You have definitely noticed that SBN has been running a series of "Favorite Sports Memories" in which the writers of the various blogs get to write sponsored posts from "some company" (hey, they aren't paying me!) about those moments. Nobody asked me to participate, but I rarely need an invitation to throw my own two cents in.
To understand why this is my favorite sports memory, I think you should have some context. It would be easy to throw out something from 1984 or 1995 but my memories aren't so good from back then. I was born at the end of 1982 in Edmonds, Washington and so therefore I couldn't tell you about the Sonics title in 1979, or Jim Zorn, or Alvin Davis. These are important names and events in the history of our city, and they are important to me too, but the memories don't exist. I just want to preface where my time frame comes from.
I also want to give a little bit of background on my childhood. Raised by a single mother with my sister, sports weren't a huge part of my youth. Not that my mom or my sister cared nothing for sports, because that's not true, but I didn't have a dad around to take me to my first ball game and then continue to push me. My mom always encouraged me and I treasure the memories that we have at Mariners baseball games (I remember a series against the Texas Rangers in which I shouted "Hey Jose!" at Jose Canseco and drew boos from the people surrounding us for it) and watching games on TV. She loved Dan Wilson (of course) and Joey Cora. She definitely was a Mariners fan and helped shape me as a Mariners fan.
I remember in 1996 when the Sonics went to the NBA Finals. I remember jumping for joy when Seattle got past the Utah Jazz to face the Bulls and even at the age of 13 knowing that winning would be an impossible task. I remember being in a hotel room in Bellevue with my father when the Sonics lost in game six and not being very upset because I had already given up hope. (This is not how an older version of myself would react. I would be very upset at such a loss, but also still cynical probably.)
I remember Edgar's double, but faintly. I remember the feelings I had in '95, but not necessarily the moments. Watching the Mariners scrape back into the race and then pulling off the improbable not once, but twice. First coming back during the regular season and next coming back against the Yankees. The chills that I still get when I hear the call from Dave making it all the more real that sports are something I care deeply about.
Most of my memories of being very young and watching sports revolve around the Sonics and the Mariners but as I've gotten older, the two teams that I care most deeply about are the Washington State Cougars and the Seahawks. It's my opinion that football is the greatest sport in this country and therefore, that's what I want to our city to be best at. That may change when the Mariners finally return to the playoffs and the Sonics finally return to the Northwest (or some version) but the Seahawks are the team that's closest to my heart.
Sometimes, when I want to make myself really happy, I'll just fantasize what it would be like to win the Super Bowl. No, really. I'll picture the elation that I'll have when the final seconds run off the clock and the Seahawks have more points than the other guys in the final game of the playoffs. I don't think anything could compare to that.
When Seattle went to Super Bowl XL, the Seneca Wallace catch would have been my greatest Seahawks memory of all-time. I remember walking outside of my friends apartment in Pullman, despite it being early in the game, and knowing that we were finally going to the Super Bowl. We just knew it. Today was our day.
Two weeks later would not be our day though. Quite the opposite. So knowing what it would feel like to be the fan of a championship team has still escaped me. That joy though? That pure elation? The moment when the unbridled passion you've held for a team becomes unglued and escapes your body all at once because you've just seen something amazing? I have felt that.
It wasn't the Seneca catch though. It wasn't watching the Sonics go to the NBA Finals. It did happen during the Edgar double, but that was so long ago that I can hardly draw on it.
I apologize for not being original here, but the moment came on January 8, 2011. We just call it "BeastQuake."
I moved to Los Angeles over three years ago. Far away from the home that I had known for my entire life. Far away from friends and family. It was probably the best decision I've ever made, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I don't miss being an everyday part of the Seattle landscape. It will always be my home.
On the bright side, I found out when I moved here that I lived very close to a Seahawks bar. You'd think that wouldn't mean much. That it just meant that they'd put the Hawks on a few TVs and then 5-10 fans would show up, but that's not the case. In the early part of the season, the bar gets packed with up to 100 fans of the Hawks and halftime "Seahawks Shots" for everyone in the crowd while we cheer on our favorite team. Sure, it dies off if the Hawks aren't doing well or if they're on national television so you can watch the game on your couch, but at certain points it just feels like I'm right back home.
You'll remember that at the end of that season, the Seahawks were playing the Rams for the division title and the right to go to the playoffs and host a game. The bar that night wasn't super excited for every moment that Seattle did something good. Fans were split on whether or not winning would be the right thing to do for the team. Nobody ever booed of course, and some fans including myself, wanted nothing more than another division title and that's what happened. The Hawks won and were playing another game and the bar that night was happy but subdued.
Six days later, it would be anything but...
