February 9, 2014

What a season

This weekend seems so quiet, and not just because of that wonderful stillness of a snow covered morning.

In case you somehow hid from all the media hype leading up to it, or missed the crushing game, the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl (or the Superb Owl to avoid any trademark infringement). This season was really something special. It rewarded the diehard fan who has endured more losing than winning in the past 38 years, and had so many hopping on the bandwagon to enjoy the ride to the finish.

We sensed this season would be something special as we had made it tantalizingly close to the NFC Championship last year. Even the national media was picking us as favorites before the season started. It was strange to see, as this corner of the country is usually ignored, unless we are legalizing marijuana or something. It also made most of us nervous as our teams have been known to not live up to the rare hype thrown our way.

But this year was different. The team was different. Young, aggressive, and hard to predict. They would dominate one game against a contender, and the next week squeak by in overtime to a struggling team. Our quarterback was constantly scrambling just to stay alive, and just when you thought he was toast, he would sneak out of it and zip a pass to a receiver. They were never boring and I tried to catch the game somewhere each Sunday.

The team reminded me of the UW Huskies during their national championship year. A decent offense, but what really set them apart was the lightening fast defense that dominated the game. They put so much pressure on the opposing offense that they crumbled. The quarterback spent much of the game on his back, and the running backs had nowhere to run. I was a student at the UW at the time, and back then season tickets could be had for a song. Game days were incredible, and I can remember the feeling of being part of something big.

Another similarity is the volume of those stadiums. The "wave" is credited with starting at the UW, and I can remember how deafening that stadium got when the other team was on offense. Seahawk fans have set Guinness Book records for volume, and of course there was the "Beast Quake" where the cheering and stomping of feet registered as an earthquake. (full run)

The Hawks brought the city together like somehow only teams can. It was very similar to the Mariner's incredible "Refuse-to-Lose" season of 1995. Another band of mostly small name players, playing above what everyone thought they could, and a different player coming through in the clutch each week. The Seahawks were the second youngest team to ever play in the Super Bowl, and not one of the players had been there before. Many were low draft choices, passed over players led by a too-short quarterback, their coach criticized for being too much of a enthusiastic cheerleader.

Just as with the 1995 Mariners, you could feel the energy of the city rise as we began to believe this team was for real. The town was awash in shades of blue and green, football jerseys were worn by kids and grandmothers, and the 12th man was everywhere.

The game itself wasn't much of a game in the competitive sense, but oh what a performance by Seattle. I was amped even before the game began, amazed by the season, but still wondering if we would once again fall short. From the first snap it was clear this would be our day, and I stood cheering and stomping for the entire contest (with occasional trips to the snack table).

I don't pretend that their victory is my victory. My screaming and yelling in front of the tv does not make me a teammate, and I don't live and die by whether my team wins or not. Still, this was one of those rare seasons where you felt like you were part of a bigger community. I will never forget that incredible feeling when Edgar ripped "The Double" to beat the Yankees in extra innings to take the series. It felt like we were all willing Griffey to beat the tag, and when he did there was an eruption of joy and hugs with friends and strangers alike. But even that Refuse-to-Lose team fell short, losing the next series and failing to make it to the World Series.

The Seahawks didn't fall short, and I don't think I will ever forget this first Super Bowl win. It didn't have that electric shock of a last second victory, but I don't know that I will ever see a team rise to the occasion like this one did. It was 60 minutes of incredulity as "our" team dismantled the best offensive team in history. It is just a game, but in the moment it felt like so much more.

The victory isn't ours, it belongs to the teammates playing better than anyone (outside this city) believed they could. The pride, however, spills out across the region, and for a town with a reputation of Seattle Freeze, this team has us hugging strangers again like long lost friends.

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