When I was in Thailand recently, I met someone. If you listened to the podcasting of my trip then you have already heard this particular story, but I think that it's relevant to Sunday's win over the Titans so I'm going to tell it to my audience of strictly-readers, even though in reality it is a pretty vulnerable story and is probably a tiny bit embarrassing.
To a person that had been born with shame, at least. Which I was not.
In my 30 years I haven't been a perfect person but I'm happy with how I've turned out thus far, the rough edges only heighten the joy of certain experiences. When you're highlights get buried in lowlights, or any light for that matter, how much more ecstatic are you for the good times? At this time, there's no possible way that I could envision a Steelers fan or Patriots fan getting as much joy out of a Super Bowl championship than what a Seahawks fan would.
We don't know that joy yet but the volcano is ready to pop and kill er'rybody.
My friend and I ventured to the island of Ko Samet when we were in Thailand and to be honest the trip desperately needed this to be something relaxing. The first few days in Bangkok were overwhelming (though I wouldn't take back a second of it, as it was a learning experience) and then the fourth day spent in was spent in the ridiculous city of Pattaya. If you are not aware, Pattaya is a city dedicated to the sex industry and notoriously a safe haven for some of the world's worst sexual predators, "allegedly."
Of course, we had no idea about any of that when we went to Pattaya. A few other tourists had told us that it was a great party town but what we didn't know, what we were naive to, was that they were saying party in quotes.
"Hey, it's a great "party" town." (followed by several winks. In retrospect, the winks and air quotes should have been a dead giveaway, if not the fact that some of these dudes looked like they may have been resident experts on the set of The Woodsman.)
Pattaya was surreal and disappointing but I learned more than a few things when I was there. I'd chalk that day up to a "loss" but a learning experience that was invaluable for future vacations and also how to catch a predator. We immediately booked a shuttle and boat ride to Ko Samet, the nearest island. Within 15 minutes of arriving on the island I finally knew why many Americans come to Thailand on the reg. Not only is it beautiful but it's so dirt cheap that many people could probably live there for a few months based on what's in your bank account right now and I am not estimating that to be a very high number.
(Just based off of my own bank statements. Plus you're a real mooch on this free website you enjoy so much!)
But my friend and I were a couple of single dudes and it would be great to meet a few single tourist ladies. Unfortunately, we weren't just on an island, we were on a specific beach on the island and you couldn't really venture from beach to beach at any time you wanted so you were contained to the people on your beach. And on this beach there was my friend and I, a bunch of families, a bunch of couples, and one duo of single ladies.
I've been out in my local hot spots, from Bellevue to Pullman to Seattle to Los Angeles and back again for many years and I can tell you that I'm no Mystery though I have been known to "peacock" now and then*. I've never been shy about my dating world shortcomings -- so I'm not going to start hiding it now -- and based on that I thought there was no way that this night would end with us picking up these two girls because how could that be possible? My friend actually sort of is a pickup artist, but that only gets us in the door. It doesn't give me a spare key under fake dog poop and a security code.
*"Peacocking" is when you discuss the new NBC fall lineup with a girl for two hours. It is really unsuccessful.
And yet to my surprise (cue some magical music playing in the background from a fantasy film like The Princess Bride) something-something none of your business. It was a fun night and I met someone that was way-too-gorgeous to be talking to me, probably a borderline genius, and for some unconscionable reason, interested in me. That one night was great.
Then there were two other days.
Somehow everything fell apart sometime in the middle of the following day and it was an ensuing awkward 30 hours or so because they were giving us a ride back to Bangkok and my friend was still cozy with his lady friend. Despite the fact that this was obviously not going to be a long-term situation, having occurred in Thailand and me still being a resident of the United States, I couldn't help but start to focus on how I had fumbled that situation on day two and self-reflect on my issues.
"What did I do wrong?"
"Why is this so awkward all of a sudden?"
"What would you do if your son was at home, crying all alone on the bedroom floor 'cause he's hungry? And the only way to feed him was to sleep with a man for a little bit of money." (I have had that song stuck in my head since 1998)
I had a great time with somebody that was out of my league and when that league separation really started to show itself, I kept trying to analyze the ensuing two days and ponder self-improvement. I brought up some of these issues with my friend, the guy who has never been in my shoes and has only been on the other side of that equation, and he was so confused by what I was thinking and bringing up as an issue for me. He just looked at me and said:
"How can you not see this as a win?"
