October 8, 2015

Allow Yourself Joy

I fucked up... and so have a lot of you.

Up until Monday night, I only conceptualized this Seahawks season as an epilogue to the last one. The ball disappearing into Malcolm Butler's arms wasn't final defeat- It was just a depressing cliffhanger of a season finale for an amazing show. 2015 was where we'd finish the job, and re-establish the dominion of the Emerald Empire.

The problem with that mindset was twofold: It was a denial of a painful but immutable truth- That as much as we loved the 2014 Seahawks, they were gone. Were they the best team? Yes. Are we always going to be haunted by that final play, and by the nagging suspicion that the Patriots were up to some shady shit? Yes. But that trophy case is always going to be one Lombardi Trophy lighter than it should be, and nothing can or will ever change that.

That denial of Super Bowl XLIX's finality had warped my appreciation of this season's squad. I had made the only thing of value a Super Bowl 50 victory, and in doing that I had robbed myself of something that had been important to me my entire life: The Seahawks bringing me full, unalloyed joy. Every defeat, even every negative play, felt like encroaching darkness. Even the victory over the Bears? That brought me only a brief moment of relief- Not anything approaching jubilation.

Jump ahead to Monday's game: Up 13-3 in the 4th quarter, I felt that same sort of unsatisfying emotion from a week before. The task was going to be completed, the box on the form would be ticked off. But there would be nothing transcendent about it. On to Cincinnati, as be-hoodified Sith Lord of Massachusetts once said.

Then a fumble, and a Detroit touchdown. A nauseous feeling built within me. If we lost, that would be it. 1-3 teams don't win the Super Bowl. 1-3 teams don't even make the playoffs. I felt like Mr. Meeseeks. I would only find peace once the Seahawks "completed their task" of winning Super Bowl 50. Until then, I'd be agony.

Lions stalking deep in Seattle territory; One of the greatest wide receivers of all time catches the ball and sprints for the goal line and the touchdown that would be The End of All Things.

Earl Thomas III hits him low. Cary Williams grabs from behind. The righteous fist of Kam Chancellor, powered by fury greater than Ronnie Lott or even the hallowed Ken Easley, blasts the ball from Calvin Johnson's grasp. Touchback. Seahawks' ball. Victory.

Well, it wasn't that simple, was it? Chancellor wasn't the only Seahawk displaying transcendent talent and a flair for the dramatic Monday night- Victory wasn't assured until the Russell Wilson slipped away from the Detroit rush one last time and fired a strike on the run deep downfield to Jermaine Kearse. The Wolfbadger was somehow turning lead into gold all night long, providing some semblance of offense in the absence of Marshawn Lynch and a functional offensive line.

Then there was "Batghazi." Yeah, KJ Wright batted the ball out of bounds. Yeah, it was technically a foul. But only the most ardent ESPN-shitstirrers and Detroit partisans could argue that a flag should have been thrown in a situation where the yellow laundry NEVER touches the grass. No one but a straight-up hater could argue that Wright's obscure, arcane infraction should trump Chancellor's peerless timing and incomparable effort.

And then I knew- If I didn't allow myself to feel joy after what I had just witnessed, what was the point of being a fan? What Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas III, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and a constellation of other sublime talents do in our names on a weekly basis deserves more than a sigh of relief. 2015 isn't 2014, and that's ok.

The offense isn't where it needs to be, but there are three months to get it right. Because this team will be in the playoffs, and for 30 years of my fandom making the playoffs was cause for celebration. It still should be. More than that, this team will be lethally dangerous, even if they don't drink from the Holy Grail of Home Field Advantage. Any team that boasts the best special teams and the best defense (like these Seahawks) is a team that can win road playoff games. We can (and will) go all 2000 Ravens/2002 Buccaneers on the NFL's asses if we have to. Until then, I'm going to enjoy every second. This isn't just a 17-week footnote to last season. It's a new journey, and over the next few months this team is going to do things none of us have ever seen before.

This Sunday's game has particular personal significance for me. Not only will I be at the game in Cincinnati, but my 9-year-old son will be there with me for his first ever Seahawks game. I was 8 years old when my father took me to my first Seahawks game back in 1983, and after that I was a Twelve for life. I'm hoping that our boys help create an indelible, unforgettable experience for my son on Sunday, but I'm trying to remind myself that it's not the end of the world if we lose.

But we won't. The Seahawks are going to prove they can win a big game on the road. Again. And it won't be the last time we see this team shock the football world this season.

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