This isn't a story about my Seahawks fandom or the championship I've been waiting for my entire life.
I grew up in Bellevue, by Robinswood park, closest to the side with the baseball field. From age 3 to 20, this was the place I called home. My friends and I would walk up to the park and do dumb shit, the type of mischievousness that only middle-class white kids with the kind of free time that only summer vacation affords would get into; Enough to get a talking-to by adults but not enough to do any real damage or to get a day in juvi.
We might screw around and break bottles or knock over a trash can. The park also has a forest area and you might get lucky and find a nudie magazine that some older kids stashed somewhere. Even if it rained for days, those mags seemed to hold up pretty well in the harsh Northwest conditions. We could also head over to Bellevue Community College -- just a few more blocks up -- and ride skateboards (or, my friends would and I'd give it a pathetic effort) and smoke used ciggy butts. (Not my proudest moment.)
Go the opposite direction of Robinswood from my home, and you'll find trails, lakes, and creeks. I had this buddy Chip that once found some book detailing different types of mushrooms and I helped him forage through these woods for the apparently-hallucinogenic ones. Somehow even at that age I was smart enough to not actually eat anything we found, but I think Chip got a pretty bad stomach ache.
We typically only got into trouble when Chip and I got together, but my mom reads this and I'll leave it at, "Mom, guess what, I once almost could have died from eating found mushrooms!" and spare further stories.
But Chip also lived literally two minutes away from Tillicum, my middle school. A great place to play b-ball outside of the school and to chill out, maxin'. There's a track, more trees, more woods, more nudie magazines. Keep going down that road and eventually you will hit my elementary school and then my local public swimming pool. This was all just a huge part of my childhood, my adolescence, what I think about when I think about "growing up" and it all centered around the house where I spent most of my life.
My childhood home will always be my first home, and first homes are always the most special. I could still describe to you what the cracks in our backyard "basketball court" looked like, the overgrown grass, the place we buried our cat, Dusty.
I love Bellevue, Washington. A lot.
This is not a story about my Seahawks fandom.
My friends know I'm pretty obsessive over the Seattle Seahawks, football, stats, and that I write for Field Gulls. They don't all read this blog and many of them have only started to delve into the team over the last year or two, so there is a mild expectation placed upon me to tell them about the team and what the numbers say about who is going to win or play well. The truth is that no matter what the stats say and no matter what I believe, the results on the field are all that matter. I can tell you that I'm confident that the Seahawks are going to win, but it doesn't mean that they will.
I mean, I believe they are the best team in the league by a considerable margin, and they still lost three times this year.
However, when people would ask me if I was nervous about the upcoming biggest-game-of-our-lives, I told them that I wasn't. I honestly didn't even take that much time out of the last two weeks to consider that an actual football game was going to be played, I was just focusing on the two teams, the notable players, and the "Super Bowl" (which is entirely different than an actual football game.) When I was finished with all of that, I still wasn't nervous.
I have known the Seahawks had the best chance to win the Super Bowl this year since the end of last year. Deep down, we all knew, didn't we? And even after all the 2013 season games were played and after the Super Bowl opponent was set against the greatest quarterback on the greatest offense, I still knew we had the best chance to win. Peyton Manning, as great as he is, is just one guy.
He can destroy bad defenses. He can beat good defenses. But for the majority of every career game against great defenses, he has been decidedly average. That's not his fault, he's still the greatest quarterback we've probably ever seen, that's just football. The best quarterbacks are decidedly average against great defenses.
You are one, the Seahawks brought 12.
When I detailed Manning's entire career against great pass defenses, specifically focusing on top five by DVOA over the last ten years, this was the conclusion that I drew:
Here is what I would guesstimate as a simple Manning box score for Sunday, based on the evidence: 30-of-48, 320 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions
In Super Bowl 48, Manning was 34-of-49, 280 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Stats are always there to comfort you and to tell you "things are going to be alright," better than even an Adele song could.
That alone would not be enough for Seattle to win the Super Bowl. Manning beat the Chicago Bears in the 2006 Super Bowl when he didn't put up crazy-good numbers, but the Bears could only get so far with Rex Grossman. However, I was also confident in two other things: The Seahawks would score at least one touchdown on defense, one on special teams, and two on offense. My final prediction:
Seahawks 31, Broncos 17. Wilson throws two TDs. Harvin has a TD on offense and special teams, wins MVP.— Kenneth Arthur (@KennethArthurS) February 2, 2014
Hitting on the "W", the Wilson touchdowns and the Harvin special teams touchdown is good enough for me!
