Cliché as they may be, the most common sports tropes enamor fans without fail.
Opponents are ill-intentioned villains.
Home teams are replete with heroes.
And everyone, everyone always roots for the underdog.
Alongside these tropes is an unshakeable belief in the sports world: no matter their past, everyone deserves a second chance.
This is best exemplified in the popular Netflix docu-series, "Last Chance U." Whether it's character issues, athletic weaknesses, or struggling to overcome a hard-knock life, talented college athletes find themselves at these community colleges for a longshot at the NFL. Sometimes, the guys make it past Division I schools, past training camp cuts, and actually land on an NFL roster. LeGarrette Blount and Jarran Reed got their chance at East Mississippi Community College, while Damien Lewis started at Northwest Mississippi Community College before a historic LSU run led to a being drafted by the Seahawks in the third round last April.
That's what people love about "Last Chance U": it delivers on the promise of kids who deserve a chance they never got, proving that a little support can go all the way to professional leagues. Second chances are alluring in life and in football, but with perpetually troubled players, there comes the question of when they've been given one too many.
In 1995, the best football player to come out of West Virginia got into a vicious fight. It left one kid hospitalized, and the player lost a prestigious football scholarship to Notre Dame.
If the player sounds like he didn't deserve a second chance, consider the fact that the fight was a result of racist insults, a deeply insulting attack that understandably prompts a physical one. He served 30 days in jail, getting a second chance at Florida State, a school with a reputation for turning around troubled players. But once marijuana was discovered in the player's possession, he was sent home, ultimately graduating from Marshall University.
If Randy Moss never got another chance, he wouldn't be a Hall of Fame receiver who changed the game.
In the mid-90s, it was impossible to know if Moss was worth the trouble. Obviously he was talented, but after a few mistakes, he appeared to be too much of a risk for big college programs. Marshall University could afford the gamble, and for the smaller colleges, the risk-reward ratio is usually worth it. Again, that's how Reed and Lewis made it to the Seahawks as two necessary starters making an impact in critical position groups. One more chance can change the trajectory of not only a life, but an entire team: Blount has three rings from two different teams, boasting team-high Super Bowl rushing stats in his 2018 Eagles victory.
While that may be the case, while the Seahawks are one of a few teams that make playoff dreams come true out of second-chance players, they have been intent on signing two of the most troubled receivers of the 2010s: Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown. With the best passing offense in football, do the Seahawks even need to take risks on players well beyond their second chance?
Nearly everyone has doubted Gordon at some point during his eight-year career. Without recapping his entire story, Gordon entered the 2012 season as a Cleveland Brown and after showcasing immense talent, has struggled with substance abuse in the years since. The Seahawks resigned him this September following his fifth league-mandated suspension for substance abuse. After dedicated efforts to turn his life around, it's a widely-held belief that Gordon deserves another chance on the field. Teammates want to see him get better, and fans eagerly await his full reinstatement so he can pose another deep threat alongside DK Metcalf and destroy NFL secondaries.
While Brown has decided to suit up for Tampa Bay rather than Seattle, the scintillating debate over whether Brown belonged in the Pacific Northwest or not prompted an important conversation: when, if ever, do we "cancel" NFL players, especially talented ones?
Players have taken suspensions and been welcomed back into the fold for nearly everything short of murder, which former Patriot Aaron Hernandez was convicted of (although he was never actually suspended for it). Accusations hurt reputations, but ultimately, players play unless proven guilty, as Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar currently is after summer robbery allegations eventually fell through.
Brown has several pending allegations against him, but even if he were acquitted of it all, he was still a reprehensible teammate on the Steelers, argued with the Raiders for an archaic helmet that was worse for his health, then bad-mouthed Patriots owner Robert Kraft after being released by the team for sexual assault allegations.
Beyond the scope of what Brown has done and been accused of, he continues in a cycle of apologizing, then continuing, his behavior. One could say the same for Gordon, but grappling with addiction is a lifelong battle that the football public finds sympathetic. Perhaps if Brown's mental and even physical health were better understood, it would be easier to give him another chance.
What’s also unique about Brown is that after multiple chances from several different organizations, he hasn’t expressed genuine remorse for his actions. While he has remained quiet this year and could potentially affect meaningful change in his life, his wide-ranging insults on social media and in person last year cemented the impression that he wasn’t interested in being a team player. The attitude surrounding Josh Gordon was none too kind until about three years ago, when an Uninterrupted documentary detailed his story and his earnest desire to return to the game.
It’s no surprise that Seattle sprung for the receiver, as the Pacific Northwest has become a haven for guys who could use another chance. Whether it’s a second stint in Seattle or interviewing a blackballed quarterback, the Seahawks are pretty open to having anyone come into their locker room, as long as they’re willing to do the work. Character issues can disrupt an unstable organization, but for an established locker room culture, guys can be themselves and play their best game - it’s something Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, and so many others have said they love about their second home.
The Seahawks like playing together and having each other’s backs, and they’re ready for Gordon to come back. As Russell Wilson made clear last week, they would have welcomed Brown with open arms as well. Without any explanation or condemnation from Brown of his past actions, the rest of the football world isn’t as forgiving as the good-natured Wilson. That's just the Seahawks way, which is why players like Marshawn Lynch found success with the team after wearing out their welcomes elsewhere.
Tupac once said that only God could judge him, and for the most part, it seems the NFL chooses to make a pass when it comes to definitive moral judgments. Outside of divine providence and the judicial system, the league is reluctant to ruin careers and permanently eliminate another chance at the game. What Gordon, Brown, and countless players have proven throughout the years is that talented athletes often get opportunities sought with humility - and when they do, it’s no surprise when it’s with the Seahawks.