I've made no bones about how much I love Shaun Alexander. I'm very fond of him. I think he's the greatest thing to happen to Seattle sports since Edgar Martinez. (Tied with Gary Payton.) My admiration for Shaun is the closest I get to sports celebrity obsession, except for those daily bouquets I used to send to Chris Evert Lloyd as a kid, which was totally worth all the restrictions on my driver's license later.
You never want to see your favorite guy go down, particularly if your favorite is the MVP of the entire sport. Particularly if he holds the single-season TD record, and as of Sunday the Seahawks' career TD record. Especially if he's one of the few, dwindling number of superstar athletes who seems like a genuinely, top-to-bottom good guy. Yeah, we can debate if he's selfish with stats, or if he needs to fill out paperwork on his community centers in a more timely fashion, but, well, meh. He's imperfect, which probably makes me like him more. His overall character is pretty first-rate. We need more guys like Shaun, and we need less guys who aren't like Shaun.
So why don't I feel worse about the fact that he won't be in the backfield for at least a few weeks -- or as I'm cautiously predicting, when Oakland comes to town in November? (I realize the party line is when the Vikings come to town Oct. 22, but remember you're reading a Seattle sports fan who already had fatalist tendencies in the first place.)
Well, for one thing, it's not like we've really had Shaun the way we think of him for these first three games. It's not the Shaun we remember, and he's not running behind the line we remember. The statistics reflect that downturn in ground production.
Except for that somewhat obscure statistic that experts in the know sometimes refer to as "the final score."
We have managed three wins out of a possible three with running games that could be described as subpar in the final analysis. Contests that were supposed to be close with Arizona and New York were in Seattle's complete control quite early. The grip was so tight that 27 furious fourth-quarter points by the Giants were only good enough to win them a home version of the game. It was baffling, mystifying, even confusing.
I kind of don't want to know how they're doing it. I have this thing about jinxes. Even if the curse comes out of attempts to explain what's happening. It's not reasonable or scientific, I know. But neither's the Madden Curse. Somebody really needs to find a sacrificial altar and drug a goat to get rid of that.
Part of my rather blase feelings about losing Shaun for awhile probably stems from the fact that the Seahawks have been learning through adversity since training camp. Since I'm new at this sportswriting thing, maybe I've been a little more jittery than writers, certainly other SB Nation bloggers, who've seen this happen year after year and have the zen thing down.
Still, it seems like we've had groaning news items every week. Our breakout tight end out till October, his backup seemingly playing with snakes in the meantime. A left guard prospect not catching on, until the snakes finally get him. Our fullback of the future on IR for the duration, our longtime long snapper as well. I was more scared when Walter Jones got dinged in the Detroit game, and I don't even remember what the issue was.
It all adds up to three straight wins. Two of them against teams that were not supposed to be chumps this year.
I hate being cocky because I'm just not very good at it, but I feel something else is at work here. I just don't see the Seahawks sucking yet.
Maurice Morris is, as yet, no replacement for Shaun Alexander in the situations where Alexander would normally be called upon. But except for a couple goal-line scoring situations, we haven't seen these situations come up yet this year. There's a scheme out there in which Mo could not only fill the gaps, but thrive. He can explode if he's set up correctly. So can the guy blocking for him. We've seen it and we know it's possible.
There's a huge hankin' four-receiver set that we saw a lot of on Sunday -- you tend to see a lot in 38 minutes of possession -- and as dominating as they were, I still don't think we saw them being used to their fullest or most effective extent. They still have the potential of surprise.
But I think more than anything else the Seahawks simply are not panicking. That's more serious than it sounds. Panic is a gateway to bad decisions. I have yet to see the Seahawks offense panic. That is already an upgrade in the Seahawks' mentality from the game they played in Detroit last February.
The words of all sports commentators should be taken with vaults of uniodized salt, but two opinions from ESPN provided some kernel of faith, albeit cautionary. The new power rankings have the Seahawks at No. 3 -- ahead of our next opponent, the Bears. And Sean Salisbury, who I tend to picture as an adult who had too much cod liver oil as a kid, rather pointedly stated that he doesn't think the Seahawks will miss a beat with Alexander out of the lineup.
I myself am more of a pragmatist. In Chicago, we unquestionably have our most challenging opponent until December. Looking at the schedule before the season, I thought we would be in great shape if we could go into the bye week at 3-1. Now that's the worst than can happen. I'm already relieved.
But going 4-0 does not feel the least bit impossible. It'll be tough, but not anywhere close to impossible.
If you'd told me before the season that we'd face the Bears without Shaun Alexander I probably would have been shell-shocked. I probably would have wondered why I started this blog in the first place, besides the fact that chicks find sports bloggers unbearably attractive.
Now our worst-case scenario feels more like a speed bump. That says something about either my being cut off from civilization as we know it, or the more likely cause: The Seattle Seahawks really are that good.
They'll never be as hot as Chris Evert in her prime, but they're that good.