I don't remember exactly when it was that I got into sports. I certainly enjoyed playing them from an early age, but it took me a while to develop an identity as a Seattle sports fan. Blaming your upbringing rarely reflects well, but here's a case where I can do it accurately. My dad hardly cares about sports. He loves March Madness and cycling and played an awful lot of hockey and tennis as a kid, but he doesn't really watch sports and as a result I didn't have a heritable rooting interest. So it was up to my friends to help impart the love of local teams that I wasn't getting at home. I remember the 1995 Mariners season mostly because I went over to one of my elementary school friends' house to watch the game in which Edgar hit the salami. I didn't have context and so the magic of 1995 did not catapult me into serious fandom, but I was 9.
I also don't really remember the Seahawks from my early youth. By about 12 or 13, I started paying attention. I have dusty memories of Warren Moon's last season as a Hawk and the Ricky Watters / Joey Galloway days. Looking through Football Reference, I'd say 1999 was the first year I started listening to or watching games regularly. Reading the names Derrick Mayes and Sean Dawkins is like running a finger over a dusty old dresser, and I have fond memories of Willie Williams, Anthony Simmons, and Chad Brown too. My parents not being big on TV meant that I listened to most games on the radio. Brian Davis and Steve Raible were regular guests in my room on Sunday mornings. By the time Shaun Alexander started getting some rookie carries and Isaiah Kacyvenski was doing whatever it was that he did to earn himself some space in my brain, I was hooked.
All of that made last season a strange experience. Following the team from afar has become easy in the internet era, but following a bad team while inundated with more important things requires a special brand of curiosity or idiocy or something else I hadn't figured out yet. The first two years of med school are akin to having a gallon of milk delivered to your house every morning.* Drinking it takes up a good portion of every day and you know there's another gallon coming the following day. If you don't finish, there's just that much more milk to drink the next day. But I made time to watch the Seahawks on Sundays because part of staying sane requires doing things you enjoy doing. The Seahawks were terrible enough that watching the games wasn't entirely enjoyable. You know this. I watched anyway, but a funny thing happened as the season progressed: detachment. Not the kind that usually occurs with bad teams where you stop worrying so much and can turn the game off at halftime because it's sunny out and the autumn leaves are fluttering in the breeze. I almost stopped caring about the team on the field all together and just maintained the attachment to being a fan, to caring about keeping that connection. I identify myself as a fan of the Seahawks and had motivation to preserve that identity even while the team was busy licking Scratch 'n Sniff stickers under the dining room table.
So I learned something. I learned that my identity and history as a fan of a particular team mean as much to me as the experience of watching the team play. I learned how ribs articulate with thoracic vertebrae and how Matt Hasselbeck doesn't care whether or not his do. I learned that, while cheering for good teams is the ultimate stated goal of fandom, there's more behind team loyalty than dreams of championships. Losing seasons suck, and losing seasons when you could really use something more interesting in your life suck with great gusto, but nothing is wasted entirely.
*I have no idea why I chose this particular analogy.