December 8, 2015

Breaking the Surface, Tasting the Air

(Me at noon and at 3 pm last Sunday) 

For the second time in ten months, I got to experience a team I love reaching the Championship- Only to end up watching the enemy celebrate. Columbus Crew SC fell in the MLS Cup 2-1 to Portland Timbers FC. For me, there were (faint) echoes of Super Bowl XL in the horrible officiating that went against the Crew and in Columbus' weirdly flat, error-sprinkled performance.  It was a crushing disappointment and a stressful way to spend a beautiful, unseasonably warm December afternoon.

This was a big deal to me- For the first time since I was 8 years old, I was missing a significant chunk of a Seahawks' non-preseason, non-replacement game. My girlfriend and I are both rabid Crew SC supporters, and my Christmas present to her (and to myself) was a day at the MLS Cup (and what was supposed to be a rare Non-Ohio State-related Championship moment for the Arch City). I had experienced three NFC Championship Game victories at Seahawks Stadium, and I was hoping (and honestly kind of expecting) a similar dizzying high on Sunday at MAPFRE Stadium... But it wasn't meant to be.

(My girlfriend and I at the MLS Cup)

Even at the MLS Cup, I couldn't escape Twelvedom. I saw a Timbers FC supporter wearing a Seahawks hat, and for an instant I wanted to bond with him over that... But I was stopped cold by two startling realizations:

1. It would have been a bizarre "breaking of the 4th wall," so to speak. I was there to root for Columbus, not be chummy with the enemy's supporters.

2. I wasn't wearing any Seahawks gear, which while appropriate, suddenly left me feeling absolutely naked when I realized I was in the presence of another 12.

When the final whistle blew after an unfathomably frustrating 90-plus minutes of soccer, I consoled myself with two thoughts: "At least the Seahawks won!" and "At least I didn't miss anything that affected the outcome in Minneapolis!"

Before we headed to MAPFRE, my girlfriend and I ducked into a nearby sports bar to catch the first half of the Seahawks game (Well, I was watching the Seahawks- My girlfriend was engrossed by Carrie Brownstein's memoir. And with good reason! We had just been to the Sleater-Kinney show the night before, and that got her good and hooked on all things S-K-related). By the time we had to leave for the match, Seattle had already built a 14-0 lead. Given that the Hawks would end up pummeling the Vikings 38-7, it turned out that I got to see the "winning" touchdown run by Russell Wilson.

I know that when and how and if I watch the Seahawks on TV doesn't impact the outcome of the games, but I would have felt horribly guilty anyway if the Hawks had lost after I stopped watching. Thanks for letting me off the hook, boys!

I'll leave detailed descriptions of the entire game to the immensely talented Brian Nemhauser, but I do want to mention one thing that leapt out at me early in the game. Russell Wilson's perfect pass and spectacular catch in traffic by Tyler Lockett was punctuated by a helmet-to-helmet flag that set up a later touchdown. That was ALL gold, but did you see Richard Sherman run down the sideline and FREAK THE FUCK OUT celebrating the catch and congratulating Flash? It reminded me of all the times the defense lost their damn minds on the sidelines during/after punishing touchdown sprints by Marshawn. The Legion of Boom fed off the toughness and explosiveness of Lynch and the offense during the crazy-hot streaks during the 2012 and 2014 stretch runs, and we're starting to see something similar brewing now. Not only are the Seahawks clicking, but they are very clearly back to a total commitment to playing FOR each other- And that should terrify the rest of the NFL.

The defense just throttled the best running game (outside of Seattle) in the NFL. They might just be back their natural state as an immovable object festooned in jagged spikes and razor wire. The offense? Holy FUCK. No one is playing better at QB than Russell Carrington Wilson right now. Get a 50-yard TD run called back on a holding flag? Just throw a 50-yard TD on the next play (to Doug Baldwin, who is blossoming into the league's most underrated wideout). Thomas Rawls' emergence continued, and defensive coordinators from Charlotte to Glendale must be losing sleep now that they are confronted with the possibility that they'll have to scheme for Wilson, Rawls. Baldwin, Lockett AND a healthy/HANGRY Marshawn Lynch.

Seattle's next three opponents have a combined record of 10-26. The Hawks should hit Glendale in week 17 at 10-5 (and hopefully with the 5th NFC seed already clinched). It's now PROBABLE that the Seahawks will get the top Wild Card slot and visit a 7-9ish NFC East Champ in the 1st round of the tournament. Charlotte's prize for 16-0 might be a rematch with a Seattle side VASTLY improved since the Panthers edged the befuddled OctoberHawks. Arizona might end up regretting all that shit-talking and crotch-chopping from last month if they are unlucky enough to host us in the NFCCG.

After the MLS Cup, my girlfriend was nearly inconsolable. I comforted her by telling her it was OK to be upset, that it was good to feel things so intensely, even if those feelings come from defeat. I told her I was the one sobbing back in February, and she might need to comfort ME after a season-ending Seahawks loss in the not-too-distant future.

But... Maybe not? They really might not lose again this season. And that consolation reciprocity might have to wait until next winter (if then).

Until then, this song's for her....

Throw me a rope, give me a leg
I haven't seen daylight in what must be day
I took the long way down, lost track of myself
Confidence fell down the steepest of slopes
I'll row you an ocean, I could do more
I feel so much stronger, now that you're here
We've got so much to do, let me make that clear

We win, we lose, only together do we break the rules
We win, we lose, only together do we make the rules

I'm breaking the surface, tasting the air
I'm reaching for things like never before
The anchor is heavy, I can't hold the weight
The guilt holds me down, won't let me be myself
Suck it all in, suck it all up
Let go of thoughts holding me back
I'll push twice as hard towards it you see
And the past falls away to the bottom of the deep

When we leave say goodbye to your old way of life
I can breathe way up high now it's our turn to fly

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