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Monday, February 3, 2014

A Dream Come True...

Something happens when you're a little boy. Well...but before that happens, you're father (typically father, the occasional single mom) decides it's time for you to take up sports. So they drag you off to t-ball, or soccer. Even basketball. Some kids take to it right away and it becomes a part of their DNA. A smaller group reject it, and grow up to be fashion designers or theater actors. 

For those of us who decide we like sports, and make it part of our daily lives, we eventually start noticing the sports we are playing, being played on our television. By bigger, much more talented, men. Men wearing cool uniforms. Some of us kids lived in big cities that had professional teams...and those teams became the teams we rooted for. And so this story repeats itself, over and over, for decades and decades all around our world.

In the United States, one of those sports that capture our imagination at a young age is football. Almost all little boys find their favorite football team at an early age. When I was 8, I was living in Kalispell, Montana with my Mom and her asshole of a 3rd husband...who would spend the next 8 years physically abusing me. To his credit....and the ONLY thing I credit him with, he did introduce me to sports, and even took the time to teach me to be good at them. Granted, this was more about him not wanting to be embarrassed by a kid he had to take credit for. Since he claimed (and certainly had the trophies to prove it, which my little brother and I ended up burning in a garage stove one day while cleaning up the garage, not realizing their significance; yes, that resulted in an incredibly painful beatdown from his Royal Assholeness) to have been a great athlete in 'his day.' 

Living in Montana...I had a few choices as my favorite team. The Seahawks hadn't been born yet. It was 1975. I could root for the Broncos. Or the Vikings. Geographically they were the closest. I was a little partial to the Green Bay Packers...because I liked their colors. But for some reason, I became a Baltimore Colts fan. Bert Jones was my favorite player. Which would never happen today, since Bert was an LSU guy. Him and Lydell Mitchell. Those were my first memories. Those Colt teams were always really good, but always stumbled just a step shy of the Super Bowl....losing to either Oakland, New England or Pittsburgh. My memories of the NFL as a kid were almost magical. Super Bowl Sunday was a vacation from the abuse of my step father. It was that day when nothing could go wrong. I would wake up the all-day-long pregame show...biding the time before the big game started. And those first four Super Bowls were all spent watching from my Baltimore Colts bean bag chair.

So, in 1980, shortly after the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, which blanketed our town in volcanic ash and turned daytime into nighttime in the time it took for the cloud of ash to travel over our town, my step-dad's business went bankrupt. A lot of that had to do with his drinking and gambling. It was time to pack up and move back to Seattle, where we had come from 6 years earlier...where my mother had quit a great job, and moved out of a house she owned on her own. In other words....gave up a good life to pursue one with 'The Prick.' I became the new kid in school, settling in at Rose Hill Jr High in Kirkland...which at the time, was the city where the Seattle Seahawk's headquarters were...and who practiced just down the road from my school.

The Seattle Seahawks...who in their first four seasons had certainly never made the playoffs...but who gave fans a thrill almost every Sunday, at home in the Kingdome, or on the road. They had Jim Zorn at quarterback, Steve Largent at wide receiver and were coached by Jack Patera, who ran a wide-open offense that featured a lot of trick plays. There were seldom games that weren't exciting. They didn't win a whole lot...but boy were they fun to watch. And there were never games in Seattle that weren't sold out. Weekends as a kid in Seattle were incredible, with the Huskies playing on Saturday...followed by the Seahawks on Sunday. Nothing but loud, packed houses for both...every game.

About the same time my mom divorced 'The Prick' the Seahawks made a bold move...bringing in former Rams and Buffalo coach, Chuck Knox, a man who'd taken a team (LA Rams 1979) to the Super Bowl...and had plenty of playoff success. Later, in my junior year at Redmond High School, playing in a football game against Bellevue High, I would be ran no...I flattened, running back Chuck Knox, Jr...who would lead Bellevue to the State Title, and follow that up with a career at the University of Arizona. Coach Knox turned the Seahawks into winners. New quarterback Dave Krieg was handing the ball off to Curt Warner. He was passing to All-Pro and future Hall of Famer Steve Largent. The defense was tough....led by Future Ring of Honor Seahawks like Jacob Green and Kenny Easley. Monday night football in the Kingdome was the loudest place on Earth...and when the Raiders came to town...or the an AFC West would turn the town blue all week. These were the Seahawks of my childhood.

