I watched this year’s NFC Championship Game with my brother and even with my new-found appreciation for Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers, I stood tall rooting for the Seattle Seahawks. My brother was rooting for the Packers and Oliva Munn’s boyfriend. The Packers took a 16-7 lead into the fourth quarter of a game where the Seahawks, uncharacteristically, had more turnovers than your neighborhood bakery shop. Regardless, I told my brother—with Richard Sherman-esque confidence—that the Seahawks were going to win the game. And when a perfectly gift-wrapped pigskin express package landed into Jermaine Kearse’s mitts to seal an overtime win, I looked at my brother and said the phrase that every younger brother lives for: “Toldja so.”
JOINING THE BANDWAGON
I don’t think I’ve held such care for an NFL team not called the Lions as I have for the Seahawks, and I can’t shy away from my ever-growing fandom; there’s just too much for me to like. The Seahawks are the most likable, charismatic, and important NFL team in a long time. They come from a small market city that just lost their NBA team (and how it must feel for Supersonics fans to see their team flourish as the league’s best in a different city), which makes them a guilt-free organization to bandwagon. Not to say that Seattle needs the fans, but unlike New England, New York, Chicago, LA, or Texas teams, I can empathize with Seattle fans in that the national media wouldn’t give them the time of day if they didn’t have the best team in the NFL.
The Seahawks have personalities in players like Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman who test the patience of the backwards standards of the NFL and the NFL media. Marshawn Lynch manages to be less than soft-spoken in post-game interviews in what is—in my estimation—a justified act of civil disobedience against commissioner Roger Goodell and his inconsistent regulations, fines, and off-the-field rules (while ignoring the real issues outside of the game itself, i.e. concussions, domestic violence, etc). Meanwhile, Richard Sherman is on the other end of the public figure spectrum. The Seahawks’ cornerback espouses an I’m-not-cocky-I’m-just-good attitude that he refuses to hold back. Many people were disgusted by the way Sherman handled himself with Erin Andrews after an NFC Championship win against the San Francisco 49ers last year, but anyone who yearns for the passion of competition has to respect Sherman’s energy and confident disposition. If you don’t like him shouting about how he’s the best, beat him.
And then there’s Russell Wilson, whose elusiveness in the pocket and ability to make productive plays out of seemingly nothing, brings up (as my roommate Johnny puts it) college football post-traumatic stress. As a senior at Michigan State, I watched my football team beat the NC State transfer and his Wisconsin Badgers at Spartan Stadium on a truly immaculate Hail Mary throw. I also saw Russell Wilson’s Badgers get their revenge in the Big Ten Championship game that year with a win against to send them to the Rose Bowl—a trip that my friends and I thought was certainly destined for future backup NFL quarterback, Kirk Cousins. All that being said, one would think I would have disdain for Wilson and his crushing of Spartan dreams, but it is the contrary. He is an amazing athlete, and the more Super Bowl wins Wilson puts under his belt, the softer the blow of losing to him in the Big Ten Championship game gets. Instead of losing it to some yahoo, we could very well be looking back at that 2011 showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium reminiscing how the Spartans lost a close game to one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play football. And then there’s my whole crazy dream of the two-sport Russel Wilson and the idea that maybe if he gets a few Super Bowl wins out of the way early, he’ll try his hand in baseball. Wilson isn’t too shabby on the baseball diamond. It’s his hitting skills that need to improve, but he’d have as good of a shot as Jordan did.[youtube http://youtu.be/xaCk5Fnnqk0?t=3m8s]
I could go on, but I digress. It is for these reasons and more that moments after Russell Wilson threw the Super Bowl into the hands of Malcolm Butler on Sunday night, I jumped up, shouted in dismay, and sat down stunned and quiet.
Before their game winning drive, I turned to my friend Berk and asked him what the chances were that the Patriots score, giving Russell Wilson a minute and a half to win the game. “Pretty good,” he told me. And when Julian Edelman caught an easy pass to take the lead, Berk looked at me and laughed, “there ya go.” The stage was set. I got up, grabbed a handful of pretzels, and announced to everyone—like I had two weeks prior to my brother—that the Seahawks were going to win. A pass to Marshawn Lynch down the sideline and then a jaw-dropping, NFL Blitz-like catch by Jermaine Kearse—the kind of catches that only happen in the NFL when Eli Manning is facing the Patriots in the Super Bowl—had everyone in the world sitting back knowing nothing could stop the Seahawks now. With second down and one yard to go for a touchdown, the land of Starbucks and Jimi Hendrix was all-but raising the banner on their back-to-back Super Bowl win. I, for one, was waiting for Marshawn Lynch to punch it in so that the season where the NFL embarrassed itself on egregious levels would end with a crotch grab.[youtube http://youtu.be/fKOLqM-LnA0]
But we were wrong, because Pete Carroll was wrong. When Russell Wislon dropped back and tossed the ball through the air, every one of us stood up, hands in the air or on our domes, yelling “what are you doing!?” followed by a loud “no!” in unison.
