June 27, 2013

Your 2013 Seahawks Jersey Buying Guide

With Seahawks Training Camp less than a month away, it's time for Twelves to think about buying a new jersey for the upcoming season. Particularly if you're planning on catching one of those public sessions at the VMAC, you don't wanna be the poor bastard that has to show up in a Matt Flynn jersey. So if you have the necessary means (at least $100 - Damn you, Nike!), now's the time to start your deliberations. First, my annual advice to all Twelves when it comes to jerseys:

As usual, I'm setting aside throwback jerseys and #12 FAN jerseys (though I've changed my tune on the #12's- 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). Remember that the Nike jerseys run a size smaller than the old Reebok ones- I used to wear a large, but I had to bump up to XL after Nike took over (and no, not because I got fatter, smart-ass). I also argue that there's really no compelling reason to buy the pricier Nike models. The $100 ones look just fine as far as I'm concerned. My biggest caution? NEVER PUT YOUR JERSEY IN THE DRYER! Dryers kill jerseys! Don't do it under any circumstances. With proper care, these Nike duds should hold up for a nice, long spell. If possible, wash them on the delicate cycle in cold water by themselves.

One bit of great news for fans is that NFL Shop has a wider selection of jersey options than I've seen anywhere else (Full disclosure: they're my main advertising partner, so I'm not going to pretend that I don't want you to buy your Seahawks gear by clicking through on one of the banner ads in the right column). Because of this, I'm not going to go through EVERY available jersey option like I have in past seasons.

So how should you decide on a jersey? For me, it basically comes down to four criteria

Awesomeness: How much ass does this guy kick? Why wear the jersey of "just a guy?" 

Longevity: How injury-prone is the player (I HATE wearing the jersey of an injured player)? How long is his contract? 

Originality: Will this help me stand out from the crowd? 

Likability: Is the player a decent human being, or at least not an obviously giant asshole? 

10 DON'T BUYS: Bruce Irvin, Chris Clemons, Golden Tate, Brandon Browner, Doug Baldwin, Walter Thurmond, Michael Robinson, Michael Bennett, Antoine Winfield.

These are the jerseys that carry the highest probability of causing serious buyer's remorse. Bruce Irvin still has potential, but why plunk down the money on the jersey of a guy who won't see the field until October due to his 4-game suspension? Chris Clemons might still be a monster this fall, but he IS coming off major knee surgery. It doesn't help his case in my eyes that he made what could be construed as homophobic remarks about potentially having a gay teammate. Tate, Baldwin, Robinson, Bennett, Winfield and Thurmond ALL might have great seasons, but all of them are also unrestricted free agents in 2014 (Browner will be a restricted free agent). Unless you want to emulate the awful Josh Brown mistake I made a few years back, just buy the jersey of a player with more years on his contract.

5 RISKY BUYS: Marshawn Lynch, Sidney Rice, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright, John Moffitt
I own and proudly wear a Lynch jersey, but his style of play (and still-looming threat of a DUI-related suspension) would make me hesitant about buying one now. Sidney Rice won't be a free agent until 2016, but his relatively disappointing production in Seattle thus far (and history of injury problems) puts him in the "risky buy" category for me. Avril is a new free agent acquisition, and he's only under contract through 2014. Wright and Moffitt also become UFAs after the 2014 season.

5 SOLID BUYS: Zach Miller, Brandon Mebane, Russell Okung, Bobby Wagner, Red Bryant
All of these players are important contributors with a LOT of years left on their contracts and their jerseys carry the added cache of not being worn by thousands of Twelves already... Still, there's an elite half-dozen players that I think represent the best options for Twelves in the market for a new jersey this season...

6. Percy Harvin 
Harvin is an electrifying talent, and he will end up representing the Seahawks on the SportsCenter Top 10 regularly. He also is locked down contract-wise through 2018. The only reasons I have him at #6 are his injury history and the inherent uncertainty surrounding a player who has not yet worn a Seahawks uniform.

5. Max Unger 
I've always been apt to consider buying the jersey of an offensive lineman when the opportunity arises. Almost nobody seems to wear these guys' gear, so I automatically respect someone a bit more when I see them in an O-lineman's jersey. When you've got a lineman who was just voted All-Pro and is under contract through 2016, his jersey becomes an attractive option to me.

