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Marshawn Lynch bleeds blue and green too, just like me and you

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2019 had one more surprise up its sleeve, somehow

A premature reflection on the Seattle Seahawks’ 2019 season acknowledges that the only fitting coda always needed to be an improbable one — something preposterous like an unforeseeable reunion with Marshawn Lynch, of all people, the Beast of Yore.

The team we follow, for better or worse, intends to ride Lynch, again for better or worse, into the sunset of a season that saw them pegged in the preseason as third-place NFC West finishers, then winners of too many impossibly close games, then as a conduit for Russell Wilson’s long-awaited MVP candidacy, then #1 seed holders after 15 weeks, while getting blown out twice in December and being ravaged by injuries at the worst possible time. The DVD recap of the season, if they still make those even, won’t fit in anything but a box set. The preposterosity on all counts is as jarring as the suddenness of a playoff loss.

Unless there is no playoff loss, in which case 2019 will be remembered in a different shade of astonishing.

Either way, the season ends with Lynch at the team’s helm, playing once again the class clown to Wilson’s teacher’s pet — each enhanced by the other’s presence, each exceptional in his own inimitable way. The situation, while familiar of course, also feels... well, choose your own word. Surreal. Contrived. Fated. Weird. Thrilling. Maybe all of the words, all at once.

So I can’t help but ask two questions about the endgame this strange, strange season has brought upon us.

A) Is Beast Mode a savior, or a gimmick?

This is the tough one, because the season doesn’t need to be saved yet. Win on Sunday Night behind Wilson’s arm and some well-timed takeaways, and the Seahawks are division champs again. The third seed, or better. More home games in January. Balance will have been restored to the galaxy. But then again, say it’s next month and instead of hosting playoff football, Seattle has staggered into the postseason with consecutive home losses — now, quite abruptly, you need a miracle, a messiah who will turn the water of a 5 seed into the wine of a deep playoff run.

Messiah Lynch is good. The good stats, and the bad ones too, confirm your astute suspicion that he remained nigh untackleable in Oakland.

He followed up a more-than-fine 2017 with the same kind of resolve in 2018: 3.46 yards after contact, again fourth in the league. You knew the man’s desire would not disappear overnight, but it’s still nice to see the spreadsheet confirm what the heart already felt.

In 21 games with Oakland, he reached the end zone 10 times. He still got 4.3 yards per carry, almost matching the 4.4 of his entire Seattle career. I’ve used the term “still” a lot. On purpose. Lynch is still himself.

However. No matter what Geno Smith may tell you, coins have two sides. How can anyone believe in the Seahawks, when they might shrewdly be borrowing a page from the guys across the street? Yeah, I mean the Mariners’ PR staff, who regularly (and skillfully) bank on nostalgia to paper over a painful trudge to season’s end. Beast Mode is 33 and has close to 3,000 touches as a pro. The tank is a lot more likely to be empty than full. Although you don’t need him to carry the ball 250 times, all you need is something more like fifty to a hundred, the inescapable reality is he hasn’t played a down of real football since October 2018.

This experiment, born of a union between desperation and serendipity, could end up backfiring as easily as not. Savior or gimmick? The extended answer summarizes neatly as “I don’t know,” which shouldn’t be perceived as waffling but instead as the unofficial motto of every blogger, journalist and pundit forced to speak at length about the Seahawks. Pete Carroll and John Schneider and their band of misfits have done nothing more consistently than make us eat our dumb words. So, yeah, I don’t know.

Except I do know one thing — when Marshawn Terrell Lynch sprints (or jogs with faux nonchalance) out of that tunnel on Sunday, there will be feels.

Which brings me to B):

What does it mean that Beast Mode is back in blue and green?

No, not “how does it affect the playbook” or “will he get more carries than Travis Homer?” What does it mean, to people like you and me, whose autumns rotate around something as loopy, inconsequential, foolish, and awesome as Seahawks football?

What does it mean, deep down?

More feels. We’re getting in touch with our emotions in this joint.

So many feels.

Me? If I had to distill the adrenaline-fueled ride Seahawks fans have been on since Lynch was spotted in town, I’d go with the timely answer: It’s like Christmas, for the soul of the football fanatic. Why do we even sports? For moments like Monday, when hours of rumoring and speculating culminated in Lynch’s agent breaking the glorious news with a tweet of the Seahawks contract bearing his client’s signature.

Because the first part of the decade, wherein the Seahawks were ascendant and triumphant, meant a lot to us. It still does! Yet underneath the joy we experienced as fans ran an undercurrent we frequently prefer to ignore: the men who delivered our piles of joy were on some level mercenaries. They didn’t necessarily have trouble sleeping the night after Super Bowl XL. They didn’t cheer Tony Romo’s fantastic fumble, because they were Cowboys fans. They didn’t need Brandon Mebane’s unwavering excellence to get through the dark seasons of ‘08 and ‘09, because they were enamored with the Colts or Packers instead.

Hell, many of them weren’t even Seahawks fans when Lynch and 66,336 of his closest friends made the earth, and the league, shake against the New Orleans GetOffMe’s Saints on January 8, 2011.

So many of the players that made 2012-2014 possible were lifelong followers of other franchises, or have turned into 49ers since, or were collecting paychecks not because Paul Allen was signing them; it would’ve been the same to them were the autograph Bob Kraft’s or Stan Kroenke’s.

Even the head coach of the franchise, the man without whom our trophy case would be bereft of Lombardis, has worked for teams that tortured Seattle fans for years. Carroll has worn 49ers, Patriots and USC colors. He could very well coach again elsewhere. Why would you put that past him? He’s the best. To bring up Felix Hernandez again, the line goes like this: “Felix is ours and you can’t have him.” Coach Carroll is ours, but let’s be real: many have had him.

The men who’ve brought us to the pinnacle of fandom have largely been accidental Seahawks. But as it turns out, Marshawn Lynch is not exactly like them. He is not just another football player. He is an intentional Seahawk.

That’s what Beast Mode brings this time around: a fellowship with the fan, one you cannot fake. For all the ways he is completely unlike you and me, he’s also exactly like you and me. He loves football, and he loves being here, specifically. When he says he’s got Unfinished Business (the capitals are mine but you can hear him say them), it’s not a line his people fed to him to pacify the new fanbase and get in their good graces. Nobody makes Lynch say something he doesn’t want to say. They can force him to speak, but they can’t control the content. Thanks for asking, though.

The Seahawks could stagger to the end of the season. They could stub their toe Sunday Night and flame out of the playoffs. Sure. That could happen. However, when Beast Mode runs out onto CenturyLink Field for the first time since the end of the 2015 season, the moment will feel not just epic, but also right.

And there’s nothing more one can demand from an athlete, a team, a sport.