The numbers backed up that Seattle had superior special teams and defense, so in reality the only time that I was even a tiny bit nervous was when the Seahawks scored the first three times and were only up by one possession. That seemed like a "Seattle sports" thing to do, but when Marshawn Lynch made it 15-0, I knew the win probability charts would be decidedly in our favor (89-percent, per Pro-Football Reference) and when Malcolm Smith returned an interception 69 yards, the rout was on.
When my friends and other people asked me my opinion about the game beforehand and whether or not I was nervous, I consistently told them that they'd be "coasting" by the fourth quarter. I honestly had no idea that we'd be counting down to our first title by half and that the Broncos would actually be attempting onside kicks with 15 minutes left because that's just Super Bananas.
But that's what happened.
When Harvin returned the second half kickoff for a touchdown to make it 29-0, that was the feeling of pure elation. When Jermaine Kearse bounced like a pinball into the end zone to make it 36-0, I started doing Lamaze breathing exercises to keep myself from crying. And when the game was finally over I was...
I don't know. I was happy but I had celebrated the win like an hour earlier. I'm still a bit dazed and confused as I type this. I only know that we are the champions of the world -- and until we make the biggest discovery in the history of mankind -- champions of the universe.
I know that things are different now. For the better.
This still isn't a story about my personal Seahawks fandom.
When Seattle beat the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, I almost immediately booked a plane back to Washington. Knowing that there was basically no chance I would get to go to the game, I had to decide if it would be better to stay back in Long Beach, California and watch it with the other transplants, or be in the second best city to be for Super Bowl Sunday. Ultimately I decided that there can always be another championship, but there's only ever going to be the first just one time.
It quickly dawned on me that I had no idea what I would actually do when I got to Seattle though, nor where I would watch the game. Most of my childhood friends aren't my actual friends anymore, and many of the others have also moved away. (Thanks to Facebook, I'm pretty sure Chip still hasn't been killed by poisonous mushrooms, but we don't really keep in contact.) Luckily, I had the tried and true method of calling my brother and piggybacking on his plans, officially finding myself in a house full of strangers to watch the biggest game of my life.
But we bonded over the obvious and it was great.
When it was over though, I didn't know what to do. I came up here to be around the city at it's greatest moment, but it's not like you could just drive downtown or safely make it to a bar to cheer with other twelves. At least, not if you haven't lived in Washington in five years and don't know that much about the current area anymore. And that's when I found myself in a very familiar spot.
I drove to my sister's wine bar to see if it was still open, but it was not, so I decided to just keep driving south. I didn't have a destination yet, but I knew I was going in the right direction. I got off on an exit that I've used hundreds of times, but not in a very long time. I drove up a road I've been on hundreds of times, but not since I still rolled a Honda Civic with rims and loud speakers. Yes, that Bellevue life.
It's late now, past eight, and I decide to drive past my old high school and see what's new. The gym side looks the same as ever but when you keep traveling further down, they're clearly doing something there for those young Sammamish Totems. It's a major construction site and I barely recognize the place I went to for four years.
I take a right and eventually head up 140th, past where they used to have a K-Mart and the worst mini-mall of Bellevue, but it looks nothing like that anymore. There's a Wal-Mart now. A Wal-Mart. I literally didn't go to a Wal-Mart until I was 21 years old because they just did not exist where I grew up. I could never imagine that a K-Mart could be replaced by a Wal-Mart (Though I guess in fairness, it's just two more letters) in this crappy parking lot where they used to hold traveling carnivals, but it's just so much different now.
There was a Little Caesars in that mini-mall once, the best thing that they had (that's not a compliment to LC's) and they got rid of it when I was very young. Now that I drove past it so many years later there's Little Caesars back again, risen from the dead, on the other side of the parking lot, and kickin' it next to a Wing Stop. It's all so familiar and so different.
Of course I have to hit up my other schools too, since they are all right there. I see Spiritridge and Tillicum and BCC and even Robinswood Park. Nothing is the same, but everything is still recognizable. At least, as far as I can tell in the dead of night.
And then I go past my childhood home.
Driving the same route to get home as I always had, I slowly pull up to the place that I know I have spent more than half of my life. The address is right, the corner is right, the size and dimension of the house is right, but this is not my home. There's a new fence, it's painted different, there are even knew windows, and the trees have been uprooted and removed from where they once were planted. There's a whole new set of shrubs and bushes and small trees creating a Secret Garden-like barrier around the front yard.
I can't even barely see my childhood home. Everything that I had become accustomed to for my entire life was recognizable, but barely. They probably had even come across Dusty's shoebox casket when they re-did the backyard, and sent her bones to the dump. This was where I grew up, but it wasn't my home. Recognizable, but in an instant, changed forever. In an instant for me, at least.
