February 5, 2014

Seahawks 43, Broncos 8

Back home in the Tri-Cities, my Mom has a storage shed stuffed with artifacts of my childhood. Among the VHS tapes, photo albums and junior high yearbooks are my old journals, and as an odd, lonely kid with obsessive streak I scribbled in them constantly back then. One thread running through all of them was my penchant for detailed daydreaming about the Seattle Seahawks. I'd go through the upcoming season's schedule game-by-game and plot out the trajectory that would lead us to Super Bowl glory, down to quarter-by-quarter scoring in each game and the stats for individual players. It was a rudimentary version of the piece I wrote a while back about the Tangent Universe 1986 Seahawks, and it helped distract me from my day-to-day struggles and the perennial floundering of my beloved Hawks.

In all those reams of yellowing paper, written by an adolescent Twelve with an over-active imagination, I doubt I ever penned a Super Bowl yarn that ended with the Seahawks winning 43-8. I used to wear Hawaiian shirts WITH fish ties back then, but even that little weirdo I used to be would have thought "Woah, that's just bugfuck crazy!" I've been envisioning this Championship moment for thirty years, and those daydreams betrayed my own lack of confidence. In those mental movies, the Seahawks would mightily struggle, and hoist the Lombardi Trophy only after edging their opponents in a heart-stopping XXV or XXIII-esque affair. I could allow myself to dream about us somehow getting to the top of the mountain, and taking a brief look around before we trudged back to base camp battered, bruised and exhausted. I never seriously entertained a different notion: What if, when the Seahawks finally won it all, they were one of the greatest teams of all time? What if they strutted to the top of the mountain and built a fucking mansion up there?

The 2013 Seattle Seahawks are the best NFL team the 21st century has yet seen, and one of the Top 10 teams of the Super Bowl era. They evoke comparisons to the 1984 Niners and 1992 Cowboys- Youthful teams filled with speed, blessed with brains and fueled by blind rage and an appetite for brutality. Before the revisionist history takes hold about XLVIII (Peyton is "old," the Broncos weren't that great, blah blah blah), let's remember that the Seahawks were three-point underdogs. They were facing the most terrifyingly efficient offensive machine in NFL history- A unit that scored a league-record 606 points and was led by NFL MVP Peyton Manning, who shattered every significant single-season passing benchmark in the NFL's record books. Super Bowl XLVIII was supposed to be the capstone to Manning's superlative career- A second World Championship would ensure that he'd be remembered as perhaps the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Then... This happened...

A whole lot of THAT happened, and the Seahawks ruined King Peyton's meticulously prepared coronation with the greatest defensive performance in the history of professional football. Seattle boasted the first defense to lead the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed and takeaways since the 1985 Chicago Bears, and they showed the largest television audience in American history why they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those '85 Bears, the '00 Ravens, and the '02 Buccaneers. For three quarters, the Legion of Boom & Company shut out history's most explosive offense, and at the final whistle they had SINGLEHANDEDLY outscored them 9-8. They disrupted Manning's rhythm all day, forced him into three turnovers, and imposed vicious punishment upon his receivers every time they touched the ball.

Given the Championship stakes, the quality of opposition, and the level of utter domination, football has never seen a more dominant defensive performance than the one given by Seattle in XLVIII. Malcolm Smith was a deserving recipient of the MVP award, but it could have been given to a half-dozen Seahawk defenders (or the unit as a whole). 

What about that struggling, pedestrian Seattle offense? Oh, you mean the one that was 8th in the NFL in scoring this season? They put up 27 points, and Russell Wilson posted a passer rating FIFTY POINTS HIGHER than Peyton Manning's. Wilson emphatically invalidated all that "game-manager" bullplop puked onto the airwaves by the bobblehead "experts" over the last few weeks and grasped football immortality before his more heralded contemporaries (Kaepernick, Luck, RGIII, etc). The terrifying thing for the rest of the NFL is that he's still YEARS away from his prime. Get used to this, NFL: 

How total was Seattle's dominance? I hosted my first Super Bowl party in YEARS, and I was worried that a tight, stressful game would lead to... ahem... unflattering behavior on my part. My non-football watching girlfriend would be there, and I didn't want to freak her out if A) the Hawks got blown out or B) the game was competitive in the 4th quarter. In the event of the former, I usually become a sullen basket case. The latter? I typically become a nauseous, pacing, chattering, profanity-barking wreck. I'm quite the catch, huh? 

While I was stressed beyond belief BEFORE the game, after the opening kickoff it evolved into one of the most stress-free, gleeful, relaxing experiences I've ever had as a Twelve. From the moment Denver's first snap sailed over Peyton's head for a safety, it was ALL joy. I jumped into a friend's arms after Malcom Smith's pick-6. Evidently after Percy Harvin's kickoff return TD to start the second half, I was bounding about my living room like Tracy Flick in Election. XLVIII got so boring after Harvin's score that the rest of my party-goers entertained themselves by playing Cards Against Humanity for the remainder of the game (while I was enraptured, floating on Cloud 12). You might be wondering when the tears came for me- It was only when the game was over, and the "Seattle Seahawks: Super Bowl Champions" graphic popped up on the screen that I was overcome with emotion. Then, the waterworks began. 

I'm sure I'll be posting more articles about what this victory "means" in the coming days, weeks and months, but two things are really sticking in my mind today...

