Football is a lot of things to me. It's catharsis. Football is an end to the means- a carrot dangling from a stick at the end of a long week at work. It is, to an extent, a vicarious continuation of the athletic endeavors that were so important to me as a kid and as a teenager. I was never
talented disciplined enough to play ball at the college level, so my dreams live on in the Hasselbecks and the Alexanders and the Trufants and the BMWs. Most importantly, football is a point of reference, a compass, a constant.
As a 25 year old "young professional" I'm still growing accustomed to not having summer vacation, spring break, back-to-school shopping, or graduation as yardsticks. Measuring the passage of time has become strange and difficult. Measuring personal progress even more so. Work is work is work and it carries on with little regard for the holidays and milestones from my adolescence.
Seahawks football keeps me on track. In the heat of August I know I'm getting close. In the crisp early weeks of September, I know I"m home, and I've made it through another year. The season opener is tomorrow. Tonight is Christmas Eve.Matt Hasselbeck's departure came as a vague relief to me. At the time I don't know that I reacted at all. I read most of the tributes and farewells and rolled my eyes. I was fatigued from the lockout and jaded from the past season's Matt vs Charlie narrative, but here's the truth: If he's not my favorite athlete of all time, then he is certainly the athlete I have the most emotion invested in, so seeing the will he/won't he drama and the nauseating in-fighting among Seahawks fans come to an end was most welcome. Last season was so tumultuous and challenging and thrilling and devastating, and Matt's performance so instrumental to each of those emotions, that a clean break felt good. Wish we could have gotten that ring, thanks for the memories, best of luck in Tennessee. But now I'm sitting at my desk in Denver, 14 hours from gametime, and for the first time since before I could drive a car Matt Hasselbeck won't be our opening day starting QB. And that's kind of odd. This isn't a Matt Hasselbeck post, but this is a post about what it's like to be sitting on the precipice of a new season of Seahawks football, and it's distinctly weird and strangely sad that #8 won't be under center tomorrow.
Pete Carroll won me over in a surprisingly big way last season. Throw on some Seattle blue and lime green, lead a SEA! HAWKS! chant, and connect with the Seattle community and it's amazing how quickly we'll accept you as one of our own. Pete did all of those things in the first 2 weeks of the 2010 season. Prior and during, he successfully cut out all the cancer and dead weight and sad legacies of the Ruskell years, and it was fucking cathartic. Seeing Pete's sideline reactions after touchdowns and big plays was almost more thrilling than the touchdowns themselves. Seahawks football was fun again. Most of the old regime is gone and it would be easy to feel disconnected and hopeless, but Pete Carroll has given me something to believe in. Even if this coming season is ugly, I'll feel good each Sunday knowing that we have a coach that wants it as badly as we do.
The magic of the 12th Man is difficult to explain. The name is self-explanatory, of course, but outside fanbases are justifiably skeptical of the title. Lots of stadiums are loud, lots of parking lots have crazy tailgate scenes and lots of fans dress like it's Halloween. Plenty of franchises have a persecution complex, plenty of sports cities have gone through worse than Seattle. Like cooking and cocktails, it's all in the mix. Our fanhood comes from a place of pain mixed with agonizingly fleeting tastes of glory (95 Mariners, 96 Sonics, 01 Mariners, 05 Seahawks) that only left us hungrier for the absence of a ring. Our stadiums are snuggled against the prettiest skyline in the country and rub elbows with historic neighborhoods that don't need a sports stadium nearby to be vibrant. Seattle is an interesting place to grow up. You don't know that you're missing sunshine until you leave. You'll never understand the beauty of the lake and the Sound and the trees and Rainier unless you leave. All this good and all this bad comes together on Sundays to root for a team that wears an ancient symbol of the Pacific Northwest on their helmets. In a city defined by coffee and powerpoint and airplanes, this Sunday ritual is important. The 12th Man is the true identity of this town, and the season opener tomorrow means the return of that community, even for those of us living in Denver, and New York, and (heaven forbid) San Francisco.
This season could go many ways, none of which would surprise me. It's a big, beautiful unknown. This team will likely drive me crazy with their shaky mistakes, and thrill me with their raw athletic prowess. The dream every year is to win a Super Bowl, but the truth is that there's no joy like the joy of being a Seahawks fan on opening day. We have an entire season in front of us, 53 players to believe in, and 8 tooth-rattling limb-shaking eardrum-destroying home games to look forward to. The Seahawks are back.
I'm off to bed. Tomorrow we open presents.