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!!!