August 28, 2016

Russell Wilson and You

To be trans is to be alone.

It's feeling like you are different when you are 9. It's getting a clear message from your Dad when he goes SHITHOUSE on a dude at the hardware store who mistakenly thought you were a little girl. Whatever feelings you have are weird, and wrong, and dangerous. You aren't even close to sorting those feelings out, but you know it's a secret you have to conceal at all costs.

It's a cycle of confusion and depression and shame that leaves you feeling horribly isolated and disconnected. You find a thing that makes you feel connected to other people, though. You pour everything you have into it. You learn all you can about it. When you go on a bus trip from the Tri-Cities to Seattle for a Seahawks game when you are 11, you know more about the team than all the adults. You're a snot-nosed little shit who SCREAMS at the Steelers all the way through warm-ups from the Kingdome upper deck, either not knowing or not caring that they can't possibly hear you (You don't remember).

For three hours every fall weekend, you forgot those feelings you were pushing down inside yourself. You lost yourself in something bigger, and felt that connection that eluded you in every other facet of your life. You'd walk on air for days if they won. You'd sink into a deep funk all week after a loss. But you felt SOMETHING. Something other than the doubt you felt about your identity, your personhood, your existence. In fact, it becomes something that you use as a cudgel against those percolating feelings. You weren't like those characters on Jerry Springer. You weren't that girl from The Crying Game. You liked football! How could you be trans if you liked football? What was girly or feminine about that?

You tread water in your life. Jobs and people and relationships come and go, but two things are constant - The rumbling cloud of gender sadness that's always overhead, and your Seahawks. You're 25. You're 30. You're 35. As the rationalizations lose their power, and the sea walls in your psyche crumble, you're terrified. There are some rational reasons for your fear. If you are trans, you fear that you are FUCKED. You're a nerd, so you gather all the imformation you can. What you find out is bracing, to say the least.

You can get fired for being trans. You can get kicked out of your apartment for being trans. You'll likely lose family, friends and more. You read horrifying statistics (disturbing in general, but gobsmackingly catastrophic for trans women of color) - about how the unemployment rates and levels of poverty for trans people are much higher than the general population. About how over half of trans people reported being verbally harassed in public, About how a toxic stew of discrimination, limited resources, and constricted life options led to trans people living with HIV at a rate FOUR TIMES HIGHER than the rest of the population. How FORTY-ONE PERCENT of trans people attempt suicide (compared to 1.6% of the general population). In fact, you are told more than once that being trans is such a treacherous life path that you should only step upon it if it's a choice between that and suicide.

You finally get to a point where you feel like you can try to reconcile all these various parts of yourself. You start living authentically and you find that you CAN be trans and a Twelve. It's glorious. You come out on your blog, and the response is overwhelmingly positive. You start presenting your authentic self just six weeks before the Seahawks finally win a Super Bowl. You're in the house when Sherm tips the ball to Smith. You witness 43-8 and you break down in tears afterwards, feeling like they were waiting for YOU TO BE READY before finally hoisting that Lombardi Trophy.

You notice that slowly but surely, things were changing. You see signs of progress. You see, for the first time, that the President of the United States gives a crap about people like you, and actually does quite a bit to help you out. You're a positive, optimistic sort, so you see things going on a trajectory that bends toward freedom.

But progress provokes backlash, both socially and politically. Trans women, particularly trans women of color, are murdered simply for being themselves at an alarming rate. States like North Carolina pass draconian laws that criminalize people like me using the bathroom, and the official position of the Raleigh government is that you must be "delusional" and unworthy of full citizenship.

Back home, there was an effort to pass a similar law in Washington State. You did what you could. You gave money to the effort to keep that shit off the ballot. And you succeeded! Hooray. But even back in the Evergreen State, there were far too many people marinating in ignorance, hatred, and fear of trans folks. You wondered when the anvil would fall - when would someone on your beloved Seahawks say something brazenly, openly transphobic?

You looked around and saw that far too many NFL players, coaches and owners held retrograde views- some even supported the vile Tangerine Mussolini Donald Trump. Sure, your owner is a huge Democratic donor, your coach supported Obama openly, and one of your defensive superstars backed Bernie - But when would a Seahawk say something disgusting about people like you? It seemed inevitable.

