The Seattle Seahawks, as they have done over the past 15 years with the sort of consistency that stiffens a lazy sportswriter, will enter the NFL postseason this week. This year's playoff berth is the team's fourth consecutive, and tenth since 2003. Paired with three Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl win, the Seahawks' recent run of success is surpassed by only one team (the New England Patriots) and matched by at most a small handful of others. Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore can all make cases. Perhaps the New York Giants could as well? I don't know and I don't really care.
I do care about what this run is doing to me, and by solipsistic proxy the entire Seattle Seahawks fan base. The 12s. We 12s who root for Pete Carroll, the Legion of Boom, Beast Mode, and Russell Wilson. Who were given Mike Holmgren, Matt Hasselbeck, and an offensive line composed of titans. I mean, this is a spectacular run. What the hell are we, now that we're consistently excellent?
I've been obsessed with sports statistics since I was young. I collected baseball cards, all my Griffey rookie cards sit in one special binder adjacent to thousands of others in a box at my mom's house, and I spent my early childhood memorizing the numbers on the back of them. I remember my parents teaching me how to calculate ERA in the Dairy Queen in Poulsbo when I was in kindergarten. I was the sort of kid who wanted to play with numbers, but I also needed to prove my guys were the best guys. I'd track home-run races and strikeout counts. I hated Sammy Sosa for reasons that confuse me now. When the Mariners had a middle infield of Omar Vizquel and Joey Cora, I'd track double plays turned (at the time ignorant of all the contextual variables that can affect those numbers). As I learned more, I dug myself into Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America, read Bill James, found a host of information online.
In what qualified as the defining sports trauma of my life until last year, the 2001 Seattle Mariners put together what was by most measures the best season in baseball history, before getting dumped out of the playoffs by Rudy Giuliani's Yankees. That loss pushed me only further down the rabbit hole of numbers. I needed to prove that the good team I liked was actually good—that their postseason loss was a fluke result and not indicative of actual quality. There are plenty of numbers that will show that the baseball postseason is a goddamn lottery that does little to indicate team quality. Going forward, I wanted the Mariners to be good and smart. Yet as time marched forward, they only got worse and dumber. I think I thought my knowledge could equal control—even if the team was bad, I would never be so ignorant as to allow myself to get destroyed by a loss again.
And then last year's Super Bowl happened.
This past weekend, the Seattle Seahawks played in the DVOA Super Bowl, which is not a real thing, except in so far as it was. For the first time since a website called Football Outsiders started tracking their DVOA metric (a catchall for the per-play efficiency of a football team adjusted for opponent strength), the two best teams in the league as measured by DVOA squared off in the final game of the season. This evinced a certain amount of interest from a segment of the Seahawks fan base.
See, the Seahawks have been the best football team every year since 2012 as measured by DVOA, and a fourth straight crown would have been unprecedented. Regardless of postseason results (and football playoffs, remember, are a goddamn lottery, even if the odds are a little better than their baseball equivalent), the Seahawks had the opportunity by an objective measure to be the best team in football for a fourth straight year. And they beat Arizona by 30 points, in an all-around performance that suggests the Seahawks are the most dangerous team heading into the playoffs.
Essentially the Seahawks' dominant win on Sunday means the Seahawks have been the best football team in the NFL since Mitt Romney's concession speech.
I appreciate the number-focused fan base of Seattle sports, and not only because I contribute to it. It fits this city. Seattle has been a city of engineers since it was settled: the Denny Regrade, Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon. There's the city's history of sports failure, and the paired desire to understand how to set that right and contextualize failure as it comes. It's proactive. Kind of.
I also think it's cool that this city has not allowed the Seahawks' success to breed a sense of entitlement. If anything, there's a level of terror that still underlines our collective perception of this team. The Seahawks led the league in scoring defense this year, for the fourth season in a row. Yet if you were to poll the fan base as a whole on the quality of the defense this year, you'd get an unhealthy amount of weary sighs.
Because, again, last year's Super Bowl happened.
Sports exist to place emotions at a safe distance from the self. But fuck me if I wasn't thrown into a weeklong depression because of last year's Super Bowl. As the days passed, and my emotional state did not change, I knew that I needed to make a change to my emotional relationship with sports, yet I've done nothing. Here I am, teetering on the precipice of caring too much yet again.
So once more into the breach we go. As Seahawks fans, we are lucky. We didn't do anything to deserve a run of genuine excellence. We were given this team. Our affinity to the franchise has nothing to do with the result, yet that does not diminish how great this team has been for us.
But I'm also, for the first time, emotionally unprepared. I don't want to be hurt again. I know how stupid that sounds. If there were a statistic for quality of emotional reaction to sports, this take would fare poorly. Yet here we are.
The Seahawks are the best team in football. They are three games away from their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. They are four wins away from a cinematic level of redemption. They are more likely than not going to break our hearts.