The Seattle Seahawks sure looked a lot like the team that I've spent my entire life rooting for on Sunday, but at the same time they were nothing like the team I've known for so long. The colors were right, the players were right, the team name and owner was right, but they played a new brand of football. The mistakes had washed away, the "curse" of being a Seattle team was apparently lifted, and the team was downright dominant unlike any team I've ever seen.
It was like they were different in an instant, but that's certainly not true.
Four years ago, Pete Carroll and John Schneider -- no, let's go back a bit further. Back in 2009, the Seahawks spent just one season under Jim Mora and they were actually 5-7 with four games to go. A four-game winning streak and maybe Seattle makes the playoffs. Definitely Mora keeps his job, but either way they were also working on a plan to bring back Mike Holmgren as President of Football Operations. A four-game winning streak though would have been the worst thing for this organization. The team lost their last four games instead and CEO Tod Leiweke fired Mora, Tim Ruskell, and started from scratch. He cited that the differences between Holmgren and Ruskell, consistently at odds with one another, was a bad formula for success. While we appreciate the house that Holmgren built, that window was well past it's usability.
Carroll was hired with the intent of having full control but thankfully that did not work out either. Bringing along Schneider to act as a cohesive two-man unit turned out to be the best thing this team could ever hope for and the plan to have what we have now, beyond all odds (in retrospect, the odds weren't that long because these men are football geniuses) has worked out to perfection. Leiweke left in 2010, unfortunately, but is as much responsible for this as they are.
Carroll and Schneider set out to build a house that was recognizable to fans, building upon strengths like the 12th Man, but something that was entirely different and entirely better. Something good enough to one day call "The Best."
Well, they are the best. Without question.
When I drive around Bellevue, I don't know if it's "better or worse," nor would I even try to classify it that way, I just know that it's different. I know that when I drive around my childhood city, I don't love it any less. When I go past my old schools, parks, and hangout spots, they all still exist, they've just been revamped. Torn down buildings, built-up buildings, places you can't go anymore, places you have to go to now, and even my home now being someone else's home. It's still the same place I grew up, but I have to get used to seeing it in a different way.
Every crack in my backyard hoops court is almost certainly gone now but the memories we have of their existence doesn't lessen their importance; It only highlights what we see today.
On Sunday, the Seahawks were everything I've loved for my entire life, and yet it was everything that I didn't recognize that made it all worth watching.
Thank you, 2013 Seattle Seahawks. The Absolute Best.
To the bulletpoints!
- At halftime, I started to wonder who the Super Bowl MVP could be, but damn if there was not a good candidate. How often can a team be up 22-0 and not have a standout player? I would say pretty often for the Seahawks, a team that thrives on being just that.
Malcolm Smith was certainly a candidate at that point because his pick-six certainly felt like a nail in the coffin and nobody else stood out. Russell Wilson was just 9-of-14 for 94 yards, no touchdowns, Marshawn Lynch had just nine carries for 12 yards, no receivers were standing out either. Kam Chancellor had an interception too, but his only real obligation on that play was to not drop a ball that was floating directly into his bucket.
By the end of the game, Wilson had put up the numbers -- 206 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions -- to win MVP, but he really only compiled those stats when the game was long decided. If Smith only had that one play, he probably would not have won MVP, but adding a fumble recovery and nine tackles made him an easy choice for the award when the only other viable candidate may have been Harvin.
His kickoff return was probably the moment that the Denver Broncos started planning their offseason. Because if anyone can overcome a 22-0 halftime deficit it's Manning (I'm sure the locker room speech was all about how there was still 30 minutes of football to score three touchdowns, something they had done many times) but to immediately score on the first play of the half was the true nail. Watching Harvin on his first end-around of the game was just an "Oh Shit!" moment. Not for this year, but for next.
It's a reminder that Harvin really is one of the top five athletes in the NFL and next year the Super Bowl champions are essentially adding an MVP candidate for the same price they had already committed to him next year. Incredible.
But giving the Super Bowl MVP award to a player that was a seventh round pick, has a medical condition known as achalasia, a guy that recorded 14 solo tackles in his first three seasons combined, was absolutely perfect. This is, as we all know, a next-man-up team and that was Smith in the middle of the year as KJ Wright broke his foot. He stepped up in a huge way and honestly over a full season his numbers bear out to being a very good outside linebacker.
And he's signed next year for about six hundred thousand dollars.
Smith, Byron Maxwell, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Luke Willson, O'Brien Schofield, there were a lot of great next-man-up stories this year, just as I expect we could see next year. The advantages that this front office has right now in player talent evaluation and coaching are mind-boggling.