4. Earl Thomas and 3. Richard Sherman
Both these guys are spectacular talents, and I think both of them are on Ring-of-Honor or even Hall-of-Fame trajectories. The only thing that makes me even slightly hesitate with them is their UFA status after the 2014 season. I'm 95% percent sure they'll get extended and be career Seahawks, but with PCJS we just don't know yet... Which is why their fellow Legion-of-Boomer is above them at #2...

2. Kam Chancellor
The Slayer Of Vernon Davis. Bam-Bam Kam. The most feared, intimidating defensive back in the NFL. A total Ken-Easley-level BADass. He's also under contract through 2017, and you don't see TOO many of his jerseys at Seahawks Stadium, so buying his jersey is a choice that's hard to beat... But not impossible to beat.

1. Russell Wilson
Yes, everyone has (or will have) a Wilson jersey. In this case, who gives a damn? Hell, I already have one, and I want two more! He's our franchise quarterback, and the man who will bring a Lombardi Trophy back to the Emerald City. He'll be a career Hawk, and perhaps the best player in franchise history by the time he retires. Every Twelve should have a Wilson jersey if they can swing it financially. Any other jersey should simply be your back-up option.

What do you think, sirs? Am I totally wrong? Did I miss any interesting options? Let's hash it out in the comments!

June 26, 2013

Off-Topic: Yup, I'm Trans.

I've been posting to this blog for over five years now, and as my regular readers know, this has always been a very personal blog. Dave Krieg's Strike Beard has always been more about my personal journey as a Seahawks fan than anything else, but there's been one huge part of myself that I've hidden (for the most part) from y'all. In the wake of today's historic Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage, I simply can't hold this in anymore.

I'm transgender, and I'm in the process of transitioning from male to female. Now I'll follow in the footsteps of trans sportswriters like Christina Kahrl, Bobbie Dittmeier and Christine Daniels, and I hope the vast majority of you will still be interested in what I have to say about our beloved Seattle Seahawks.

A few years ago, I realized that I was DEEPLY unhappy living as a man and I decided that I needed to transition and start living as a woman. It didn't come out of nowhere- Since I was 8 or 9 years old, I have felt “different” and for a LONG time, that was it. Something was wrong, but I didn’t have a name for it. I battled severe anxiety and depression for years. I tried therapy, I tried Zoloft, etc. Nothing worked. But once I started taking steps towards transitioning from male to female, I wasn’t miserable any more. For the first time, I had real hope for the future, rather than a nebulous hope that following the social script handed to me from birth would work out somehow in the end.

About at year ago, I saw a doctor who pronounced me fit and gave me a prescription for Hormone Replacement Therapy, which I've been on since then. It’s a combination of estrogen and testosterone-blocking drugs that will, over time, change my appearance substantially. More importantly, they have almost completely eliminated the depression and anxiety I have been burdened with for decades. I am more relaxed and happier than I've ever been at any other time in my life. I’m also undergoing laser hair removal to eliminate my facial hair.

I’m intentionally taking a “slow-and-steady” approach to this process, and I intend to keep my given name, only changing the spelling slightly. It’s important for all of you to know that I’m not becoming a different person- I’m just becoming a happier, more well-adjusted one. My personality and interests won’t change. I will still love the Seahawks, I'll still nerd out about movies, TV, politics, and I'll still be with my incredibly wonderful and supportive girlfriend, who has been 100% behind my transition since the day we met. This has always been something I have struggled with mightily, and confronting it is one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life.

Why am I announcing this on my blog? I'm hoping for support and encouragement- If you can't give that to me, I'd prefer that you keep those feelings to yourself. I'm coming out to an ever-growing circle of people over time, and it just feels like the right time to come out to my fellow Twelves. I'm still not officially out in terms of my job or day-to-day life yet, and I hope all of you respect that decision, as well as my privacy. Finally, this is your chance to ask (respectful) questions (within reason) about what I'm doing and what my plans are, if you'd like.

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your support.

June 8, 2013

King Felix and... President Wilson?

