I eat Skittles only during game days

image from SIKids.com

The Seahawks won the Super Bowl. It’s starting, finally, to sink in. With no more football games for the year, I’m moving past that adrenaline-fueled binge into what I suppose is acceptance and even reflection. After the game, after the win, after the confetti, after the parade, where are we? What, in short, has all this meant?

This hasn’t been an ordinary football season. And this feels like winning more than a championship. It’s about life and meaning and purpose. Stick with me. I don’t mean that we learn about teamwork and goal-setting and the triumph of the spirit. We do, but we all have heard that before. That’s a pre-game speech or post-game reflection that I know we can do better than. There’s more here with this win, in this city, with this collection of players.

Like just about everybody (except perhaps the ebullient Pete Carroll and the ever gracious Russell Wilson), at times I don’t like my job. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great job, with great people. But there’s always that sense lurking that gnaws away. Like all jobs, sometimes it bores me. Sometimes it doesn’t feel important. But those are surface responses. At root, for most people, everyday jobs are taunts about unfulfilled potential and losing dreams. We all think we coulda been contenders. But so few of us ever are.

Seeing your team not just contend but prevail feels like all of that unfulfilled angst is momentarily erased. There’s a moment of transference, an alchemy in which disappointments are turned to gold and that sense of personal frustration is washed away by the team that you have followed and connect with. When your team stands at the top of the mountain, it feels like you’ve climbed it with them.

This temporary merging of yourself with your team is why all of those crazy sports superstitions seem to make sense. For the Super Bowl, I wore the exact same clothes, including the socks and boxer briefs, that I wore when we defeated San Francisco. I always open my Fremont Interurban IPA when the ball is in the air during kickoff. I eat Skittles only during the game.

That cathartic moment when your everyday frustrations and shortcomings are erased by your favorite team grabbing the brass ring might make sense to lots of people, no matter where you live. But for those of us in Seattle, there are communal layers of frustration on top of the individual ones. We haven’t had a major championship since the Sonics in 1979. To dump salt in that wound, the Sonics aren’t even part of our landscape anymore. In that way, the 1979 championship isn’t just decades in the past; it’s a ghost, a haunting remnant from a part of the city’s identity that was sold away. (And don’t kid yourself, it hurts seeing Durant and imagining that the Sonics were still here. But that’s just dreaming). We’ve also had a record-setting Seattle Mariners season end abruptly—another dream unfulfilled. We’ve had our favorite players leave for pastures filled with more green bills. We’ve had a communal inferiority complex that rolls east coast bias into Cali-focused bias. We’re ignored. We’re seen as not quite good enough. We’re the cute younger cousin whose precociousness is precious, not respected.

All of that came tumbling, for me at least, into the constantly bubbling feud between the Seahawks and 49ers and particularly the flap over Richard Sherman’s comments to Crabtree and gestures to Kaepernick. Let me come clean up front: I can’t stand the 49ers, especially Kaepernick. But I also loved Sherman’s comments because it gives voice to that simmering, ready to explode fire beneath the surface of this community. His comments demand attention. His self-confidence is refreshing in this city, which is all too often overly polite and/or passive aggressive. It’s a shot of personality that makes you look closer, at him and (to follow my comparison) the city itself. We need that.

For similar reasons, I love Doug Baldwin playing with a chip (or a boulder, if you listen to his own comments) on his shoulder. As “Southeastern Alaska,” we’re too easily overlooked and dismissed. We know that we aren’t “appetizers,” but we too often feel like other parts of the country think of us that way. Largely, that’s on us. Baldwin reminds us that you can take that feeling of being overlooked and challenge it and rewrite it. We’re a damn good city—Cris Carter can Google us and see.

As much as I love Sherman and Baldwin’s loud self-assurance, I also love the quiet confidence and more self-contained approach of so many of the other Seahawks. Kam talks with his hits, his shoulder yelling at you that the middle of the field is not to be entered lightly (just ask Vernon Davis or Demaryius Thomas). But he never gloats. Earl leads quietly but guess he’s the one Sherman always likes to sit next to before games. He’s the heart and soul of the L.O.B. Big Red Bryant gets the last word in the locker room before every game. Marshawn, of course, doesn’t like to talk to the media at all. And Russell Wilson isn’t just a leader on the field, he’s a model of community leadership and involvement off the field as well.

We could continue down the roster but the point here is that I love this team because of the way the personalities blend. These Seahawks are Whitmanesque and contain multitudes. That’s not an accident. It’s engrained in the culture of the team (and I’d like to think it’s engrained in the culture of our amazing city as well). Coach Carroll lets each player be himself. He celebrates what makes each player unique and then works to help each individual become the best that he can be, in his individualized way. It’s a team built upon celebrating what makes each person an individual. It sounds counterintuitive, but not only does it work, it’s fun and invigorating and refreshing to watch. The Seahawks are, even more so than other teams, one made of many—e pluribus unum.

That tie between Coach Carroll’s philosophy and a theory of civic identity and citizenship, I think, also helps explain our involvement as fans, our transformation of individual Seattleites into “12s.” The Seahawks make room for us as fans to be part of the team. This team has let us in, brought the 12s along every step of the way. They always thank us. They always let us share in the moment. They always help us feel part of what they are doing. It’s a unique bond for pro sports and a fan base. But to me it fits with the culture of the team: all are welcomed, all can help, all have something to contribute, and we’re all in this together. The players have embraced us as 12s and welcomed us and, together, we’ve turned the”Clink” into something astounding.

For all of these reasons, I took my kids to the Super Bowl parade. I didn’t articulate all of this to my children, but I wanted them to feel the excitement, feel the pride, feel the sense of community. We are so damn lucky to have not just the Super Bowl champions but also a team that so clearly and continuously brings city and self closer together. So, Cris Carter and everyone else, we’re a damn good city, with a damn good team—Google it and see.

Patrick Linder is an avid Seahwaks fan and an award-winning novelist who makes the Seattle area his home. His Seattle-based mystery Ghost Music has been termed a 5-star “must read” book and is available in both paperback and Kindle eBook format. Contact Patrick at patrick(at)patricklinderbooks.com

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