I've talked at length before in this space about how rooting for the Seattle Seahawks was one of the few things my father and I "bonded" over when I was a kid. As I said in a piece about the 1983 Seahawks I wrote for Field Gulls a few years back:
Book learning skills were what I had to offer the world, coupled with an obsessive streak that I have never shaken. None of this added up to an easy connection to my rather traditional, emotionally distant father, who tried to butch me up by teaching me how to box, to fish, and so on. Nothing worked, and we were in very different orbits by the fall of 1983.
There was one glimmer of hope for me in his eyes: I had gotten interested in football. It started in the strike-shortened 1982 season, when I stumbled upon a Seahawks game on TV and got sucked into it. Quickly he cultivated my love for the NFL, even though he was much more of a boxing fan himself. I got a black and white TV for my room for Xmas, where I would watch the last couple Seahawks games and the '82 playoffs.
While my father and I shared little in common beyond the Seahawks, I was much closer to my Mom. She also took notice of my growing obsession with the Hawks, and joined in on it. She'd watch the games with us too, and by the time I was 10 I was allowed to turn our TV room into a Seahawks temple during football season- The walls were plastered with newspaper clippings, banners, and free promotional posters from Pietro's Pizza. My parents would divorce when I was 15, and my father would drift completely out of my life by the time I was 30. The Seahawks have remained a shared passion between my Mom, my Stepdad, my little brother and myself, however.
All of this has been on my mind lately because a couple of months ago my son took notice of my Seahawks jerseys and told me that he wanted one of his own for his birthday. I'm divorced from his mother now, and I only get to see him and my daughter one or two weekends a month. Unlike my own father, I'm not emotionally disconnected from my children- Even though we don't see each other much, they know that I love them and care about them, and I know they love me back. Given how little I see them, my heart leapt at the possibility that my son might want to become a Twelve (and hopefully, in a few years, my daughter too). Any interests that we can share would help bridge the (physical) distance between us, so I decided to get him a Russell Wilson jersey for his birthday.
I picked my kids up Friday afternoon, and we headed to Chuck E. Cheese. My son chirped that he was a nerd because he "was smart and he liked school a lot." I had flashbacks to myself at his age- devouring every book I could get my hands on, and memorizing everything I could about the Solar System, the history of NASA, the Seahawks' roster, etc. While I fervently hope that he doesn't end up as socially awkward as I was when I was growing up in the Tri-Cities, I'd much rather he become an unpopular nerd than a popular bully. I asked him what he thought I got him for his birthday, and he blurted out "I sure hope it's a Seahawks jersey!" I tried to keep playing coy, but I smiled to myself. I knew I was just minutes away from seeing him explode with joy.
Sure enough, when he opened his present he did the whole "jump up and down and spin like the Tasmanian Devil" thing, and demanded to put it on immediately, right there in the Chuck E. Cheese. I gave him a mini-lecture about how he had to take good care of his jersey, and that he had to remind Mommy to never put it in the dryer. For a moment I felt very Obi-Wan-ish.
As he fed token after token into Fruit Ninja, I thought about how I would cultivate his fandom. I'm hoping to take him to the game at Indianapolis this fall, and I'll do my best to expose him to the Seahawks on a weekly basis- Thankfully he'll get lots of chances to see the Hawks this year on national television, and on the weekends he's with me, I'll try to work it out so we can watch the games together. If things go as planned, 2013 will be his 1983- The season that cements his Seahawks fandom for life. Wilson will be his Krieg, Harvin his Largent, Lynch his Warner, Thomas his Easley, and so on.
I reached a moment of calmness and clarity, watching my kids frolic that day. Things will be ok. They're happy and healthy and loved by a lot of different people. I don't need him to be a Seahawks fan so we have something, anything, to share. I'm not going to drift out of his life because I don't know how to connect to him. But every time I watch Russell Wilson score a touchdown, and I think about the fact that my son and I are both watching it rocking #3 jerseys? That'll make him seem that much closer, even if he's physically 100 miles away.
All the threads are weaving together- 2013 is going to be a year we'll never forget, for a LOT of reasons.