In 1983....while I was in the midst of my juvenile delinquent mother packed up my brother and I and we drove to Kalispell, to spend Christmas with my grandparents. By this time, I  had a job bussing tables at a restaurant. I also was getting into a lot of trouble. I liked parties...attending them, and hosting them. Well, I had planned a party for the weekend after Christmas, a New Year's Eve party at the condo we lived in. I had convinced my mother that I had to be back to work New Year's Eve at my job...and she was going to let me go home on a bus...or maybe it was a train. I don't recall. Well, my mom, being the eternal snoop, peeked into a Christmas card from a buddy of mine, Grant McKenzie...who said something to the tune of "your party is gonna be awesome!" and next thing you know, I was banned from going home. Shit!

I couldn't accept that. After all, I had 100's of people from three different high schools all planning to come to my house. Was I going to risk my popularity by not being there? Hell no! It wasn't even an option. So when they all went out to shop, I packed up my stuff and hitch hiked to the bus station, where I bought a ticket and waited to leave. I boarded the bus...and then damn, here came the police. Shit! They boarded the bus, tagged me, and pulled me off. They took me to jail and made me sit there....for two days. Oh, my mom could have gotten me out. But she didn't. She made me sit in, you know, teach me a lesson. I know, that as a parent, it was probably the 'right' thing to do. But 30 years later, I can tell didn't teach me anything. All it did was piss me off, and make me loathe my Grandfather (who I always despised, and who I figured was behind her decision to keep me in the can) even more. But the thing that pissed me off the most?

The Seattle Seahawks were in Miami....a week after winning their first playoff game in franchise history, 31-7 over the hated Denver Broncos in the wild-card game. They were there as huge underdogs to the Miami Dolphins, led by Hall of Famer Dan Marino. And I was sitting in jail. With no TV. Except I could hear the guards listening on a TV. I was furious. And Seattle would go on to win the game...27-20...sending them to the AFC Championship game...the only time they ever made it to the AFC Championship game, to face the L.A. Raiders.

I was freed from jail. We rode home to Seattle in complete silence. Even as my mother put the car into a 360 degree spin on an icy highway on a mountain pass in Idaho...I sat there, expressionless. That moment broke the ice a little bit between my mom and she was clutching herself and screaming...only to look over at her 16 year old son who looked like he was on 5 hits of Xanax. Once was a week of trepidation for the biggest game of my young life. There was just one little problem. I also would be serving one of my four court-ordered weekends in Juvenile Detention. Say what, you ask? Yeah...well, me and some buddies had a secret entry into the Kingdome that we had discovered a few years back...and we would sneak back gain an advantage in the game of autograph hunting. All the other kids would have to wait for the players to come through the gate...and would have only 50 feet between the gate and the bus to work with. 

Yep! That was me! Rebel without a CLUE!

Not us. We would pin them down as soon as they walked out of the locker room. And security? Pfft. This was the early 80's one cared back then. I was piling up a mountain of autographs and memorabilia. We decided one day to take it up a notch. We got brave. We started letting ourselves into the locker rooms. Walking around....with some players still in there. We played on the whole 'cute kids' thing to perfection. Oh it was brilliant. Got to see how the clubhouse was laid out...with the spread of food in the middle of the room. Where all the TVs were, the training rooms. Very cool. We got a little bolder. Once the players all cleared out..we started taking batting helmets, and bats. We made a nice score when the Yankees came to town. But then when the Red Sox came to town...we got REALLY greedy...and ended up taking an entire equipment bag to our car...well, my mom's car...that I was allowed to drive. 

As we were set to pull out from the Kingdome parking lot...someone yelled that they knew what we did, that they had taken down our license plate number and called the police. We drove a stealthy getaway route...back to our homes in Redmond, sure we had pulled the 'caper-of-the-century.' An investigator's call to our house the following Monday proved I hadn't gotten away with it. Long story short, I got busted. I had to give everything back. But....and very few people know this...I kept Jim Rice's batting helmet...and have used it for years. Jim Rice...number 44...who was GREAT...and who SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame. But mysteriously, he still isn't. Anyway...I was a kid, so I got off relatively light. My two friends, one a mormon, who's dad went to court and painted him as an angel who was led down the wrong path by me...the 'bad influence' kid from a broken home and the other; who's dad had a lot of pull, apparently in the court system, both skated with a slap on the wrist...while I did 'hard time' in 'Juvey' for four long weekends. Honestly was a walk in the park.

But that is where I sat watching the 1983 AFC Championship game...won by the LA Raiders 30-16...who then went on to beat the Washington Redskins...a game where Marcus Allen would win the MVP award. The same Marcus Allen who I'd met, after the game while seeking autographs, after a Husky game two years prior, when the Huskies upset the #3 USC Trojans in the wind and the rain of Husky what, to that point...had been my greatest sports experience to date. You may be able to see that football played a pretty important role in my life as a kid!