I got to the bar early on Saturday, to ensure myself a good seat at the bar for our playoff game against the Saints. I was front and center for the entirety of the game, making casual conversation with strangers that turned into casual conversation with new found friends. The best part about having a place like this is that even in a city like Los Angeles you can find common ground with people that you never knew you'd share it with. This city is the most melting pot of cities in the country, so of course you'd have a lot of people from Seattle, but I never knew it would be like this. LA is hardly a profound example of "What's great about this country!" but during the three hours when we're in that bar watching the Hawks, we're all friends. We all want the same thing. We're all united.
I could hardly believe it when the Hawks took a 34-20 lead going into the fourth quarter, but not a single person in that bar felt easy about it. The Saints were the defending champions. We were 7-9. It didn't matter if we were at home or not, Drew Brees can score two touchdowns in his sleep. Nobody was thinking that this game was over, despite how badly we all wanted it to be.
When the Saints closed the gap to 34-30, the main feeling in the room was "Here we go...." because we are Seattle fans. We don't get moments like this. It might sound cynical, but it's just the truth.
When I was in high school, our football team went from being the last team into the playoffs for state to upsetting three straight teams before making the title game. We lost on a touchdown with :17 left.
When I was in college, our basketball team was terrible but we led #1 Stanford by five points with :26 left. My friends were talking about how and when we should rush the court until a four-point play, a five-second violation, and a Matt Lottich improbable off-balance three point shot to win the game by two.
The Mariners couldn't get to the playoffs during the era in which they had four Hall of Famers or when they had won 116 games.
The 90's Sonics could only make the Finals once, and they met the 72-win Bulls.
Super Bowl XL.
In the Northwest, we just don't get the joy as much as we get the heartbreak. So leading the Saints by 14 points and then losing at home in the first round of the playoffs sounded an awful lot more like how the story would read the next day. Writing anything else just seemed... improbable.
That's partly why the run will forever go down as one of our best moments in Seattle sports history. Not only because of the stage. Not only because of how incredible the actual run was. I think that part of the reason that "BeastQuake" actually caused an earthquake was because of how improbable it was for us to do something amazing and then at once the fans let out years of frustration in perfect harmony. Like an actual earthquake, the tension between tectonic plates builds forever and when it's finally let out, it lets out a furious rumble. I believe that Seattle has some of the best fans in the country and a major part of that is how much we appreciate the good moments, because of how fleeting and rare they are.
The tension in this city was just waiting for the bubble to burst and when Marshawn Lynch broke off his run to put the final nail in the coffin, that bubble let out an incredible amount of energy and elation. Today would not be your day, today is meant to be our day.
It was no different in the bar, set some 1,100 miles away from Qwest, where the packed location dedicated to Seahawks Fans Only, went into the biggest frenzy I had ever seen in my life. Together we united as we let out screams and cheers unlike any we had ever let out before. I bear-hugged strangers and twirled them around like we were getting married. I gave high fives until my hands were purple and blue. I told people I had just met that I loved them and that this was the happiest moment of my life.
This is what transpired. Thanks to the commentors for finding it for me:
It just felt like years of anguish melted away and the weight of a city had been lifted off of our shoulders. It didn't matter what would happen next, to us this was our Super Bowl. And years from now, people will remember that play more than any other. People from all over the country still ask me about Lynch when I tell them that I am a Seahawks fan, referencing that one play.
Of course I would rather have a championship. Of course I would trade it in to have won the big game at the end. But we don't have that, we have this.
We don't have a 6-10 record and a better draft pick, we have this.
We don't have an NBA team or an NHL team, but we do have this.
We don't have a whole lot to cheer about when it comes to sports every year, but we will always have that moment where Seattle was on top of the sports world for awhile, putting our broken hopes onto the shoulders of Lynch and saying, "Please carry these for us for just a little awhile. Please relieve us of this anguish for just one day."
And he did.
I don't want to set my expectations for Seattle so low that a first round playoff win will always leave me satisfied, but considering that we had no business in the playoffs that year and that nobody had expected us to win that game, I wasn't just content with the play - I was overjoyed. I will always be completely satisfied with our result in those playoffs because we had one of the greatest moments in NFL playoff history.
I will always be completely satisfied with that day, because no matter how far from home I was at that moment, I was surrounded by fans that had become friends and by friends that had become family. We use sports today as a reason to unite with people we don't know because we need to be united. We don't want to feel alone, we want to feel welcome. When I'm outside of Seattle, I'm out there in the world. But when I'm in Washington, I'm home. That day in that bar, I was home again for a few hours. All of us inside that bar at that moment had stepped right back onto Washington soil and it felt just perfect.
It might sound pathetic to some fans to fantasize about winning, but not every city is New York or LA. We don't get these moments very often, and I've never had a moment where I got to see my favorite team win a championship. So when I'm feeling crappy, or I'm feeling bad, and I just want to feel better for a moment, I think about what a championship would actually feel like. Now I can draw on that pure joy from that January day in the Seahawks bar and get a real taste of what that pure bliss would feel like.
Beastquake is my happy place.