You see on the news that a trans woman of color was murdered right here in Columbus. It hits way too close to home. You go to a vigil for Rae'Lynn Thomas. Your pain is nothing compared to that of her family and friends. You don't face nearly the same discrimination and danger that trans women of color face, but you feel powerless and hopeless. You feel darkness encroaching.

Your favorite player is Russell Wilson. You've always had a thing for quarterbacks, from Dave Krieg to Matt Hasselbeck to the WolfBadger. You love that he PROVED YOU WRONG about him (along with every NFL team that passed on the chance to draft him multiple times). You love how electrifying he is on the field. You think he's handsome and personable. Your kids seem immediately drawn to him. You love that he WINS. He seems to do damn near nothing but win, and he does it with style and flair.

But you worry. He's pretty religious. Sadly, it feels like there's a correlation between certain American flavors of Christianity and transphobic attitudes. He's also very controlled and corporate in terms of his public persona. Was there some hidden reservoir of hate within him that he smartly concealed from a fan base that contains a huge number of LGBT folks and their straight cis allies?

Then you see the piece in Pro Football Talk. With his new wife Ciara, Wilson decided to move his wedding out of North Carolina because of that hateful "bathroom bill" that dehumanized people like me in the Tarheel State. When asked about it, RW3 said “I just believe that Jesus loves all people. That’s honestly what I believe.”

As an activist, part of you wishes that he would have delivered an impassioned rant about the injustice of laws like HB2, but you're still ecstatic. You know that this is still a big deal - Not just to you, but to every trans person who wears College Blue, Wolf Grey, and Action Green. You know that Wilson has roots in North Carolina, and he must not have decided to move his wedding lightly.

YOUR FAVORITE PLAYER DOESN'T HATE PEOPLE LIKE YOU. That might sound like an unbelieveably low bar to clear, but it means everything to you. Can you imagine being a Patriots fan (BARF) and having to root for Trump-loving Brady (BAAAAAAARF)? You trash those plans for buying a Baldwin jersey (Sorry, Angry Doug), because for a good long spell, all you are going to wear is nothing but #3 and #12.

You see that minds are already changing on this. You see the Seahawks Stadium chef who had previously spewed ignorant bile do a near-tearful 180. You feel a little bit of hope again.

You're not alone.

August 17, 2016

Your 2016 Seattle Seahawks Jersey Buying Guide

The Seahawks host their first preseason game of 2016 Thursday night, and I'm sure many of you are agonizing over what new jersey you want to snag and show off on gameday. Thankfully, I'm here to help! While it's perfectly cromulent to go with a #12 Fan jersey, I don't like to have that as the only jersey in my closet - Doing that makes me feel like I'm not sufficiently invested in the players who are currently on the team. I'm in the market for a new jersey myself this year, so let's look at the players you should avoid, and the ones that'll make your fellow 12s say "Damn. That's bad-ass." First, the general information and admonitions...

As usual, let's start with the 1st Commandment of jersey ownership: NEVER PUT YOUR JERSEY IN THE DRYER! Dryers kill jerseys! Don't do it under any circumstances. If you abide by this decree your jersey(s) should hold up for a nice, long spell. If possible, wash them on the delicate cycle in cold water by themselves. I also feel strongly that there's no compelling reason to opt for the more opulent Nike models. The $100 replicas ("game" jerseys) are plenty expensive enough, and will look sharp for years with proper care. If you are lucky enough to fit into a "youth" size, those are only about $70.

Like many of you, I've felt the sting of buying a jersey just to see that player get seriously injured (I for one have a weird thing about not wanting to wear an injured player's jersey) or leave Seattle a year (or less) later. My hope is that with this guide, I'll help you get a jersey that A) will be a good investment for years to come and B) will make you stand out from the crowd a bit.