The Seahawks lost that day...and it really hit me hard. All I could think about was the Super Bowl. How incredibly close we had come. And we missed. The next year, we would get revenge, beating the Raiders 13-7 in the Wild Card game in a raucous Kingdome...only to then lose to the Miami Dolphins...them getting revenge on us this time 31-10. Until 2005...we would make the playoffs five times....losing all five years in the first round...four of those wild-card matchups. 2005...the magic returned. Shaun Alexander would rush for 1800+ yards, and an NFL record 28 TD's...Matt Hasselbeck was our steady, consistent QB...and we were led by a coach who had won a Super Bowl with Green Bay, and another great QB in Brett Favre. We went 13-3...then steam-rolled the Redskins and the Panthers to make it, for the first time the Super Bowl. I had now turned 40. I wasn't a kid anymore. I was in a committed relationship with the woman I would later marry. And I was faced with the decision of going to Detroit to see the game...or going to Vegas to watch it like a 'playa!' Well, Detroit as most of you kind of a dump, not much to do or see there...and tickets were beyond expensive. So we chose to go to Vegas. We watched with a great bunch of people, and hung out a little with NASCAR driver Elliot Sadler. Squirrel and I were decked out in our Seahawks jersey...and while attending a party at the Bellagio, settled in to watch what I hoped would be our first Super Bowl victory.

Most of you know how that game turned out. A goal line now- infamous referee Bill Leavy...turned the tide of the game...when Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisburger was ruled to have scored a TD when it was clear for all 100 million people watching that he never came close to crossing the goal line. Even after a video review! Then a phantom pass interference 'illegal blocking' call on Hasselbeck, after he threw an interception and tackled the guy...was one of the most bizarre and unexplained calls in Super Bowl history. It was a collection of things that turned the game in Pittsburgh's favor...and led to what some deemed, the NFL's going away prize to Jerome Bettis, who retired after the game.  

(if you watched yesterday's Super might have heard Joe Buck's comment prior to kickoff when they were discussing the game's officials...."Not that Seattle would ever concern themselves with the officiating crew of a Super Bowl." Instant classic!)

I have spent the past 8 years being bitter about that game. All of my Pittsburgh fan/friends know it too, and haven't failed to miss any opportunity to turn the knife on many occasions. Our next four playoff appearances would go WIN, LOSS...WIN, LOSS ....WIN, LOSS and again, WIN, LOSS. Last year was especially we came from a big halftime deficit to catch the #1 seed Atlanta Falcons, in Atlanta...taking a lead with just 1 minute left...a minute that I was cringing about, feeling we'd left them too much time. I was in Choctaw...playing in that poker tourney....and as Marshawn Lynch crossed the goal line to take the lead...the Tournament Director was just announcing that we had made the money in their first huge event up there. It was a moment to feel good. A moment that was doused just a few minutes later when Matt Ryan led Atlanta to a game-winning field goal. Then five minutes after that...I was busted from the tourney. I retreated to my hotel room to mourn for the rest of the day.

I know this blog is long. I don't care. You have the option of moving on....

This year...we didn't sneak up on anyone. People knew our defense was for real. They knew this exciting rookie Russell Wilson was the real deal. Everyone was familiar with Beast Mode, and his penchant for Skittles! This was going to be the year of the Seahawks! Right? All the preseason predictions did NOTHING but make me nervous as hell. Usually, preseason expectations lead to postseason disappointment. But things stayed on track all year. A narrow loss in Indy made us 4-1 before we reeled off 7 in a row...some in not-so-impressive fashion, as we relied heavily on our defense while we played without our go-to receivers in Sidney Rice and prized free-agent acquisition Percy Harvin.

But there we were...11-1 and poised to win the division and clinch home-field advantage. But a loss on the road to San Francisco...a game I thought we actually played great...and served notice to the 49'ers that we would not be bullied, tightened up the race and made things scary. Then...we lost at home...for the first time in two tough Arizona...who will be tough again next year too I think. It might have been a blessing for I look at it now...letting the team know they still had to give 100% to win at home...that those automatic wins weren't so automatic. We were 12-3 now...and were at serious risk to fall to a wild card. If we lost at home to the always-pain-in-the-ass Rams...and San Fran won at Arizona....that would be the outcome.

Forget it. The birds took care of business...crushing the Rams...clinching everything, and setting up the perfect scenario. TWO WINS...two wins in front of the 12th return to the Super Bowl for the first time in 8 years. First up....Saints.