Luckily, when you win the Super Bowl, it's harder to poach those coaches and execs.
Smith joins Dexter Jackson and Larry Brown as guys to pick the exact right time to have a big game, but he represents something so much more than just himself. That was for all the guys that worked hard to call themselves the champs.
- Harvin next year, like OMG.
- Wilson's passes did not look accurate and true to start the game, but eventually things started to click. I honestly think that when Joe Namath came out there with that ridiculous fur coat and the players at the coin toss began to laugh, it was probably the first time they had been able to breathe in two weeks. I feel like in Wilson's head he's probably thinking, "Oh yeah, this is just another game. We got this."
By the time it was over, Wilson had put together his most complete game since the win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football and he truly can say that he led his team to a championship by his second NFL season. Something few players have ever and will ever get to say.
Drafted after Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler to the Broncos, Wilson is the first to win a championship. And we know that most of those guys will never win a championship. In fact, Wilson is the only starting quarterback drafted in any of the last five drafts to win a Super Bowl. Not Cam Newton or Sam Bradford or Matt Ryan or Matthew Stafford or Josh Freeman or Mark Sanchez or Jake Locker or Christian Ponder or Andy Dalton or Blaine Gabbert. All players that were "better prospects" on draft day than Wilson, and this was a guy picked less than two years ago.
And yes, not Colin Kaepernick.
Is THIS enough for the pundits that still wouldn't take Wilson over a number of those players above? No, it's not. It really may never be. They'll say that the defense won it or that Harvin won it or that Manning blew it or the the Broncos defense sucked, but for some, it will never be about Wilson.
Good, that's why he's going to win more than one. Thanks, pundits.
- Carroll before Jim Harbaugh. That is all.
- I was told that Manning has faced plenty of defenses like this before. I'm going to come out and say definitely that no, he hasn't. This is the best defense that Manning has ever faced and they had the best performance in Super Bowl history. There's plenty of time to break down and dissect who is truly the GOAT defense, but right now it doesn't matter.
It only matters that they are a Championship defense.
- Manning had the worst performance by QBR since 2006, when Grossman played like Grossman, and Manning won a Super Bowl.
- Russell Wilson and Peyton Manning: Same number of championships.
- From ESPN:
The Broncos ran 41 offensive plays with a win probability below 5.0 percent. They ran 19 such plays the rest of the season.
- There's a lot more to say and a lot more that others have already said that I'd just be repeating, so I'll just leave you with this.
I've spent the last two years visualizing a Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win. I'll listen to one or two of my favorite songs for this occasion, close my eyes, and picture the moment that Wilson or Richard Sherman or Harvin make an amazing final play to win the game, and it's virtually impossible to not smile at that moment. Chills spread all over my back and upwards to my head, and I know I'm intentionally releasing endorphins all throughout my body.
It has always been my happy place.
When it actually happened, in real life, I didn't feel any of that. Because of a slow burn, dominating win, there was no "HOLY SHIT WE ARE GOING TO WIN!" near-final moment like there was against the 49ers, so it was just... I don't know, it was just happening.
How do we proceed now? How do we move forward as fans of the champions? Can I still visualize that big Super Bowl win and get chills all over? Is it ever going to be like it was before, rooting for a loser and carrying around this heavy bag of "We never get anything" or do we now stand up and accept something better? The Seahawks are the champs now and we have to start acting like winners.
Then again... Mariners.
Thanks for enjoying this wild ride with me. May you savor every moment of what you've waited to see for your entire life.
Thank you, Pete Carroll, John Schneider, Paul Allen, Tod Leiweke, John Idzik, Dan Quinn, Gus Bradley, Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable, Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Robinson, Robert Turbin, Derrick Coleman, Max Unger, Russell Okung, Breno Giacomini, JR Sweezy, James Carpenter, Alvin Bailey, Michael Bowie, Zach Miller, Luke Willson, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Jermaine Kearse, Percy Harvin, Tarvaris Jackson, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, KJ Wright, Malcolm Smith, Bobby Wagner, Heath Farwell, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond III, Earl Thomas III, Kam Chancellor, Jon Ryan, Steven Hauschka, Clint Gresham, Jeron Johnson, Christine Michael, Spencer Ware, Chris Maragos, Kellen Davis, Paul McQuistan, Jeremy Lane, O'Brien Schofield, Mike Morgan, Jordan Hill, DeShawn Shead, Ricardo Lockette, Benson Mayowa, John Lotulelei, the rest of the practice squad players, the coaches, and everyone else that made this moment possible!
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