Long-time readers might already know this, but I'm not a "Seattle Sports Fan." Yes, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest (in the stark atomic splendor of the Tri-Cities). Yes, I became a rabid Seahawks fan back in '83 when I was eight years old. But the Mariners didn't move me- I became enthralled by Roger Clemens and latched onto the Red Sox for life. The Sonics? They were a fun, competitive team back in the 1980s, but I have always followed players more than teams when it comes to the NBA. When I moved away from the Northwest to Columbus, I adopted the Blue Jackets and Crew as my local rooting interests... So the Seahawks are the ONLY Seattle team that I root for.

Does this mean I hate the other Seattle teams? Nah. Unless they're playing the Red Sox or the Crew, I prefer that Seattle teams win, given my affinity for the area and the large number of friends I have back west. Do I get jealous and bitchy about the other Seattle teams if they're ever in some sort of conflict with the Seahawks? Hell yes. I remember I was out for a visit to Seattle right after the 9/11 attacks, and I was supposed to go to the Seahawks/Chiefs game that Sunday, but it was postponed until the end of the 2001 season.

I was out at breakfast with a friend, and I was lamenting the fact that there wasn't a game that day. I understood why there was no game, but watching the Seahawks would have cheered ME up, at least. This total stranger in Mariners garb decides to chime in with "Pffft. Seahawks? Who gives a crap about THEM?"

With murder in my eyes, I said "I do. And when did you get that M's gear? October of '95?" Back in the 90s, when the Sonics and Mariners were captivating all my friends, I SEETHED. To this day, I somewhat irrationally get peeved when Sounders fans call a crowd of 40,000 at our shared stadium a "sellout." The Seahawks have been selling EVERY seat for EVERY game in that arena since 2003... So you get the picture- I'm fiercely defensive and sensitive about the Seahawks' place in the local sports pecking order.

Russell Wilson throwing out the first pitch at the Mariners game last night got me cogitating. If you look across the history of Seattle professional sports, who are the most "iconic" figures? The ones who captured the imaginations of millions, both in the region and nationally/internationally? I hate to say this, but as great as Steve Largent, Walter Jones, Cortez Kennedy and every other Seahawks legend has been, none of them ever became popular phenomenons like Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro, Shawn Kemp or Gary Payton did (Edgar Martinez also has his rabid adherents, but I'd argue his stature is much more localized in nature).

To me this is fascinating- The Mariners have had peaks of great success, but overall their history is much more forlorn than the Seahawks' past. Despite that (and the M's current struggles), Felix Hernandez is BY FAR the biggest individual figure on the Seattle sports landscape right now. Kemp and Payton were a spectacular duo, but they played for a team that no longer exists (sorry, Sonics fans). So why haven't we seen a Seahawk reach those heights of popular obsession?

Part of it is almost certainly the simple fact that football players wear helmets that render them somewhat anonymous, and they play a sport that is much more focused on team success than individual accomplishments. If you look at Seahawks history specifically, our three greatest players are a left tackle, a (prolific) possession receiver, and a defensive tackle. None of those positions lend themselves to an easy embrace from the larger public.

Who are (most of) the most popular, well-known, endorsement-laded NFL players? Quarterbacks. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have transcended those natural limits football inherently places on individual super-stardom. This morning I was watching ESPN and Linda Cohn was GUSHING about Russell Wilson throwing out the first pitch at the M's game, even throwing in a Wilson-esque "Go Hawks!" at the tail-end of the segment. That's just one reason I think Russell Wilson is on the verge of becoming the most towering figure in Seattle sports history. Ten years from now, I think he will have eclipsed even Junior in dominance of Seattle sports consciousness. Why?

First, he's going to be a prolific quarterback on a highly successful team, who will regularly show up on SportsCenter's Top Plays. If/when Seattle wins a Super Bowl, he'll ROCKET into the Brady/Manning/Rodgers stratosphere nationally. Beyond that, he has a great backstory: The third round pick who was too short to be a successful QB, but who won over doubters at EVERY point in his career. The kid's got a little Kurt Warner in him. It also doesn't hurt one bit that he's humble, grounded, telegenic and handsome. One can easily imagine him going into broadcasting after his NFL career ends (or even politics, if he was so inclined). To put it another way, he's a total dreamboat who can fucking BALL. I truly believe this kid will be bigger than Luck or RGIII. Someday, his statue will be in the North Plaza of Seahawks Stadium- Ten feet tall and forever running to victory. I already kinda wish I had a Wilson jersey for every day of the week.

What do you think, sirs?