It's only been six years.
Six years ago was such a simple, different time - probably a more naive time too. We still had a NBA team. Felix Hernandez was still a promising but unproven pitcher. Back then, the Huskies began it's first year under Tyrone Willingham. Brandon Roy was just about to go pro. The Storm just won their first WNBA championship. Six years ago it was a simple and naive time indeed.
But that's not what highlights the sports year isn't it? It was all on one team - the Seahawks. And on that fateful Saturday on January 22nd. On that Saturday evening, we were heading over to Detroit ready to play in our first Super Bowl in franchise history. Everyone was going nuts. The Seattle sports curse was broken. For once we were the headlines on ESPN; We were being talked about! It was a turning point in our 30 years of mediocrity, and probably still the highest point of our franchise today.
It was probably the highest point in my life too - I become a 12th man that night.
Let my start off by saying that I'm unique. I didn't have the privilege of being "breed" into a certain team. Hell, my father didn't know about football. Nor did my uncles, or my cousins, not even my grandfathers. Even the friends I had that time barely understood the game. I had to discover the sport for myself.
And all that started six years ago...
I was only in 5th grade back then. I don't remember much about it: it's only been 2 years since my family and I immigrated from Hong Kong and moved to Bellevue, so my English was probably not that good. I had the "grandma style" teacher that was kind (probably because she was only a few years from retirement), but the kids in my class weren't that memorable.
But what was memorable about 5th grade was this. I was scanning the channels on my TV, trying to see what else was on since it was movie night on Cartoon Network. And as I flipped past Channel 30 FSN (Who was broadcasting the 2005 Seahawks Season Preview), I saw a glimpse of this:
The image was etched into my brain for a long time, and with it, came questions. Who was this man? What was he doing? Why does this seem so sad? Why do they look so fat? What were they wearing?! I tried to start learning more about it. I searched the web for anything that could relate to that pitcher. "Lewis #92 arms spread eagle", "#8 man kneeling on ground in pain" were frequent searches on Google, but nothing appropriate or sensible came out. Tomorrow came, and as I helped recycle away old newspapers, I saw the picture again, but this time under the headline of:
PLAYOFF HOPES DASHED AS SEAHAWKS LOSE TO RAMS, 27-20
Common sense would deduce that the man #8 would probably be on the Seahawk's team. But what were they? What were the Seahawks? What kind of activity is this? And pretty soon, the game started to etched into my mind. And to this day, I still don't know why the sight of seeing twenty two muscular, sweaty men wrestling in grass would be so interesting, but I was hooked since then.
In stereotypical Asian fashion, I learned the sport through research. I learned nearly everything about football. I learned what the NFL and what the NCAA are. All the positions, all the rules, all the penalties, anything that could relate to it. I even convinced my parents to let me join the Pee-Wee league team, and in there I learned the game from the inside. Routes, Snap count, Blocking scheme, tackling method - I learned it all. I learned what it felt like to give and to receive a pancake block. I learned the pain, the happiness, the tears, the toughness, I learned everything there is about football and yet I wasn't satistfied.
What was I missing?
There was no doubt I loved the game. Every day of the week was football day, but I didn't understand why I was still so unsettling. The Seahawks team kept recurring in my head, and like the image of #8 kneeling in the ground still stayed in my brain. So I decided to learn more about the Seahawks more, and my 10 year old self could not contain the excitement of what came next.
They were 9-2, fresh off a record win at home against the New York Giants (who were 7-4) in which they committed 11 false start penalties. How does a team commit so many mistakes? I figured these guys weren't just good, they were dominating. You had Shaun Alexander the running back playing like a bat out of hell and carrying the entire offense on his legs. You have the blocking guys, Walter Jones at left tackle, Steve Hutchinson at left guard, Robbie Tobeck at center, Mack Strong at fullback, all four of them like a brick wall and a bulldozer. You have #8 Matt Hasselbeck, the QB who didn't even looked like the guy on his knees in the picture. You had Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, the best young linebacking corps I've seen. God they were dominant and they knew it. I had to watch them play.
The next week, they completely blew out the Eagles 42-3. The week after, they blew out the 49ers 41-3. Week after week after week we would win regardless of who we played. Even the loss against Green Bay didn't matter cause I figured we were going to the playoffs anyway. I didn't realized it then, but I was getting happier and happier as they continued to play.
You might be asking yourself why I am so focused on the NFC Championship game when I could've been categorized as a Seahawks fan before that. But I really wasn't. I didn't care about them yet, you see. I didn't care about the team - if we lost, why not? If we've just been sacked by the opposing team or someone coughed up a costly fumble, I would've just shrug and say "Oh well!". And even when Shaun went down against the Redskins that week, I didn't even flinch or look scared. I didn't care back then and I wasn't a 12th man either.
But when that fateful Saturday, that January 22nd night came, I realized. For the first time, I sat in front of the TV for the whole game. I remember pumping my fist on a 17 yard TD laser from Matt to TE Jeremy Stevens. I grimaced when Steve Smith return the punt for a 59 yard TD, and grinned when the Seahawks answered back with a Shaun Alexander TD run and a interception by Lofa Tatupu. I wasn't simply watching the game, I was cheering it.
The climactic event for me though came when they blew the whistle. And like the thousands of fans at Qwest Field stood up with their hands up in the air, I simultaneously did the same, jumping of the coach and screaming in front of the TV, "WE DID IT!!!". Logic dictates that this act was anything by crazy, if not psychotic, but by then I ignored everything. I was screaming so loud that I woke everyone up from the house, but I didn't care about that either. The Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl! The Super Bowl! That was what I'm missing, you see - the euphoria of cheering for somebody else. The flawed, emotionally-driven belief in something and somebody else. And I found it in this team, this city and this community.
When I was finally sent that night I shouldn't have been happy. I had to wake up and go to church that morning. My homework was not done. I was dirty, tired and mentally drained. My throat was sore, my eyes were wet. I shouldn't be happy but all I think about was that tonight was something special.
And it certainly was.