-All of the trauma I've ever felt as a Twelve has been magically washed away. I feel unburdened and bulletproof. None of it hurts anymore. Not The Phantom Touchdown. Not the 4th-quarter collapse against St. Louis in 2004. Not 1992. Not even XL. NOT EVEN XL!!!! I almost feel like I could go back and watch that game again now- Almost. It's similar to what I felt as I started coming out as transgender to people- Every time I did it, I felt LIGHTER. I felt freer. There's SO much we don't have to carry around any more, my fellow Twelves. On a deeply personal level, it's meaningful beyond words that the Seahawks finally won the Super Bowl only six weeks after I started living full-time as a woman. It's almost as if they were waiting to win so I could celebrate as my authentic self. In truth, one (small) reason I pushed myself to go full-time by January 2014 was because in the event the Hawks won XLVIII, I didn't want to experience it in "boy mode." Thanks for the extra motivation, guys! 

-This victory means a great deal to millions of people. It's significant to the whole population of Washington State, it's a feast for Seattle-area sports fans starving for Championship glory, and obviously ALL Twelves are delirious with ecstasy. But I want to talk about one specific brigade within the Twelve Army- Those of us who survived "The Forgotten Years" and bled and cried over this team when the Seahawks were about as uncool as a sports franchise could possibly be. 

Bear with me, and go watch this clip on YouTube. It's one of the most exciting finishes to a game in franchise history....

Wow! That was awesome, right? You know how many people were actually AT that game? 36, 320. That's it. The game was blacked out on local TV, and the only reason I saw it live was because I was in the Dome. The ascendant Sonics and Mariners ruled the Seattle sporting landscape, and our Californian owner was in the middle of a brazen attempt to relocate the Seahawks to Los Angeles. That awful reality was bad enough, but even worse was the fact that NO ONE SEEMED TO CARE if the Hawks skipped town.

Some of us did. Some of us were the Seattle pro football equivalent of those Irish monks who preserved civilization through the Dark Ages. We were the ones wearing Joey Galloway jerseys when all of our friends were reppin' Junior or Shawn Kemp. We endured watching talented Seahawks teams hobbled by incompetent ownership flounder and stumble to 8-8 finish after 8-8 finish. We were the ones who pestered all of our friends into voting for R48 in the summer of 1997. As I wrote in this space once before:

I felt kinda isolated with my Galloway jersey and my love for a team that hadn't even posted a winning record since 1990. I was terrified that R48 would fail, Paul Allen would bolt, and the team would quickly become the L.A. Blackhawks or something. It passed statewide by 51.1% to 48.9%, or by just a hair under 37,000 votes. That was far less than the throngs who packed the Kingdome for M's games back then. 

I was going to Western at the time, and I had a weekly talk show on KUGS-FM called The Democratic Circus. I pushed HARD for my listeners to vote yes on R48, and I like to think I played a tiny part in its victory... Look at the Whatcom County (Bellingham) results:

Yes 23794 
No 23361 

Sure, only about 100 people listened to my show on a GOOD night, but I like to imagine that a chunk of that 433 vote margin were folks swayed by my cogent, heartfelt arguments.

Another anecdote illustrates how much things have changed since Paul Allen took over... Everyone has their own story about the 9/11 atrocities, but mine actually touches on the Hawks. I went to the season opener in Cleveland on September 9, and I was leaving the next day to visit my family and college friends in the Northwest. The plan was fly to Pasco, hang out with my family in the Tri-Cities, then go to Seattle and, among other things, catch the Chiefs game on September 16. 

We all remember that game was postponed after the mass murder of 9/11, and I understood why, but having a game to go to that Sunday sure would have made ME feel better. I was out at breakfast that Sunday with a friend, wearing my Hasselbeck jersey. I admitted to her that I was depressed about the game being postponed, and this total stranger overhears me. He then snorts: 

"Seahawks? Who gives a crap about THEM?" 

I looked over to see this gastropod in an M's cap and a Ichiro jersey, obviously enjoying the Mariners' 116-win regular season... and hey, who could blame him? But I fucking SNAPPED. 

"Who cares? I DO! I've been a fan since I was 8 years old.. I'd bet a million dollars you didn't own a scrap of Mariners gear before August of 1995, man..." 

He gave me a VERY dirty look, but also shut the fuck up. Now do a thought experiment: Can you imagine a scenario where that would happen NOW? I can't. Thank you, Paul Allen.

I've been thinking about that guy today, wondering if he'll attend the Victory Parade or Celebration Rally at Seahawks Stadium. If so, that's cool. I'd never want anyone to NOT root for the Seahawks. New Twelves are always welcome in our big ol' tent. But I hope he reads this, and understands that if people like him had held sway back in the Ken Behring Dark Ages, that parade isn't happening in Seattle today. For those of us who have been waiting for this our whole lives, it's unfathomably satisfying- We're not only Champions, we just got to cheer on one of the greatest NFL teams of all time... A team that not only went 13-3 and boasted a historically great defense, but also beat Drew Brees, a Niners team that would have won the Super Bowl in almost any other season this century, and Peyton Manning to reach Pro Football's pinnacle (and today's parade probably won't be the last one the Seahawks have through the winding streets of Seattle in the years to come).

We earned this moment. Revel in it. Remember every detail. We're Champions together, and nothing will ever be the same. I love you guys. Thanks for being with me on the wildest ride of our lives.