“You just shared that demonstration of love and belief and never giving up and always fighting to the end. You shared that with everyone who follows us. The 12s are here. They’re so strong.” —Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in the locker room, speaking to his team, minutes after the NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers
“Holy shit. Let’s go! Let’s fucking go! Super Bowl!” —Me in the same moment, standing on a chair, screaming at uninterested strangers after five solid minutes of laugh-crying
It’s been a couple days since the NFC Championship game ended with a historically improbable 35-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to Jermaine Kearse, and I’m still drained. If you look me in the eyes, I won’t be fully present. The Seahawks managed to, through 55 minutes of failure and five minutes of brilliance, put on a performance that shook me to my core.
I happened to watch the game outside of Seattle, in a bar full of neutrals and one Packers fan. As we all staggered into the freezing rain after it was over, after the Seahawks comeback that really did happen (OH MY GOD, IT REALLY DID HAPPEN), I looked at the Packers fan and realized that we were, he and I, living that moment on a different plane than everyone else. He and I went through something that, for lack of a better word, was sacred.
But now I’m home again, and the Seahawks have just one game left to complete their Insufferable Journey to Rewinning the Super Bowl. Are we going to throttle New England like we did Denver? Or is a totally different, far less insufferable Super Bowl in the cards?
Looking back a full year, last year’s team was just so goddamn good at everything. The defense was historically great, and while the secondary received the plaudits, the linebacking corp and defensive line were almost as good. That team was able to play some of their best players as little as half the time. They functioned with a specificity that is unheard of in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch finished the year as one of the three best running backs in football, and Russell Wilson produced the opposite of a sophomore slump. Throw in a special teams unit that was historically great, and the second youngest roster in the NFL, and you’re talking about the most talented NFL team of the salary cap era.
Then that roster was turned into something magic through Pete Carroll’s leadership. Over a deeply satisfying 19 games, the Seahawks managed to be the footballing epitome of acting like they’d been there before, even though they hadn’t. Never once did the team seem awed by the enormity of what they were accomplishing, because it made sense. They faced one moment of true crisis, in the NFC Championship Game, but never lost contact with the 49ers, and never lost control of the game like they did this past Sunday.
Then the Super Bowl came against an elite AFC opponent with a Super Bowl winning quarterback, and for all the fear and angst the fan base had going into the game, the team knew it was going to win. And it did, throttling an outmatched Broncos team 43–8. The real Super Bowl had been the NFC Championship game—a perfect rivalry game, perfectly played, where one virtuosic performance (Richard Sherman’s tip) proved to be the difference in a battle of wills.
I don’t think whatever happened against Green Bay was the real Super Bowl.
Playing the New England Patriots in a Super Bowl is everything. Everything. Let’s run it down:
• Pete Carroll coached New England with moderate success before being fired so that the team could hire current coach Bill Belichick. I love Pete Carroll, but I still can’t question that move. The firing made the Patriots what they are today and also made Pete Carroll what he is today. Now they’re facing off in the Super Bowl? This game is already some serious Lion King shit.
• The Boston fan base invented moving from lovable losers to insufferable monsters. Seattle’s insufferableness pales in comparison. You may already be receiving questionable texts from long-lost cousins named Fitz and Sully. And if you aren’t, you will.
• Quarterback Tom Brady was declared done after a week-four meltdown against the Chiefs. Since then, he has proved himself to be very, very not done. Also, he’s very, very good-looking. Problematically good-looking.
• The Patriots need this. They won the first three Super Bowls of the Belichick/Brady era, but they have lost the last two in shocking fashion. A win cements the coach/QB pairing as one of the three greatest of all time. A third loss casts a weird shadow on their dynasty. They are masters of game planning and will pour everything into this game.
• And, oh yeah, dynasties. The Patriots are the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls, back when their tunnel mess was as bad as ours. The Seahawks now have that opportunity. The hate and evil that lives in the heart of Bill Belichick, the Emperor Palpatine of the NFL, will drive them to prevent us from reaching that level. It will get ugly.
Very, very ugly.
So will we win?
The real reason I think we’ve got this is that the Seahawks are a better version of a very good Chiefs team that had the Patriots’ number. There is a model out there for a team with our skills to attack this Patriots team, and while they’ve improved since week four, I think their weaknesses remain exploitable.
But the realer (and also less real) reason I’m insufferably confident is deeper. This Seahawks team is not what last year’s Seahawks team was, because this year’s team is Seattle. This year’s team is the footballing manifestation of what this city can be. And they’re just great enough to seize a moment where sports have the possibility to transcend the field.
Seattle is growing rapidly, and the impacts of this growth are varied enough to make my head spin. We live in a beautiful, dog-filled, socially liberal city with a strong economy. That’s all great. But it’s also obvious that our city’s recent growth has had a serious cost in terms of growing inequality, underfunded infrastructure, and a lost sense of entrenched community, architectural heritage, and diversity.
In a much less important way, our team has gone through similar changes. Important cogs in the Seahawks machine were shed due to growth. Golden Tate, Red Bryant, Breno Giacomini, Chris Clemons, Zach Miller, Paul Richardson, Percy Harvin, Brandon Mebane, and Jordan Hill are all out due to the effects of success and the violence of the game. This team has had weakness and adversity imposed upon it.
Last year, we got to root on a perfect machine, and it was fun sports.
This year’s Seahawks are us: great in some ways, frustrating in others. And yet still somehow winning. This team is the best version of Seattle. They are the Seattle with a true sense of purpose, a true sense of togetherness in spite of flaws. And they’re going to get us this win.
Maybe not. I’m still not fully present.
But yeah, they are.
Holy shit. Let’s go. Let’s fucking go. Super Bowl.