I picked the wrong year to start following the Seattle Seahawks.
My fanhood for the team didn't really take shape in the first 14 years of my life. A combination of moving out of Washington when I was six, being more interested in cartoons and computer games than sports as a youngster, and the fact that I was woefully unathletic meant that for quite a while, I was vaguely aware of the Seahawks' existence - some ethereal concept of a football team from Seattle that competed in the same league as the other teams I occasionally noticed playing on TV - but I never got swept up in it.
That changed in 8th grade. It was in my second-period math class that I overheard the Seahawks being one of the teams playing that night, against the Broncos. I remember the braggadocious claim I made about the outcome of that game:
"The Seahawks are going to kick Denver's butts so hard, they're gonna spend the rest of their lives standing up!"
Even my teacher couldn't contain his laughter.
Nobody had bothered to tell me that the Seahawks were coming into the game at 1-10 with one of the most inept offenses in the history of the league.
As a kid who'd already had a difficult enough time avoiding that special type of vindictive cruelty that adolescents heap upon their less socially adequate, the fact that I was rooting for such an inferior team must have made perfect logical sense to them. Still, I was undeterred by their teasing, and even made a wager with my teacher (who, in all fairness, was one of the most awesome teachers I'd ever had) that the Seahawks would win. If they won, I'd get a candy bar. If they lost, I'd get extra homework.
I don't remember much about that game, except that when Brian Blades caught a touchdown pass to tie the score late in the game, I knew the Seahawks were going to pull off what the rest of the world considered an upset. Sure enough, when I walked into class the following morning, there was Mr. Sather reaching into his cabinet and pulling out a Snickers bar.
It's at this point that I had fully embraced the Seattle Seahawks as My Team. God knows I've tried rooting for others in the meantime. I latched onto the Phoenix Suns for a few years in some sort of contrarian move against Michael Jordan, but then he retired, the Rockets inexplicably became a championship caliber team in his absence, and I lost my fervor when they traded away Dan Majerle for spare parts. (I would try to repeat the same tactic upon Jordan's return with the Utah Jazz, and once again found it unsatisfying.) Everyone in LA is supposed to be a Lakers fan - or at least, they were up until a couple years ago - but not being from the area made it feel like I was cheering on a team that didn't actually belong to me, even as they were racking up title after title in the past decade. When my sister and her husband started buying season tickets to the LA Kings at the turn of the millennium, I did my best to cheer them on, but even when they won the Stanley Cup in 2012, I felt like I was just borrowing someone else's enthusiasm for a sports team.
Nope. There's only room in this heart for one team, and that choice was made when I chose a 1-10 Seahawks squad to win on Monday night.
Starting with a team since its lowest point means that I got in as close to the ground floor as you could get without actually following the team since its inception or since your brain was able to grasp the concept of rooting for a bunch of adults chasing each other and throwing a ball around. Despite the first 16 years of the Seahawks franchise being a blur at best and a 404 error at worst, the events that have transpired since that 2-14 abomination resonate as loudly as anything else in my memory. From the ill-fated Rick Mirer era, to Behring's attempt to move the team. From the Phantom Touchdown, to Zebra Bowl. From We Want The Ball And We're Going To Throw A Pick Six, to Jim Mora throwing Olindo Mare under the bus for missing two field goals.
The past four years, and this year in particular, have done wonders in repairing this franchise's very bruised history. I remember there actually being discussion towards the end of 2010 about whether we'd be better off losing to the Rams in the season finale and getting a better draft pick, or trying to win just so we could be served up to the Saints like an appetizer. Imagine that! We actually considered the thought that a better draft pick would be more worthwhile than a playoff appearance. And to think that if we did go for the higher pick, we never would've been treated to the greatest play in Seahawks history.
(Well, second greatest. The Seattle Swat takes #1 now.)
It's clear that amidst all the wins that the team has enjoyed since Pete Carroll took over, all the diamonds in the rough that were drafted late if ever, and all those individual plays that have made us pick our jaw up off the floor, that the mindset has changed. Even when we start to see the variables start to align themselves against us the way they have time and time again, the bunch of guys on the field have made a living out of beating the odds.
It's a Sisyphean role to root for a sports team of any kind: you do everything you can to support the team, cheer them on, even try to influence the outcome of their games. And then for 31 teams in the NFL, the rock rolls all the way back down the hill and you have to start over again. The only reason it's worth the effort is because of the potential there is that your team will be the one standing at the apex of the mountain when everything is over. I'm not about to say that I expect the Seahawks to win today. I came into February 5, 2006 brimming with overconfidence - no way some piddling 6-seed from the AFC that stumbled bass-ackwards into the Super Bowl were beating my Seahawks! - and I was so miserable after what transpired that I literally had to excuse myself from the party I'd attended while I fought back the tears. I'm older now, and a little less cocky. I know this game is a 1-seed against a 1-seed, the league's best offense against the league's best defense, potentially the greatest QB to ever play the game against potentially the greatest secondary to ever play the game. The Seahawks could play the perfect game, and have one unlucky moment have it all collapse on them. They could underperform on the game's biggest stage, but capitalize on enough of the other team's mistakes that they win despite it.
Ultimately, what matters is how you feel about this team now. Right now. Before we ever kickoff.
I can honestly say that, win or lose today, I will look back on the 2013 Seattle Seahawks as my favorite iteration of the team. This team had more personality than I can ever remember, with the Red Oni/Blue Oni presence of Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson, Golden Tate giving back to the Rams everything they gave to him, Marshawn "Beast Mode/IDGAF" Lynch, The Real Rob Report, Kam Chancellor ringing Vernon Davis' bell seemingly every time they play, and even Percy Harvin, whose inability to stay in the lineup the past 18 games could be the reason we win the 19th.
Every game meant something this year. In 2005 we cruised into the #1 seed, and faced little resistance in the playoffs. This year we were locked in a rivalry whose ferocity has already trumped the one we had against the Rams the last decade. Every game was winnable, and we felt like we needed every one of them.
There were weeks where the offensive line stunk. There were weeks when our receivers couldn't get open to save their lives. There were weeks when we'd back the other team into a 3rd & long only to see them hit a streaking T.Y. Hilton for the 97th time in a row to move the chains. But even despite the challenges, the Seahawks managed to win games that the Seahawks of 2004 would've given away, the Seahawks of 1998 would fail to get control of, and the Seahawks of 1993 would spend curled up in the fetal position.
And I would be remiss if I didn't say that it's been a blast sharing this season with everyone here at Field Gulls. The game threads have been hilarious at times, infuriating at others, but always rowdy and a great way to share the experience with everyone. The columns that Danny, Jacson, Kenneth, Davis and everyone else have written have been enormous fonts of information that I'm sure I would have an even greater appreciation for if I knew the difference between a Crossing Route and a Paper Route. I've been visiting this site for five years, and it's easily one of my favorite websites now.
I unfortunately have to work this evening. I lost my job as a delivery driver at the end of last year, and while I managed to pick up some short-term employment, they need me to come in at about the time that the second half is going to start. The Seahawks and their postseason run were one of the things that have kept me sane and relatively well-adjusted the past month. I will definitely be watching the first half of the game at the very least, and will have the entire thing recording on the DVR. If the Seahawks indeed win, this game is going straight onto my portable hard drive so I can enjoy it over and over again. If they lose, that's 4 1/2 hours of space on the recorder my roommates will get back. But regardless what happens a couple hours from now, this has been a hell of a season, and I've enjoyed every second of it. Hopefully I'll get to enjoy the aftermath as well.