He was right of course. Who cares about how it happened, a win is a win and nothing can ever replicate the feeling of victory. In fact, given the situation (and really what heightened the possibility of it ever happening since people on vacation are really a lot more open to possibilities than people who are still in their home cities) there was no possible way to lose. It's not as though it wasn't also a learning experience -- an improvement opportunity -- but that doesn't lessen the fact that it was a win. And I should be proud. And I should do nothing more at that moment than bask in the warm electric blanket of victory.
If the victories in your life are few and far between, or even if they are many and close together, don't drown out that warm light with negative energy by focusing on the mistakes. Take the win, learn, move on to the next one.
The Seattle Seahawks, perhaps a franchise that you should consider as rough around the edges in the history of it's "life," have not won a single game this season in the way that they would like to. Every game has had several big mistakes. They have turned the ball over at least once in all six games, and twice in each of the last four games.
Their win over the 49ers was not a four-quarter victory, it was a fourth-quarter victory.
An easy win over the Jaguars was still marred by mistakes in their own red zone.
Screw-ups against the Texans and Colts are obvious and Sunday's game was the ugliest yet. In what should have been a 20-point victory over the Titans, the game wasn't closed out until the final minute. That's not a slight against Tennessee, but this is our home turf and the only touchdown that the Titans could manage in the entire game should have never happened. For at least a half-dozen reasons, it should have never happened. So why was this game so close? If Tennessee had opted for an onside kick and recovered when it was 20-13 instead of kicking away, if they didn't have a defensive offsides, if Marshawn Lynch wasn't more beast than man, this could have become a loss instead of a win.
But it wasn't a loss. It was a win.
I'll enjoy that. I'll enjoy five of those already. I'll enjoy first place in the NFC and the inside track to the number one seed. I'll enjoy third-best point differential in the NFL. I'll enjoy having a young quarterback that isn't imploding right now. I'll enjoy the number three scoring defense and number three total defense. Why?
Because those are wins.
Think about it this way: What's the worst way you could have imagined the first six games going?
I want you to imagine that I'm Matthew McConaughey and I want you to close your eyes when you read this. Close your eyes and imagine that Russell Okung would be placed on IR. That Max Unger and Breno Giacomini would miss starts. That Zach Miller would miss starts. That Sidney Rice would look terrible. I want you to picture a passing game, in your mind's eye, that was shoddy and inconsistent and missed several opportunities in every game. I want you to imagine that the team would have stars like Chris Clemons and Bobby Wagner on defense but that they also wouldn't play in every game. Neither would Cliff Avril or Michael Bennett. Neither would Bruce Irvin.
Can you imagine for a moment that the team would give up special teams touchdowns, not on punts and kickoffs but on their own field goal attempts, in consecutive games. Imagine that three of their first five games were 10 AM starts on the road. That their biggest offseason acquisition hasn't played yet. That they've turned it over 10 times in six games and a number of other fumbles that they recovered. That they fumbled away a ball right into the arms of a Titans defender in the red zone only to be so fortunate as to have that defender bat into the arms of a surprised Russell Wilson.
Think about all of that pain, all of those unfortunate circumstances, all of those missed opportunities and mistakes and truly ugly football for a team that came into the season with the highest expectations.
Now imagine that the team is white.
Now imagine what their record should be.
Would it be 3-3? 2-4? 1-5?
What if I told you that it was 5-1. What if I told you that one of the worst ways to start the season off conceptually has actually turned into a 5-1 record? That perhaps the shittiest version of this team is the best team in the NFC. That when so little has gone right, the end result is still close to the desired goal. Imagine for a second what this team would look like if everything went right.
The 2013 Seahawks went into Carolina at 10 AM in Week 1. That was their arrival to Bangkok. It was the shock to the system that this team needed to wake up and realize that they weren't floating in an offseason of expectations anymore. Now it's time to play. They survived it.
The Week 2 game against the 49ers was what happens when the dust is still in the air but settling and now you realize that this is the real thing. This isn't a concept anymore, this is life and you can't let it pass you by. You're out there and it's time to act. They took it over.
When the Jaguars came to town as the followup to the most anticipated regular season game in team history, just as I had been anticipating going to Thailand for my entire life and then realized that it was a complete shitshow unlike what I could have ever expected, you have to keep yourself "up" for that. You can't relent and give in because it's now gone from "Bangkok!" to "Oh, Bangkok. Yeah, been there."
Houston and Indianapolis was our Pattaya. We knew that it might be an insane time but it turns out we weren't prepared for this. The Texans game went wrong in a lot of ways until it finally went right and the Colts game was a complete missed opportunity where our expectations did not meet our results. We had to learn from these experiences and use it to our advantage in the future.