This was kind of I like the Saints. Love Drew Brees. Love their coming back from the scrap heap of Bounty Gate a year prior. And it's my wife's favorite team. And of course, a lot of my friends down here on the coast. But my loyalties lay with my Seahawks. Not even close. And it was a dominating performance by Seattle for 3 and a half quarters...until a little late game heroics by Brees nearly brought them back. Nothing comes easy as a Seahawks fan!

This set up the NFC Championship game that EVERYONE in Seattle was clamoring for. There is a deep-seeded hatred for the 49ers. In fact...when I lived in Seattle, the people with all their money from the Bay Area were invading Seattle, and driving up real estate values...which resulted in a major backlash in people's feelings towards Northern Californians in general. So it wasn't just about sports. Seattle residents HATE almost all things Bay Area-related. Back in the days of the AFC West it was the Raiders.

The Niner fans took up a collection and bought several billboards along the freeway that leads to the stadium, mocking Seahawks fans for rooting for a team with NO Lombardi Trophies, where the Niners have 5. 'Got Trophies?' Fuck you SF! What have you won lately? Kind of the same thing the Dallas Cowboys fans do (to even more ridiculous lengths)...brag about all their past Super Bowl glory...despite not having won (or played in) a Super Bowl since 1996. And San Fran hasn't won one since 1995. So both of you can stick a sock in it!

Before the game started, I told a lot of people I was more concerned, and nervous, about that game...then I was in a potential Super Bowl matchup against either New England or Denver. I just know enough about football, about matchups and about history, to know that the Niners would represent our biggest challenge. And I'd have to say I was right. The Niner game was a slug-fest. Granted, our defense played lights out, limiting their running game to nothing from the RB's...and only a few scrambling open-field gains from Kaeperdick (yes, I intended to spell his name that way). Their passing game was non-existent in the first half. And once we got our offense going in the second was our game to lose...which almost happened, until Richard Sherman did what he's been doing since we drafted him in the 5th round...breaking up the most important pass of the game and tipping it to eventual Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith to ice the game and send my beloved Seahawks to the Super Bowl!!!

It has been a very, very long two weeks. Hours of mixing it up with mostly idiots on message boards on ESPN and other websites...which is just a waste of time. My wife asks me over and over why I leave comments on them. I don't have any idea. But when you believe so firmly in your team it's just so tempting to defend them against naysayers. And of course Richard Sherman's little outburst, which I think he has sufficiently made up for...just made for a very annoying two weeks of lead-up to the game.

I posted my prediction in many places.... SEATTLE 27 DENVER 21...citing my amazing record in Super Bowls and my ability to almost nail the scores. Well...I wasn't even CLOSE on the score...but if you took my advice and simply bet on them? And took the over? Which was 47...well, you were a double winner!

Yesterday was like Christmas. I hadn't slept more than an hour all week without waking up. And Saturday night? It was a joke. I took a melatonin to help...but was up all night...the anticipation killing me. I was out of bed at 8:30am...getting Carley dressed up in her Seahawks jersey. Putting on mine. Cheryl had hers on. I started in on my Super Bowl squares...which, holy smoke...set an all-time record for boards filled. Last year was the old record...where I filled up 14 boards. Yesterday, I filled 20 boards! 3 boards at $100 a square. 5 boards at $50 a square...and 12 boards at $25 per square. 2000 squares to account for! I had 18 sold out with 30 minutes to kickoff and people hammering me with emails asking for more. Fine. I opened up two more. They were sold out in like 15 minutes. Incredible. Overall I had a 'decent' Super Bowl in the squares department. Nothing like last year....or the year the Saints won. I was invested for $7750. My commission from running the boards was $6800 I went into the game stuck $950. I won $4150 ended up clearing about $3200. Now, and this is where my wife questions me...I could never buy a single square...and make great money.....$6800 on just running them. And that would make the most sense from a business point-of-view... I realize that. 

But how much of a dick would that make me? Guy just runs pools...doesn't play in them...and just makes money on us suckers! Wouldn't that be the sentiment? I think so. And I just love the excitement of rooting for your numbers to come in. It really adds to the excitement of the game...and in a game like yesterday...a blowout? It's sometimes the only thing to cling to, that and the over/under for the gamblers. It takes a lot of hours to do...but it's worth it I think. And the 'thank yous' I get from people really lets me know how much they appreciate the added entertainment value to their Super Bowl experience. The next week will consist of processing payments...and then next week...I will be sending off about $75,000 in winnings! One thing about the end of football bank account always goes back to a normal balance! If anyone at my bank is watching my balance they must just be shaking their head wondering what the hell is going on in my life!