WHEN WE KNOW BETTER THAN THEM
Before Jermaine Kearse did his best David Tyree impression, my living room was quiet. We were all on the edges of our seats, thankful that this year’s Super Bowl didn’t resemble it’s 2014 predecessor in any fashion, when Berk pointed out to all of us: “I’m just thinking about how nervous I’d be right now if the Lions were in this game.” That hit us all hard very quickly. And while we’d do anything to be sitting there at that moment watching the Lions instead of the Seahawks, it did cross our minds how incredibly taxing it would be to see the Lions in this position. I wanted to tell Berk that I recently had felt this sensation watching Connor Cook drive down the field at AT&T Stadium against Baylor about a month ago, but the reality is that the Lions in the Super Bowl doesn’t come close to the Spartans in the Cotton Bowl. If Matt Stafford was in Russell Wilson’s shoes in those final minutes, I imagine many Lions fans would choose not to watch. Because we’re conditioned to believe that the Lions are going to screw it up. In fact, as the clock winded down on the final Tom Brady kneel down, I told everyone in the room that the Seahawks managed to lose in the most Lions way of all time.
How do you throw the ball there!?
The Russell Wilson interception in the end zone to end the 49th Super Bowl will stand, for me, as the epitome of the phenomenon in sports (and pop culture) that we call the Arm Chair Manager/Coach Phenomenon. It’s the phenomenon that compels Joe in Taylor to call into sports radio shows during the summer to insist he knows more about baseball than Jim Leyland. It’s the phenomenon where it makes certain plays look so obvious from the overhead, sideline camera view, that don’t look that way at all when you see it from a player’s point-of-view on the field. And truly, it’s the same phenomenon that compels fanboys to write blogs about all of the objectively stupid decisions George Lucas made in his Star Wars prequels. Do we know more about football plays than Pete Carroll? No. I’d say, most people on the planet don’t. I wrote a 3-5 thousand page blog post about how I thought Chris Nolan’s Interstellar was terrible. Do I know more about film making than Chris Nolan? Certainly not (that’s why I have yet to post it. But I’ll get there, stand by). But, ultimately, we are the fans and we have the right to complain when the product we pay to see doesn’t meet our standards, and like a Jar Jar Binks fart jokes, the call to throw the ball second and goal at the one yard line seemed so distinctly unnecessary that there’s just no rationalizing it. It doesn’t matter to me if, as Grantland points out, none of the 108 balls thrown from the opposing team’s one yard line this season were intercepted, you still have Marshawn Lynch as your most most powerful weapon and you should use him in that situation.
Pete Carroll’s throw it to blow it call came on the same day that my roommate Johnny and I watched in confused dismay as Spartan basketball guard Travis Trice had 20 seconds on the clock at the end of a tie game to take it to the rim for a lay up and instead waited until the last seconds to fire a hail Mary three-pointer from the fifty yard line. He bricked and sent the U of M game to overtime (Spartans won, though). All to the point that no matter who you are, there are just some plays, some movies, some albums that are so bad, you don’t have to be an expert to call them out as being total crap.
We’ve seen it before in Detroit. Maybe one of the silliest calls in football history came in 2002 when the Lions went to overtime with the Bears at Soldier Field and Marty Mornhinweg one the coin toss and took the win instead of receiving the ball. Yeah. Overtime, which was 100 percent sudden death in the NFL back in 2002. Marty still defends the decision to this day even though ESPN called it one of the worst coaching decisions of all time. To which I would respond: of course it was the wrong decision, Marty, because you lost the game!
There’s a million of ’em. There’s pitching to Pujols with a base open with a base open in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series (he hit a homerun). There’s that time Benoit faced Big Papi (he hit a homerun). And that time Joe Dumars thought it was a good idea to sign Josh Smith (this is not Joe D’s only obvious bad decision but I can’t seem to think of the other one…hmm…).
Yet, with all of those bad decisions by coaches or management, sometimes there are those moments when the coach decides to fake a field goal in overtime, at home against Notre Dame. And because it worked, we all get why he’s down there coaching and why we’re not.[youtube http://youtu.be/__VOG0sZdnQ?t=53s]
Which doesn’t even beg the question, but is simply said with the utmost confidence: if Ricardo Lockette catches that ball in the end zone, we aren’t talking about the decision to throw it, but, rather, how Russell Wilson will be better than Tom Brady and how Pete Carroll is a genius.
Instead, we are left with this:[youtube http://youtu.be/pNfaA9C1qAo]