In 1981, I turned 13. Growing up, the steelers, the Cowboys, and the Raiders were the big teams. There were more Seahawk fans at John Muir Elementary and Kamiakin Jr. High, in Kirkland, than any other team, but we were a silent majority.
Cowboys' fans of the time were some of the most obnoxious. They were this way, even though everyone viewed them differently than they viewed themselves.
They'd won two Super Bowls, but had lost three. The Cowboys were considered the biggest, chronic chokers in NFL history. I'm not sure if this was a fair assessment, but it wasn't complete hyperbole. They seemed to play great during the regular season, and then lose to almost anyone in the NFC playoffs. Save against one team: The San Francisco 49ers.
The Cowboys always seemed to pull out a win over the 49ers during the '70's. Until this happened:
The catch changed everything for both franchises. The Cowboys began a slow downfall, until Tom Landry was fired, and Jimmy Johnson built them into the team of the '90's.
This one play marked the ascension of the 49ers as the team of the '80's.
It was a play in the right side of the end zone. With less than a minute to go, the 49ers... threw an interception, and propelled the Seattle Seahawks to a win in the NFC Championship Game. Wait? Didn't Dwight Clark make a catch that signaled the end of one team's Super Bowl window, while opening up another team's chances? He did. This post isn't about San Francisco, unless you consider that they play a major role in the story of the Seahawks ascension.
When San Francisco won that January day, they changed the way the NFL looked at football. It was no longer a running game that set up the pass. Defense was no longer the focus of the game plan. The "West Coast Offense" showed that offense could pass, and pass, and pass, and win. Coaching philosophies changed overnight. The old guard was dead, and the new guard was here to stay.
What was most amazing about that game was the palpable feel that you got. You knew that a torch had been passed. Everyone knew that San Francisco had changed the NFL's power structure with that one play. I have never felt anything like that.
Until Sunday, January 19th, 2014. I felt that shift again. I felt that the Seattle Seahawks had not only won the NFC Championship, but that the Super Bowl was in the bag. This feeling was familiar, but the recipient wasn't. It was my team that was on the receiving end of... good fortune. No, that wasn't it. My team, the Seahawks, were on the receiving end of a paradigm shifting moment. At that point, I knew that my fandom would never be the same.
I am always nervous before a Hawks' game. I've been that way for as long as I can remember. Prior to the Super Bowl, I was bouncing around Roseville, CA's Sports Page Bar like Hammy from "Over the Hedge". I couldn't control my energy. I wasn't nervous, I just wanted the game to be over. I felt that it was a foregone conclusion that the Hawks would win.
The Seahawks have snatched defeat form the jaws of victory more times than I care to remember. I would never feel that they'd won until the last second ticked off of the clock. This attitude invaded every portion of my life. I couldn't even do homework without checking each answer after I'd completed each question. Basically, I couldn't trust my own convictions. I had trouble doing this because anything could happen until I was no longer in possession of my assignment. To me, turning homework in was the same as the game clock winding down. The Super Bowl was different. I just wanted it to end, so I could prove that I had faith in a conviction, concerning this team.
It could be homer-ism, but it was almost as if I felt the world shift beneath my feet. I could have been preconditioned, but I doubt it. Both the Catch, and the Tip (I refuse to call it the immaculate deflection because there have been plenty of those, and I don't like the steelers.) happened in the right corner of the end zone with less than a minute left. Just like Dallas, San Francisco had been to a Super Bowl recently, and lost to a former AFC Central team. San Francisco was involved in both, but that's the last point where the similarities go hand in hand. This time the 49ers failed. The defense came up big. San Francisco hasn't been a true power house for two decades. They have had recent success, but it was ultimately unfulfilled and empty success.
The NFC Championship Game was a hard fought battle. Both offenses showed that they could win, but this game will be remembered for defense. Yes, there were bad calls on both sides, but that has been forgotten because of not only how hard the defenses hit, but how one team was able to overcome everything thrown at it. A "slobberknocker" is what this game would've been referred to when I was younger. It was a punching contest, and one team was able to deliver one final blow.
Defense. After a hard fought NFC Championship Game was decided on an iconic defensive play. After one of the most prolific offenses of all time was dismantled, manhandled, and just plain shamed in the Super Bowl. After all is said and done, the Seattle Seahawks set the precedent that defense is better than offense in a passing league. This game is structured to coddle the offense. It's understandable, that's what fills the seats. The NFL had become stagnant in the 1970's, so changes were made that gave the offense a better advantage. It's continued over the decades since. But with all the ways that the defense has been hamstrung, the Seahawks showed how to overcome those disadvantages.
This game did make a shift in the NFC West power structure, but that's not what I felt. For the NFL, I felt a change in how offenses would be approached, and how a new power has risen, like the Kraken rising to assert its dominance over the landscape called the NFL. For the Seahawks, I felt a change in attitude. The Seahawks' players have believed in themselves longer than I have. I hoped that they would win, but with that one play I knew that they not only would win the Super Bowl, but already had won it.
A torch has been passed, and it looks like this:
San Francisco got the tip.
Denver got the whole D.
God have mercy on the rest of the NFL, because these guys believe in themselves, and so do we.