That's where we come to Tennessee. I don't know how it happened but somehow against the odds of what logic says should happen when you fumble it five times, you pull out a win. You might have been a mistake-riddled mess but that won't change what the scoreboard says and what it says is "Hey now, you're an All-Star!"
Learn from your mistakes but don't forget to enjoy what you've accomplished. Based on five wins in six games, only the second 5-1 start in team history, the Seahawks have accomplished quite a bit.
And I had a hell of a time in Thailand.
Let's make like a point and bullet:
- There won't be any surprises when a "Cool" is named this week. For as often as Wilson has seemed to be the only guy driving us forward in the absence of Okung, Lynch is a running back unlike any other. Still only 27 (no matter how old I get, these guys will always seem older than me) Lynch has a good opportunity to carve out a Hall of Fame resume. At the very least he is a guy that 20 years from now, people will see some 19-year-old Pac-Big-24 running back and think "Man, that guy reminds me of Marshawn Lynch. I can understand why USC is paying him $15 million per year."
Four more years of similar production to what he's already doing could easily put him over 12,000 rushing yards in his career. Only 14 players have done that and the only ones not in the Hall of Fame are LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerome Bettis, and Edgerrin James.
Fall short of 12,000 yards however and you're really not sitting very pretty. Only a handful of backs under 12,000 yards are in the Hall of Fame, often special cases, so that's the milestone to reach for. Lynch is at 6,619 yards which is 65th all-time. Also, getting rushing yards in the 2013 NFL is sort of like saying "In this economy?"
- He's already just 22 yards shy of his receiving total from all of last season, but I'd also point out that Darrell Bevell's playcall to setup Lynch for that 55-yard grab was perhaps the play of the year on offense.
- The Titans might not have the best pass-rush in the NFL but an average performance by the offensive line in any game right now is more than acceptable. Wilson was sacked twice and took just two QB hits. Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked three times and took six QB hits. (Per AdvancedNFLStats)
- He isn't targeted as often as many number one receivers, because that's not really what he is and this offense passes it less than anybody, but Doug Baldwin is averaging 12.3 yards per target. That is second in the entire NFL behind only Terrance Williams of Dallas, who has 14.7 yards per target on 21 attempts. Baldwin has 28 targets but even being used on a minimal basis he has been one of the most valuable receivers in the NFL.
To tease this weeks "Advanced" post, he's second in the NFL in EPA per play, behind only Jordy Nelson.
- When you start a game: Punt, Punt, Punt, Touchdown, Fumble, Fumble (returned for touchdown) and win, it's impossible to complain about the result.
Meanwhile, more than half of the Titans drives went for 10 yards or less. That's what we call an "Express Lane Defense."
- The Seahawks attempted just one deep target during the entire game, a 24-yard gain to Rice. The Titans attempted four deep targets and completed just one of them, a 32-yard gain to Kendall Wright. So, where was Bevell attacking all. game. long?
There were a ridiculous 17 targets short right. That accounted for 13 catches and 97 yards. Also, sometimes it really is easy to spot a spade. Baldwin had three targets in that area and caught all three. Golden Tate caught all three of his in that area. Rice caught one of three and Kellen Davis caught zero of one.
- Despite ranking second in the NFL in rushing yards per game, the Seahawks are accounting for a negative score by Pro-Football-Reference's "Expected points contributed by rushing offense." Why? They are tied with the Denver Broncos at 13 fumbles already.
- Seattle has kicked 14 successful field goals, two behind the league-leading Patriots. On one hand you could say "If only we hadn't fucked up those two kicks over the last two weeks!" and on the other hand I don't want to be near the league-lead in field goals.
- The Seahawks were in the red zone five times and the Titans were in the red zone once. How this had to be a close victory is beyond me but those are the mistakes that sometimes occur and when you eliminate those mistakes you become the person or team or entity that you were supposed to be all along.
We all have it in us to learn, acquire, execute and maintain successful traits. After a long-run of failure the Seahawks finally began to learn what they needed in order to win by hiring Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Then they began to acquire those assets. Now they need to execute their plan with greater success and maintain it for the long run. We haven't seen the best of Seattle yet.
As a person, I could always learn how to be a better man, acquire successful traits by going to the gym, reading more books, dressing nicer, and having more confidence, but I'm just a man. Tell me that I might win a Super Bowl next year and I'll see what I can do.
For the Seahawks, they have to keep closing the deal and I'll keep enjoying it when they do. Now that's love.