I don't even need to discuss the game do I? I about the 12th man making their presence felt. On the first play of the game...and TWELVE seconds errant snap led to a 2-0 Seattle lead on a safety. Then, to start off the second half...already leading 22-0 in the biggest shutout score in Super Bowl history at the half...Percy Harvin did what we spent millions on him to do....he returned a bit of a pooch kick (designed to keep him FROM doing what he was about to do!) all the way for a touchdown...and a seemingly insurmountable 29-0 lead. In...yes...TWELVE seconds. Eerie, isn't it!???

I know the networks (especially!) and the casual fan always roots for a close, exciting Super Bowl...and admittedly I am usually one of those. But when it's your team playing for the Lombardi Trophy? That feeling goes out the window. In PRAY for a blowout. Screw a close game, screw being stressed out down to the last second. I'd had enough of that this postseason! Give me a game where I can be hoarse by the end of the 1st quarter...then just sit and grin like a Cheshire cat for the rest of the game. That's what yesterday was....a long 60-minute coronation of my lifelong dedication as a fan to that of SUPER BOWL CHAMPION fan of the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS! Proud doesn't even begin to describe my feeling. 

I think about the players we have. How young they are. How most of them aren't even eligible to renegotiate until after NEXT season. An owner with the deepest pockets and a heavy desire to not just win...but to win big. Some teams like to just compete, and make money. Paul Allen is a of the founders of Microsoft and owner also of the Portland Trailblazers, and resident of Seattle. 

There might be some players, Michael Bennett comes to mind...who decide to parlay his success with Seattle into a huge free agent deal somewhere...and that's cool, you gotta respect a man's decision to make the money while he NFL player's window to make good money is small. But with Pete Carroll being deemed the coach players most want to play for (that was a vote, I'm not just making this up) and Seattle offering a legit chance to win a Super Bowl...filling any holes left open will be easy...and you know there are solid players who will be willing to take a smaller contract for the chance to win a ring. 

We are still one of the youngest teams in the league...and are led by a quarterback who is...well, what can you say? Years beyond his age. Mature, intelligent, classy...a hard worker. Humble. I personally fell in love with this kid last season. I don't care that he doesn't pass for 300 yards a game and throw 3 or 4 TD's a game. He doesn't need to. Maybe if he needed to, he would. He's a bit like AJ McCarron was for Alabama. Classy, good kid, team player. Winner. Only, lucky for me...Russell Wilson isn't going to graduate in 3 years. 

This Super Bowl has given me the greatest joy as a sports fan. It's made all those Super Bowls I've watched since I was 7 years old mean so much more. It's true, I wanted so badly to travel to NY for the game. But as a responsible father...I can't make decisions like spending $5,000 to see a football game, when I have a daughter who needs to be taken care of for at least the next 20 years. I have a wife who clamors for a house we aren't paying rent on. So do I! So to watch from my couch, with the two loves of my life...who understand my passion for the was just fine. I couldn't have gone to bed last night any happier. Yes...that depression that always sets in when the last football game of the year has been played...has set in a little bit. But I just think about how excited I am going to be this coming fall...a new chapter for Alabama football, also for my Washington Huskies, with a great new coach (Chris Petersen from Boise State)...and my Seahawks...who will come back stronger than ever...and trying to do it all over again.

Since Carley Grace came into our lives....we watched, in person...from the Superdome...with Carley in Mama Squirrel's Bama crushed LSU to win the National Title. Then a year later...with Carley crawling around, we watched them destroy Notre Dame to do it again. And this year...with Carley running around the house yelling BOOM! as she heard Daddy yelling every time the Seahawks made a huge defensive play...we won a SUPER BOWL!!!! Wonder what act she will have in the 4th year!???

Squirrel has just left the house...for Baton Rouge, to go spend the evening with a bunch of her part of a surprise birthday party for our good friend Claudia 'The Claw' Crawford...a fellow Aquarian. (I'll turn 47 on Feb, 16th). So it's just Carley and I tonight. Carley attended her first day of Daycare was pretty traumatic...mostly on me and Squirrel, as we stood in the hallway fighting back tears as Carley ran around the room crying and looking for us. We only made her stay a few hours before picking her up. Baby steps!

I know I owe you guys a blog about my Main Event...and really, my last week Choctaw, and I's coming. Soon. Like maybe in the next day or two. But this was fresh in my mind...and I felt like sharing. If you are a Broncos fan, or lost money betting ON the Broncos...I'm sorry if you hated this post. I was prepared for losing the Super Bowl. I have always admired Peyton Manning, and would have handled losing to him just I'm sure the Seahawks would have. He is a great QB...and its amazing the things he does on the field. But Seahawks proved what a great defense can do to a great offense. I think I will go now, and watch the Super Bowl back on the DVR!!!!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jim Rice was elected to the HOF in 2009