When you bothered to think about Seattle, you probably thought about Starbucks, grunge music and endless rain. Now these Seahawks—Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman & Co.—are making up for all those times our city has been underestimated, overlooked or laughed at. And it feels good to yell about it
All the noise means we’re finally being heard.
Typically in late January, no one is paying attention to Seattle sports, not even Seattleites. January means that the Mariners are rearranging deck chairs for next year’s shipwreck. January means trying to ignore the SuperSonics as they live out their lives as the Thunder in Oklahoma City—ironically a young, brash and divisive team that resembles basketball’s version of the Seahawks. January means the Seahawks themselves are properly brushed aside so that rightful men and rightful teams can take their place on the national stage. Men like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and teams that inspire middle-aged white men to spout stumbling clichés about toughness. Usually January means the nation isn’t paying attention to us, and we’re not paying attention either. In Seattle we sit by the fire and read; we head to the mountains; we drink; we build planes; we make beer; we cure cancer; we invent things; we are a busy people who never lack for things to do.
This January is different. The Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl, and now everyone is paying attention. Not just in Seattle but across the country. Richard Sherman’s mouth has made sure of that, but so has his play. The earthquakes that thunder around C-Link as Marshawn Lynch runs have made sure of that. Russell Wilson’s mad scrambles to daylight and pinpoint accuracy have made sure of that. The list of electrifying players goes on: Earl Thomas, Percy Harvin, Bobby Wagner, Kam Chancellor, etc. This is a team comprised of players who demand your undivided attention.
With the nation paying undivided attention to us, it’s brought an unprecedented scrutiny to our rainy city. A recent study examined the disparity between love and hate of NFL teams across America, and the gap was most extreme when it comes to the Seahawks. To put it in plain terms, Seattle is f------ crazy about the ’Hawks while the rest of country thinks they’re a bunch of a------. Our players talk smack, they explode into histrionics after every play, the stadium is obnoxiously loud, we have a coach who plenty of people think is about as honest as Richard Nixon and our players are as drugged on group-think deception and amphetamines as Chinese gymnasts. As much as there is to love, there is an awful lot to hate.
Our players talk smack, they explode into histrionics after every play, and the stadium is obnoxiously loud. In plain terms, Seattle is f—— crazy about the ’Hawks while the rest of country thinks they’re a bunch of a——.
One reason to hate us is what happened after the NFC Championship Game when Richard Sherman exploded. He was fiery and passionate, having finally delivered the revenge he had so longed to deliver. Here’s a guy who’d been overlooked his whole life. Who’d come into the league as a fifth-rounder. Who, through absolute and unceasing dedication to his game, had lifted himself to greatness. Here’s a guy who’d touched his dream. Here’s a guy who’d just taken his dream out of the hands of a first-round draft pick from one of the most storied franchises in sports. When Richard Sherman exploded, he wasn’t talking about one player being better than the other, he was talking for all of us who have felt overlooked for so long. Richard Sherman is Seattle.
Russell Wilson’s story is well known. Third-round draft pick. Became the captain of the Wisconsin Badgers a week after getting there. Outplayed everyone in his draft class. Consummate student of the game. Will beat you with his mind, or his legs, or his arm, but most often a combination of all three. It’s the work ethic that inspires you, the willingness to do whatever it takes to be great. Russell Wilson is Seattle.
Pete Carroll, forgotten until he won at USC and derided as a cheater when he did. Then he escaped under a pirate-black flag as USC burned behind him. He came to the Northwest and found something new. Reinvented himself in the salt air. Created a culture based on innovation and relentless fun. Pete Carroll is Seattle.
The Seahawks themselves are Seattle. There’s a reason we are living and dying with this team. We see our selves in all of them. In the way that the Steelers carry the tough steeltown roots of Pittsburgh, or the way that the Saints symbolized the rebirth of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the Seahawks represent every time Seattle has felt slighted, forgotten about, laughed at, or been labeled by a writer as a city that’s one-dimensional as grunge music, or coffee, or Microsoft. This team makes up for countless times we’ve been underestimated or put into a box. The city needs these Seahawks.
Narratives give people context to what they’re watching. They frame what would otherwise be a brutal bloodsport into a story that we can root for and believe in. But here’s what we all know deep down: Sports have no real bearing on our lives. If we’re jobless and destitute when our team wins on Super Bowl Sunday, we’ll still be jobless and destitute the following Monday. Fortunes of finance and love are not won and lost on the field when we don’t play the game. Betterment through ego-identification is a bright shining lie. We know it is, but it’s a beautiful lie and we all love to believe in it.
Rooting for Seattle sports teams has always been especially irrational. It’s like watching a rain-streaked window in the hopes that our absentee alcoholic father will come home for Christmas. A father we haven’t seen or heard from in years. A father we’ve received a postcard from once, years ago—“Just checking in to say hi!”—with the tantalizing promise of tomorrow. And that’s all it’s ever been for us in Seattle; always tomorrow, always next year, while we watch from our rainy corner of the country as football Christmas is realized in other homes. So forgive us; we’ve never had a team like this.
So know that when we’re loud, it’s not just noise, it’s the volcanic passion of a people witnessing a destiny that couldn’t possibly be true. It’s like seeing dad’s car roll up the driveway. When we’re brash, it’s because we can’t believe it’s really happening. It’s like seeing dad get out of the car and walk up to the house. When we’re arrogant, it’s because our hearts are exploding. It’s like opening the door, seeing dad there, making sure he’s not just another lie. And if and when we win it all, it will be like a thousand Christmases all at once.
So forgive us if we’re a bit too excited for you. It’s who we are and we’re finally being heard.
Neal Bledsoe is an actor and writer. He has appeared in many films and TV shows, most recently the short-lived NBC drama “Ironside.” He lives in Los Angeles but grew up in Seattle, and so inherited the Seahawks, Mariners, and SuperSonics—which makes him well acquainted with misery.