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Cigar Thoughts, Super Bowl XLIX: Sports pain reaches new level as Seahawks come up short vs Patriots

The New England Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl, beating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. But this isn't just about that.

This was a catch. Somehow.
This was a catch. Somehow.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

This article is the most challenging thing I've ever attempted as a writer. I have written about bad teams, mediocre teams, average teams, good teams, and a championship team. All of those come with a certain set of expectations. With a bad team, you worry less about the wins and losses, instead keeping an eye on development. With mediocre and average teams, you focus on the team coming together, making "the leap". When a team is good, you start to let hope creep in and a sense of extending that hope for as long as possible emerges. Championship teams are the easiest to write about because, well, who doesn't want to be a part of that?

This one though- this team, this season, this outcome -- I just don't have a point of reference for any of it. I still think the Seattle Seahawks were the best team in the NFL this year and I think they played well enough in the Super Bowl to win but they came up one play, one yard, one decision short of back-to-back championships- of football immortality and it's the proximity to that furnace of glory that makes the loss burn so hot. It would almost be easier if they lost by a couple scores. Expectations are everything and the expectation for this team was to win the Super Bowl. Think about that: in a game of innumerable variables, all of which are played out by some of the smartest coaches and most athletic people our country has to offer, in which 32 teams are all vying for the same thing, we expected the Seahawks to win it all.

I've never had that before, at least not like this. Last year I thought the Seahawks were the best team in the NFL too, but they had a bunch of bumps in the road along the way and a lot of injuries and a lot of close calls and, most importantly, they had never won it all before. We could all imagine what a championship looked like but we'd never actually experienced it before. Then came Super Bowl 48, an obliteration of the best challenger the AFC could muster and a team that, in their own right, was making a case for being considered one of the all-time greats. All of a sudden, winning a Super Bowl was not only a reality, it seemed easy.

As you can tell, this article is not going to be much of a game recap. I don't have the strength nor the desire to wade neck-deep back into the all of the things that led to the final outcome. I don't know how many of you even want to read about it. If you do, the good news is that there will be hundreds of other articles that will give you the chance to do just that. Maybe, hopefully, at some point I can look back on this game and appreciate it for the incredible championship game that it was but I just cam't do it with any honesty just yet. For me, this time that I've taken off from work to write is more cathartic than anything. Catharsis is the reason I started writing in the first place as a lonely, awkward, unpopular teenager so many years ago: as an escape valve for thoughts and words and emotions that tumble around inside me until my brain swells like your bladder when you've gotta pee but are still minutes away from the nearest bathroom. The good news is that I haven't had to use writing as therapy for the Seahawks in a long time but I appreciate you indulging me now.

One of the great chicken-and-egg issues in my life has to do with sports and my favorite teams. Do I like football because the of the Seahawks or do I like the Seahawks because I love football? I don't know the answer for sure but if I had to guess, little Jacson fell in love with the sport first and was grafted into the 12th Man as a matter of geography and familial bequeathing. As a sports fan, what we saw yesterday was immaculate. A relatively cleanly played game featuring two of the most impressive franchises in the NFL's constellation. All of the silliness of the two weeks prior was removed in favor of two great teams playing great football. I mean, that Super Bowl had it all and for the first time in what seems like forever, the game-clinching defensive play wasn't made by Seattle.

Everything that came before it was beautiful though. Obviously the injuries to Jeremy Lane and Cliff Avril played a role in the outcome and there were a lot of things that both teams could have done better. In games as evenly played as this one was, a single play can have a huge impact and the closer to the end of the contest that the play takes place, the more indelible the imprint it leaves on us. Sure, the Seahawks could have called a run on that final play from scrimmage but Jermaine Kearse could also have caught Russell Wilson's perfect over-the-shoulder throw in scoring position when the team was up 24-14. Likewise, he could also have not made that miraculous catch in the final minute and the that final play call would have been rendered mute. Tom Brady could have not thrown a ball directly to Jeremy Lane in the endzone and Seattle could have found themselves in much the same position they were in against Green Bay. Chris Matthews could've been the same Chris Matthews he's always been and registered zero catches but instead he emerged like some hero made of sinew and sunshine and registered four enormous catches for 109 yards and a touchdown despite no career catches prior. I could keep doing this for a long time but my point is that it wasn't just one play -- it never is -- and I don't want to let my dissatisfaction over the outcome and the decision behind it to overshadow what was one of the great sporting events I've ever watched.

