I've never seen such a beautiful day end up so completely spoiled.
On Sunday, I brought my son to his first-ever Seahawks game. He's 9, barely older than I was when I went to my first Seahawks game way back in 1983. Not only did that stirring win make me a Twelve for life, but almost all my positive memories of estranged father are connected to watching the Seahawks together. Thankfully, I'm not estranged from my son. We're very close, and his affinity for the Hawks is deeply meaningful to me. He's not from Seattle. Geographically, he should be a Detroit Lions or Cleveland Browns fan. Sadly, I only have my kids one weekend a month, so he's not a 12 due to me constantly hammering Bittersweet Symphony into his brainpan. He's a Twelve because the Seahawks are awesome and he wants that connection to me. Here we are before departing for Cincinnati yesterday:
Taking him to the game was also significant to me because just over a year ago, I was afraid he would end up hating me. When I first tried to come out to him as my authentic self, he hid from me and refused to see me. It turned around soon enough, but us going to the game together was an exemplar of how far we've come since last summer. Here we are up in the nosebleed seats:
For 3 quarters, it was a blast. It was a gorgeous, sun-drenched, unseasonably warm fall day. To our right, the Cincinnati skyline. To our left, the Ohio River and the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge into Kentucky. Below, the Seahawks were stomping out a formidable Bengals team. Russell Wilson was perfect. The defense had Cincinnati's explosive offense locked down. The offensive line was blasting open running lanes for Thomas Rawls. It was going to be an emphatic win, launching the Seahawks towards another title run and forever cementing my son's Twelvedom,
Then it all unspooled, with Seattle suddenly finding themselves unable to string together first downs on offense, and helpless against the newly dominant Andy Dalton. Everything had to go wrong for Seattle to lose after being up by 3 scores in the 4th quarter, and it did. I was struck with a twinge of nauseating familiarity, though...
Yesterday's shattering defeat in Cincinnati was unusual but not unprecedented. Almost exactly 11 years ago, the Seahawks held a 17-point lead at home against the hated Rams with less than six minutes left. As I've written in this space before:
For 54 minutes, the Seahawks dominated St. Louis. They led 27-10. Shaun Alexander shredded the Rams defense for 150 yards and the defense forced three Marc Bulger interceptions. Then, it was like a switch got flipped- Seattle's offense became a 3-and-out machine, and the defense absolutely could not stop St. Louis' air attack. 27-10 became 27-17, 27-24 and then 27-27 before millions of stunned Twelves could comprehend what was happening. In overtime, Shaun McDonald hauled in a 52-yard Bulger TD and the implosion was complete.
My reaction was more like a panic attack than anything else. I was 29 years old, and decades removed from crying after Seahawks losses- But I simply collapsed into sobs after that game, into a deep, inescapable despair. At that time in my life, I was DEEP into my graduate studies, and there's no way to sugar-coat this: I was fucking miserable. I had spent 5 years in an elite PhD program, and the main effects of the experience were the destruction of my imagination and the near-obliteration my ability to feel joy. That Rams game just seemed to punctuate the darkness in my life at that time.
But yesterday, I didn't have the luxury of reacting so openly. Throughout the whole day, in the back of my head, was a constant drumbeat of "Keep Jack Safe." Thankfully I didn't have to resort to the tactics that Rick Sanchez's space car used to keep Summer safe, but I kept thinking all day long: "Don't react to provocations. Keep him close by. Get him back home un-traumatized." I was worried that A) rooting for the Seahawks and B) being trans would invite abuse from the Bengals fans surrounding us. But we got lucky- there was a critical mass of Twelves at Paul Brown Stadium that seemed to prevent the Cincy locals from getting too aggressive, and if anyone noticed I was trans, they didn't say anything about it.
As we left the stadium, Jack was downcast. I stopped him and asked if he was OK. He looked at me and said "I'm just really sad." I saw it in his eyes. The same look I'm sure I had when the Hawks lost in the playoffs to Miami back when I was his age. The pain of caring about the Seattle Seahawks. I hugged him and told him it would be alright, that there was a game next week and that we'd win.
Did I believe that? I wanted to, but I also had a sickening feeling that this was 2004 all over again- That we'd struggle all season, sneak into the playoffs, and then suffer an even more traumatic fate in the postseason.
Oh dear God, please nothing like this again.
But there's a HUGE difference between the 2004 team and this one- This squad has muscle memory of Championship glory, and of climbing out of pits like this to play transcendent football. The 2012 Seahawks started 4-4, then were 6-5 before hitting the playoffs as the hottest team in the league. Just last year, the Hawks started 3-3, then were 6-4 before going on a run that landed them in the Super Bowl.
This team is a couple of plays away from being 5-1 instead of 2-3. They've dropped two road games to undefeated foes, and lost in OT on the road to a divisional rival (who has also defeated Arizona). Yesterday, there were encouraging signs, particularly from the offensive line, over the first three quarters. This team is still extremely talented, and it stands on the verge of going on another rampage ala 2012 and 2014. Obviously, it has to start this Sunday against the undefeated Panthers. But then there are eminently winnable road dates with Santa Clara and Dallas before a bye and a gargantuan SNF showdown with the Cardinals.
There's reason to be hopeful. Remember how I said yesterday was spoiled by that collapse? That wasn't entirely accurate. The Seahawks found another legit ground threat in Thomas Rawls, and then there was this...
As we were driving home, out of the blue Jack said "I guess we're even."
"What do you mean, Jack?"
"When you told us you were going to be a girl, I hid in the basement behind a chair, and you spent time with just Lily. Now you're spending time with just me. Now we're even."
"Oh, that's OK, sweetie."
"I was just scared because it was a big change. But now it's OK."
"I love you, Jack."
"I love you, Daddy."
THAT'S when the tears finally came for me.
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