Your first round pick is typically a special player. In the era of Pete and John, the names Okung, Earl, Carpenter, and Irvin live in a different pantheon of Seahawks over the last three seasons. They aren't all necessary the most important players on the team, but they do represent a foundation for what this front office has been trying to build. It's an honor to be a first round pick, it sets you apart from other players -- if only for a day.
Bruce Irvin wasn't necessarily the name we expected, or perhaps even wanted, to hear called out for Seattle during the first round of the 2012 draft. Likely this was unfair, and based mostly off of pre-draft speculation on the "value" of Bruce, but there wasn't immediate excitement surrounding the pick. As the days and weeks went on however, it seemed apparent that he could be a very special pass-rusher. Raw, talented, explosive, "the best pure pass rusher in the draft"; if only these were the things we had heard before the draft. We would have been doing cartwheels.
Well, you would have been doing cartwheels. I'm 6'6 and 260 pounds (give or take, though you're most likely not "taking" weight away) so I might get a somersault out. But I would've been a lot more stoked for Irvin at the time he was drafted, and eventually we were all excited to see what Bruce could do.
We found out that he could do some very good things, albeit a little inconsistently on a part-time basis.
Irvin played in roughly 43% of the defensive snaps during the season. His 496 snaps were 315 fewer than Chris Clemons, but he did manage 8.0 sacks during the regular season and added one against the Redskins. On the downside, he was also held without a sack in 11 of 18 games. Though it's not entirely fair to compare the two, I will anyway. By comparison, Aldon Smith had 14 sacks as a rookie and was held without a sack just seven times in 18 games.
He could have conceivably had a more encouraging season, but given the track record of highly-talented defensive end prospects (key being "prospect" there) it was really nice to see that Irvin can get it. He certainly doesn't suck. Which is why it does suck to see him suspended for the first four games of next season for violating the drug policy.
People were upset to hear the news that yet another player violated the rules and got caught. That's the key right there, that you got caught. Frankly, how can I get mad about shit I don't know about? I didn't know about this incident yesterday and Bruce and I were cool. We were going to grab some Jimmy John's after the rec dodgeball game. Now I know about it. I mean, we're still cool, but indeed I am frustrated. Do I have a right to be?
Of course Irvin feels bad about what happened. Of course he's been depressed about it for however long he's known that he got caught and he kept going over in his head what it would be like in the press and on Twitter and Facebook for fans to express their feelings on the matter. If I had a choice about the news, it would have been "Bruce Irvin reveals rare disorder that allows him to be better at life than you, also he's donating all his money to the charity known as "Kenneth's Wallet"" but that's not what the news was. It was "Bruce Irvin cheated a little bit, got suspended for four games."
And he knows it. And he's pissed about it. And he wishes this had never happened.
So do we.
Irvin took back to Twitter to reveal to the "haters" that he knows he screwed up and his "true fans" got his back. While it's good to hear that Irvin has a positive mindset on his return from suspension and how he will rise back from the ashes like the Phoenix that he is, I also can't help but wonder if I'm not a "real fan" because I acknowledge that he screwed up and I'm pissed that he went against the rules and got caught. If we're allowed to support a player when he's doing good, what are we allowed to do when he's messing up?
Many Seahawks fans have been chugging along for decades without reward and we are embarking on probably our most anticipated season in franchise history. We already know we likely won't have Clemons to start the year. We're well aware that other injuries are bound to pop up between now and Week 1. We can't have vital players dropping out already based on something like breaking the rules, and holding them accountable as fans is something I think we are allowed to do.
And yes, I think I am a true fan of Bruce Irvin.
I am a true fan of Brandon Browner.
I am a true fan of Richard Sherman, guilty or not guilty.
I was a true fan of LeRoy Hill, and I enjoyed the hell out of my Hill marijuana jokes. Because that's what we're allowed to do as fans: Joke around, get mad, get happy, voice opinions, hold players accountable, and cheer at the loudest damn stadium in American professional sports.
There are a lot of bad things that I don't do simply based off of the fact that I don't want to be called out by my friends and family for it. Others holding you accountable is a great motivator for doing the right thing. Irvin knew that his actions could harm his team and let down his teammates at the time he broke the rules but he still did it anyway. Being sorry about it won't change the fact that he did it once.
Hearing the loudest fans in the NFL call him out on it? That might do the trick.