I love me some Michael Bennett, but his continued (and frankly justified) grousing about his contract situation, coupled with PCJS's fearlessness about cutting loose ANYONE who fucks with their plan or with team chemistry, would make me wait on buying Black Santa's jersey at the moment. I'd also stay away from Brandon Browner. He's not a supreme lock to make the 53-man roster, he's a free agent after the season, and I'm not entirely over the fact that he helped beat us in XLIX. Other notable pending free agents include Steven Hauschka, Luke Willson, Tharold Simon, Christine Michael, Marcus Burley, and Deshawn Shead. I'm excited about Paul Richardson, but I'd still be hesitant to buy his jersey coming off a 2nd consecutive season-ending injury. I have similar concerns about Jimmy Graham. Finally, I just have a general principle against buying rookie jerseys, so I'd avoid snaring any of those at this point. OK - Who SHOULD you buy? Here's the Top 10:

10. Russell Wilson

The face of the franchise. Unquestionably an elite quarterback after the way he scorched the league in the 2nd half of last season. But... if you don't already have a Russell Wilson jersey, you probably don't actually want one all that badly, do you?

9. Kam Chancellor 
I adore Bam Bam Kam. He saved us against Detroit. He caused the takeaway that led to the playoff win in Minnesota. He's the baddest, toughest, most intimidating player around every time he steps onto the field. However, he's injury plagued. He's a free agent after 2017 and his long-term future in Seattle is unclear at this point. Be a bit wary here.

8. Cliff Avril
Unlike his pass-rushing linemate, Avril is under contract through 2018. He racked up nine sacks last season, and remains one of the most fearsome defensive ends in football. As a bonus, Seahawks Stadium isn't at all saturated with #56 jerseys yet - So you'll stand out sporting an Avril jersey.

7. Richard Sherman 
Still the best corner in the game. Still outspoken. Still on a trajectory that ends in Canton, Ohio. Under contract through 2018. Only problem? A LOT of 12s already have his jersey.

6. Earl Thomas
Finally, it looks like Ken Easley might get his bust in the Hall of Fame next year. Someday, Earl Thomas will be the 2nd Seahawks safety to be inducted. He's under contract through 2018 so this is still a great time to buy in on the quiet leader of the Legion of Boom.

5. Bobby Wagner 
Our all-world middle linebacker is at his career peak and is under team control until 2020. If you haven't snapped up a #54 jersey, this is a perfect time to make that leap.

4. Tyler Lockett
Flash was not just a spectacular kick returner in his rookie campaign, but also a shockingly reliable and productive wideout. Big things are rightfully expected of him in 2016 and beyond, and with him under contract through 2018, his jersey would be a wise investment.

3. Thomas Rawls
Contradiction time! You know how I said earlier to steer clear of players coming off injuries? I'm making an exception for Rawls. The kid was an absolute MONSTER in just a handful of starts last season, and I'm convinced that if it wasn't for his ankle injury in Baltimore, we would have advanced to our third straight Super Bowl. He won't be asked to carry the entire load of the running game this season, but he WILL hoist the Lombardi Trophy next February. The ankle issue is the only reason he's not higher on this list.

2. Jon Ryan
Before he got chased off social media by bigots, he was a great follow. He's LGBT-friendly. He's one of the very best punters in the game. He throws touchdown passes in playoff games and taunts the opposing team afterwards. He's Canadian, and thus probably my fake boyfriend Justin Trudeau's favorite NFL player. What's not to love? :)

1. Doug Baldwin
Angry Doug has been a fan favorite for a long time. He burst onto the scene back in 2011 as an undrafted free agent and quickly endeared himself to the 12 Army. I'll never forget an early social media post where he took a picture with a Twelve at Target and was wearing a Seahawks sweatshirt - He wears free clothes he gets from work! NFL players! They're just like us!

He's always been a solid performer, but in the 2nd half of last season he leveled up - He became Russell Wilson's favorite target and scored 14 touchdowns while also notching his first 1000-yard campaign. Now he's locked up until the 2020 season, and I expect us to see him deliver a lot more moments like that game-winning touchdown against Pittsburgh last season. Thus, he's my top choice for a new jersey purchase this season.

Did I miss anyone obvious? Let me know in the comments!

What do you think, sirs?

August 7, 2016

Waking up, Waking up from shutdown

The 2016 NFL season kicks off tonight, and this will be my 20th season as a Seahawks season ticket holder. It's not coincidental that I got season tickets when Paul Allen bought the team. After years of neglect and sabotage from Californian Carpetbagger Ken Behring, Allen was desperate to rebuild a Seahawks fan base that had atrophied through the Forgotten Years of the 1990s. It got so bad that TV blackouts became commonplace (I remember driving outside the blackout zone to be able to watch games WAY too often), and the rare sellouts would happen when a team with a large national fan base rolled into the Kingdome.

