Two days ago, on the 14th play of an 80-yard drive, Jason Snelling took a shovel pass from Matt Ryan and waltzed into the end zone, giving the Atlanta Falcons a 27-7 lead over the Seattle Seahawks with 2:11 left in the 3rd quarter. It was their 5th score in 6 drives. At this point, a theoretical Seahawks victory would be one of the greatest playoff comebacks of all-time, by any calculation.
As a Seahawks fan watching alone on my computer in my room, I was distressed, but never in despair. I knew this game was not over. I had watched the Seahawks make the absurd look ordinary all season. Observe:
- Week 4: Down 12-7 to the Packers with 7 seconds left, Russell Wilson heaves a Hail Mary to Golden Tate, giving the Seahawks a controversial 14-12 win.
- Week 6: Down 23-10 to the Patriots with 13 minutes left, the Seahawks defense forces two punts and the offense scores the go-ahead TD with 1:18 on the clock to give the Seahawks a 24-23 win.
- Week 13: Down 14-10 at Chicago with 3:40 left, Wilson engineers an 97-yard TD drive to give the Seahawks a 3-point lead with 24 seconds on the clock. After the Bears miraculously kick a field goal at the end of regulation, Wilson leads an 80-yard game-winning drive on first possession of OT.
- Weeks 14-16: Seahawks bust 58 points on the Cardinals, 50 on the Bills, and then 42 on the 49ers.
- Wild Card Round: Down 14-0 after the 1st quarter, the Seahawks outgain the Redskins 371 yards to 74 the rest of the way and win 24-14.
Clearly if there was ever a team who could make up a 20-point deficit in 17 minutes on the road in the playoffs, it was the Seattle Seahawks. And so I welled with pride as I watched my team fight back on both sides of the ball. Quick touchdown. 27-14. Earl Thomas interception, another touchdown. 27-21. 9 minutes left. Defensive 3-and-out, punt, defensive 4-and-out. Then with 31 seconds left, Marshawn Lynch ran it in to put the Seahawks up 28-27. It was a beautiful thing to behold, not just as a fan, but as a human, watching a team forge its own destiny.
A kickoff and two plays later, Atlanta had driven into field goal territory. Their 49-yard attempt cut effortlessly through the Georgia Dome air and split the uprights. Final score: Falcons 30, Seahawks 28.
From distress to ecstasy to shock. I suddenly felt in touch with the elemental side of life. This game carried significance beyond its temporal boundaries. It was the culmination of a breathtaking season by a young team of entertaining characters that formed a distinct collective personality in step with their improved performance, from a 4-4 start to an 11-5 finish. Slowly but surely, the 2012 Seahawks captured imaginations, gaining national recognition as they actualized their goals and blossomed into something pure. I now know what it feels like to be a parent. After the loss to the Falcons, I was not mad, or even sad – only proud. The 4th quarter was so captivating that I could not process what was happening in real time. The game left me in disbelief, not that this team could stage such a dramatic comeback, but that this resilient, electrifying, swagged-out team was not of Boston or New York or Los Angeles, but of Seattle.
I read an article after the New York Giants won the Super Bowl in which Eli Manning was asked if he did it for the fans. No, he said, we do it for the guys in this locker room. It is not wishful thinking to believe that the players on the 2012 Seahawks do it not only for themselves, but also for the city and the name on the jersey. The 12th Man crowd, with the help of some well-designed stadium acoustics, is responsible for making Century Link Field the best home-field advantage in the NFL. In this age of Twitter, there is greater transparency between player and fan, and Seahawk players tweet thanks to the Seattle faithful on a regular basis. This should be taken with a grain of salt, but the time they take to express their gratitude is a nice gesture.
Seahawk fans were rooting for more than just laundry this season because we got to know the players both on and off the field. Starting in training camp, fullback Michael Robinson posted weekly 15-20 minute shows to his YouTube channel, The Real Rob Report. He films casual interviews and portrays the atmosphere inside the Seahawks practice facility locker room. Over the course of the season, Robinson introduced almost every player on the 53-man roster.
Football is a sport that dehumanizes the players. They are much more athletic than regular people, and they experience routine acts of violence that are far removed from everyday life. Helmets and masks obscure their faces. The drama is condensed to only 16 regular season games and a few playoff games. The game doesn’t have a consistent flow like basketball or soccer: the drama is then condensed even further into 4-7 second bursts. Offensive linemen are human shields and safeties are human projectiles. It’s almost impossible to relate to the players as they do battle. And that’s what makes The Real Rob Report so great. Robinson, a captain, welcomes you to meet the players with their helmets off. He has shown us how the Seahawks interact, what music they like, how they dance, and who they voted for in the election, or if they voted at all. He has shown us Red Bryant’s passion for cookies, and he has shown us Chris Maragos, the overconfident, white, backup safety, talk trash to Marshawn Lynch. Now, seeing Maragos standing on the sideline during a game brought me great pleasure.
Seattle has had a lackluster sports history, and the 2012 Seahawks have probably been the most exciting team the city has ever seen. More exciting than the GP/Kemp ’96 Sonics, more exciting than the 116-win ’01 Mariners, more exciting than the ’05 Seahawks who went 13-3 and played in the Super Bowl. That Seahawks team won methodically; The 2012 Seahawks won with style. With crazy comebacks. With dreadlocks flowing out the helmets of half of its star players, including cornerback Richard Sherman, indubitably the cockiest player in the league. With a potent read-option offensive attack. With a 5’10” quarterback named Russell Wilson who scrambles like a young McNabb and passes from the pocket like a young Brady. This season was a cultural movement the likes of which Seattle fandom has been waiting on forever. This particular team’s identity cannot be separated from its symbiotic relationship between fans and players.
I must finish with Russell Wilson. He inspires me to become a better person. He inspires me to work hard and fulfill my potential. He won the starting job in training camp over big free agent signee Matt Flynn by waking up at 6:30 every day to watch film. He watched film the day after the Falcons loss. He visits sick kids in Seattle Children’s Hospital every week. “I want to be great,” he said in December. “I want to be one of the people a 100 years from now, everyone talks about. That is the way I treat every single day.” He is the number one reason for the Seahawks improvement over the course of the season; he threw 10 TDs and 8 INTs Weeks 1-8, and 19 TDs and 3 INTs the rest of the way. He is the number one reason there has been a special relationship between players and fans this season. He is an underdog by virtue of his height, and we are all underdogs in one way or another. Russell Wilson transcends football. He is living proof that sports can be a valuable and even vital distillation of what we want to achieve and experience in life.
When the Seahawks plane landed in Boeing Field at dawn the morning after the Falcons game, Wilson tweeted, “Best feeling in the world seeing all the #12thman at the airport! Wow I love this team and this amazing city. #GoHawks.” The power of positive thinking in the face of defeat. The cult of Russell Wilson is growing fast, and there is little doubt that he will inevitably achieve his biggest goal.