough talent to make up for their rookie mistakes.

Then the Twin Peaks intro happened....

Being a total geek, I was obsessed with ABC's new cult hit Twin Peaks... So when Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman popped up in the intro for the Seahawks-Bengals MNF game, my dorkgasm was probably felt miles away. After some trademark weird David Lynch banter, Cooper and Truman lifted their coffee mugs and both said "Go Seahawks!" SquuuuEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

The Seahawks made Yakima native Kyle MacLachlan proud (I assume) with a 31-16 beating of the playoff-bound and previously unbeaten Bengals. It was the beginning of a 7-3 stretch for Seattle, which included the single greatest play/finish in Seahawks history... As I said about that win in this space before:

Thomas couldn't QUITE wrap up Mudbone for that 8th sack, could he? That loss would ultimately cost KC the AFC West title, a home game in the playoffs and a first-round bye. Heh.

My mom let me turn our basement TV room into a "Seahawks Cave" during football season, with posters, banners, newspaper clippings, and so on blanketing the walls.

We were getting ready to move to Kennewick, and that day the realtor was having an open house (yes, my little punk-ass insisted on staying put to watch the Hawks that day rather than, you know, watching the game elsewhere). The whole tribe was packed into the "Seahawks Cave", and when Krieg hit Skansi for the winning TD we all went completely luggage-throwin'-ape-shit. I jumped so high I hit my head on the roof of the basement, and the realtor came running downstairs thinking that we were murdering each other... All we could do was scream incoherently and point at the TV. We didn't get any offers on the house that day, obviously.

Fun fact: after that joyous day in 1990, the Seahawks would lose 14 out of their next 15 games against the Chiefs. That single win in 1994? By one goddamn point.

The Hawks would then scratch out a pair of 13-10 wins over the Chargers and Oilers, and.... wait to be shocked.... WIN A GAME AT LAMBEAU FIELD IN DECEMBER! Derrick Fenner emerged out of nowhere as a more than adequate replacement for Curt Warner, and John L. Williams was busy earning a Pro Bowl roster spot and leading the Seahawks in receptions. As Xmas approached, the Seahawks were 7-7 and still alive for a playoff spot, and the Broncos were coming to town for SNF on ESPN.

Sure, Denver was a pathetic 4-10, but Mr. Ed was still under center, and radiating waves of hate buffeted the Broncos as usual. Also, as usual, weirdness was in store: On the final play, Elway rolled out and fired a hail-mary into the back of the end zone. Michael Young snagged the ball off a deflection, and tapped two feet in bounds.... Touchdown! Broncos win! Seahawks choke! Ehhh... not so much. Coach Knox smugly pointed to the flag laying on the Kingdome astroturf: Illegal motion on Denver. Game over. Seahawks win!

Almost a year to the day after I said goodbye to Steve Largent with 64,000 of my closest friends, I returned to the Dome with my love for the Seahawks rekindled. A win would keep Seattle alive for the playoffs (but they'd need Pittsburgh to beat Houston in the SNF game too), and the electric Barry Sanders was coming to town with the rest of the Lions in tow.

The tandem of Fenner/JLW clearly outplayed the NFL's leading rusher, as Sanders was held to only 23 yards while the Seahawks piled up 151 yards rushing. The Seattle defense sacked Detroit QBs 5 times, and Eugene Robinson scooped up a fumble and returned it for a TD... A tie game at the half became an easy 30-10 Seahawks win, and the Twelve Army was sent home happy but nervous...

I had the particularly terrible experience of listening to Seattle's playoff dreams die on the long, treacherous drive over the pass and back to the Tri-Cities. Houston pounded the Steelers 34-14, which meant that the 9-7 Oilers and Bengals made the playoffs despite the fact that both teams lost to the 9-7 Seahawks (The Bengals won the AFC central, and Houston had a better conference record that the Seahawks and the 9-7 Steelers). Grrr.

In spite of the frustrating finale, the '90 Hawks reminded me why I loved the team in the first place: Not because of any particular player, but because no matter what else was going on in my life, they would be there for me on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes, amazing things would happen, and bring me closer to folks who shared my passion for the Hawks.

It's never been "just a game" for us, has it? What are your memories of the 1990 Seahawks?


bleedshawkblue said...

Sorry, dude, most of that era was a blur. The memories I treasure most are of John L. lead blocking out of the I formation and smacking a defensive player so hard it sounded like a howitzer going off on my dinky assed black and white tv with the 1 inch speaker, springing an aged Curt Warner for about 15 yards.

And the road game in Chicago where Krieg basically drew up a play in the dirt that they never had run before, dumping off to a wide open John L in the flat and rumbling free for the TD and the road win over those...Ditka-fluffing...morons!!!!!

Seems we're only good when we have great fullbacks.

Kevin said...

I remember that season. It was my first year after high school and my love for the Seahawks, like yours, was at a crossroads. I loved Largent and Warner, but my favorite all time Seahawk, Dave Krieg, was still in charge or the troops and at my age I still believed that Krieg could will the Seahawks to victory.

I remember thinking after the 17-0 beating by the bears.. Fuck! My heart was in the crapper, but not for long since I was rewarded a few weeks later with a glimpse of what I would consider one of the best football games I had ever seen, and surprisingly it was a LOSS to Denver. But that game woke me up for the Season I learned that this team was still playing hard, trying and forging it’s own identity. Dave Kried did miss many passes that day and Derrick Fenner kicked serious ass. Granted the D couldn’t stop Elway, but the Seahawks hung with the best Denver could throw at them IN DENVER too. I loved it.. it was the first time a loss felt ok.. Since I KNEW they would turn the corner, I KNEW that better days were ahead for this team.

I next week against the Bengal’s.. I remember False starts and Rufus Porter messing people up. I loved that game and it was good to see the Seahawks put it all together after the previous weeks ALMOST win. I really thought at that moment that the Seahawks could run the table. I really believed they were better than anyone else in the league. Uh-oh.

The Kansas City game.. Wow. I turned the freaking game off when Tommy Kane was hit after making a catch and it popping out into the Chief defender. I thought, what the F do the Seahawks have to do to win! I was pissed.. My girlfriend and I headed over to her parents for dinner (and our usual Sundays together – her dad was a Seahawk fan too) and when I got there I could here the radio…. “Seahawks Win” and I thought for sure that some kind of commercial where “Seahawks Win” is followed by “…. and so can you with a Domino’s” or something like that… I walked by and didn’t really pay attention. My girlfriends brother (he’s 12) and says.. “Did you see the game!! They won!” and I said “Come on man, don’t try to play that game with me. The Chiefs had the ball with a minute to go”…. He said, “Come on Dad recorded it…” So we went upstairs and watched.. I couldn’t believe it. I laughed my ass off. I swear we watched the last play 100x and we laughed and cheered every time. BTW I still have that videocassette.

The rest of the year was followed by close wins and even closer losses. I remember reading the in the Seattle Times.. They called them the “Cardiac Kids” and at the time that was the first time I had ever heard that term used before. I totally loved it.. It summed up the emotions of the team for me. They kept me on the edge of my seat all year long – well except for the Detroit game they kicked ass in that one.