Once Referendum 48 passed and Allen took over the franchise, he made a few sections of seats in the south end zone's upper deck rediculously cheap: $10. $200 for a pair of season tickets. I had just graduated from Western that spring, and in celebration of R-48's passage I snapped up a pair of seats in the VERY TOP ROW of the Dome's upper deck. I was staying in Bellingham to get my M.A. in Political Science (mainly because I never really wanted to leave).

I went to games there for only two full seasons. Despite starting off with one of the most humilating losses in franchise history, it wasn't that bad rooting on the Hawks from that perch. I could stand up the whole game if I wanted. There was a little area behind the seats where we could put all our stuff. You could make extra noise by banging on the metal panel behind my seats. OK, it sorta sucks, but I made the best of it. Of course, since we are talking about the tail end of the Dennis Erickson era, I got to see two fustrating 8-8 seasons. Warren Moon, Joey Galloway, Ricky Watters, Chad Brown, and others provided some highlights, but it was a familiar story for the Seahawks: Mediocrity as grey as the paint in our end zones. The arrival of Mike Holmgren in 1999 brought the first playoff home game in 15 years, but it was all too fitting that the Dome's last game was a bowel-churning playoff loss (to a Miami side that would lose by 55 POINTS the following week in the divisonal round).

Then we had two seasons of watching our team flail about in sideways needle rain at Husky Stadium. I had already moved to Columbus for more graduate school (No more degrees to get at Western, sadly), but I would schedule trips home around Seahawks home games as frequently as possible. That's how it's been now for 17 years.

Seahawks Stadium opened in 2002, and that means we've played 14 seasons in the loudest, most beautiful venue in the NFL. In that time, I've seen us go to the playoffs 10 times. I've personally been in the house for 5 playoff wins, including three NFC Championship Game victories. I've watched the franchise completely transform from one seemingly encased in 8-8 amber into FUCKING RAPTOR SQUAD.

Seattle enters the 2016 season with few glaring weaknesses (What happens if Russell Wilson goes down? Will the offensive line adequately protect him? Will they open up running lanes for Thomas Rawls? Will he still be able to dart through them after last December's injury?), and a lethal combination of youth, talent, experience and THIRST for another championship. Ask any Seahawk player, coach, or fan - One shitty half in Charlotte is the only reason last season didn't end in Santa Clara. Even after falling behind 31-0, our imdominable Hawks damn near won anyway. Why all the optimism?

Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin forged some sort of football nerd mind-meld and torched the whole league in the 2nd half of last season. RW3 removed any doubt that he is a true franchise quarterback - One of the top 5 signal callers in the game (I don't care what those bobblehead haters in the football press say). The WolfBadger has an obscene number of dangerous weapons - Beyond Angry Doug, there's also Flash Lockett, Big Game Jermaine, and weirdly half-forgotten Jimmy Graham.

Even with the retirement of Marshawn Lynch, the Hawks should still be able to bludgeon the enemy via the running game with Rawls and whichever combination of promising rookies and Christine Michaels claws their way onto the 53-man roster. On defense, the original Legion of Boom has been reunited with the return of Brandon Browner, and it's absolutely likely that Seattle will have Top 5 units on offense, defense and special teams. Seattle's #1 ranking by Football Outsiders going into this season is completely deserved, and I'm calling it now: Next January the Hawks will defeat Pittsburgh to win Super Bowl LI.

I've been thinking a lot about the 49ers of the early 1980s lately. Not just because of their historical run of success, but because Bill Walsh so greatly influenced Pete Carroll. A young Niners team won a Super Bowl ahead of schedule in January 1982, followed by the weirdness of the strike-shortened 1982 season and a narrow loss in the 1983 NFC Championship game to D.C.

In 1984 they achieved an almost unprecedented level of dominance, going 15-1 with the #2 offense and #1 defense in the league. They capped that campaign by flattening Miami in XIX, but their run was far from over, and they'd win a total of four championships over a nine-year stretch. These Seahawks have similar potential.

I plan to share another magical season with all y'all here and over on my twitter feed. The hiatus is over. The Seahawks mean everything to me - But they mean the most when I am connected to my fellow Twelves. Expect much more content in this space over the next few months. Fell free to hit me with questions in the comments and GO HAWKS!!!