I read an essay some time ago, don't remember who it was by, that talked about attention. In it, the author spoke about the ideal of concentration and how we consider paying attention to be a brow-furrowing exercise that precludes all other thoughts. It reminded me of how a spotlight illuminates with great clarity the thing it shines on but simultaneously reduces all else to barely recognizable shadow. In a way, sports in general and the Seahawks in particular, have caused so much else in my life to fade into the dark relief provided by the scorching glare of my focus on sports. I don't feel guilty about it and would never try to make anyone else feel that way but it's a prioritization of my personal time that, like everything else, is worthy of re-evaluating and yesterday's dick-punch of a loss provides a great opportunity for that.

For example, the other day I was sitting on my couch at home while Paulina made dinner in the kitchen adjacent to me. Normally, when I get home from work or the podcast or the gym or whatever, my go-to is the remote and I almost immediately turn to the most appealing sporting event/program on at the time. That night, however, I found myself ignoring the TV altogether and watching my gorgeous bride-to-be cook. It was captivating. One of the most amazing things about Paulina is her sense of purpose and it's clear in everything she does. Even the way she moved from sink to stove, from the cupboards to the drawers was mesmerizing. She passes through the world with fearsome beauty, single-mindedly bent on not only finishing the task at hand but doing so with excellence. Here was a woman, in my own house, that is capable of accomplishing anything and being with anyone she wants and she chose me. And I ignore her a lot because I've compartmentalized her into the realm of the expected. She's been here for four years, she'll be here for the next 50, and I've let myself take that for granted. And yet there I was, transfixed by the same person that has been by me for so long, and it was like watching her for the first time. I wept a little because, well, this was life and it's damn good.

I've put a lot of things on the back burners over the last few months because I love football, I love the Seahawks, and I love writing for this website. It sucks that the season is over and it sucks that it ended the way that it did but this is not a team on the brink of collapse, no matter how we feel in the moment. This isn't some franchise that went all in on a bunch of high-priced veterans to make one run at a 'ship before disassembling and rebuilding. This wasn't a team that over-achieved and fluked its way into the Super Bowl. This is a program built to win forever, not as a catchphrase or a way to sell books but as a philosophy that does not mortgage future excellence for a taste of it in the present. The Seahawks are so young, so talented, so unified, and so committed to keeping the squad together that what we're seeing isn't a brief peak in the landscape of the franchise's history but an ascension to a high-altitude plateau the length of which surpasses the limits of our vision. I mean shit, go read the post-game comments from the players. Look at how interchangeable their answers are from player to player. These guys, the ones who actually have to stand up and answer the public questions about the most heart-breaking athletic experience they've ever had and they all have this unbelievable calm, focused, perspective. Their lives aren't over; hell, a bunch of them are already talking about winning it all next year -- just like they did after winning the Super Bowl last season and just like they did immediately after that intestine-twisting loss in Atlanta the year before that. The team hasn't changed and for that, I'm exceedingly grateful.

A lot of things will be said about the Seahawks -- on radio, on TV, online -- over the next few days that will make me mad. Whether it's about the final play call, about the team's legacy and place in history, about the future, etc; there will be a lot of voices saying things that will keep me feeling lousy about what was, in all honesty, a pretty magical and enjoyable season. The great thing about that, though, is that I'm not obligated to listen. I don't owe them my anger. Nothing about what has already happened can change, the only thing we can do is decide for ourselves how much influence what gets said has over us. I, for one, will be tuning out for a while. There are a lot of great things in my life that I've been partially or wholly neglecting in favor of the Seahawks and I'm excited to get back to them. And when I do think about the Seahawks season, I'm going to try not to dwell on the painful way it ended but on the exuberance of the journey. So here are a bunch of .gifs, courtesy of the inimitable @Jose8BS, of a few of my many favorite moments from this season (some with volume, so adjust accordingly).

Enjoy, and go damn 'Hawks.

Jacson on Twitter /// Cigar Thoughts hub

PS - I want to thank all of you not only for reading this article each week but the love you've shown me in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook, etc. I started writing because I liked to do it but now it has a great deal to do with how unified with you I've felt through this process. So thank you, again, for everything.