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So I went to the Super Bowl

February 3, 2015

*This is written entirely from a fan perspective. So, don’t expect objective journalism! Now you know. Enjoy!

Jake had driven all the way to Seattle from Ellensburg at my simple suggestion that he could find a ticket to the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers for under $400. Hey, financial aid is a great thing. Thank you, college—even though most college students will spend their lives in debt to the institution of higher learning of their choice, financial aid does allow young people like Jake (and myself a year before) to take advantage of opportunities that young people like us shouldn’t have.

We sipped a few Rainiers, and talked about the possibilities of the game that awaited us in the morning. Neither of us were going to sleep too well, but we tried. We had met at my mom’s house. I took the couch. I gave him the guest bed in what was once my room.

I woke up at 6 a.m., ready to cook my tailgate fare. It wasn’t the most creative dish I was going to make all year, but I thought it would go over well considering the fact that we were playing a mid-west team like Green Bay. I grated about a half pound of smoked gouda cheese with bacon, Beecher’s flagship smoked cheese, Tillamook pepper jack, and Tillamook extra sharp cheddar and melted it down into a thick, creamy cheese sauce to pour over the brats.

Jake woke up, and stumbled down the hallway in his Jon Kitna jersey, representing both the dark years of Seahawk history and the golden years of Central Washington University, his college. He looked like he had just seen a ghost, and explained that he had just dreamed that Aaron Rodgers had pulled it off and won the NFC Championship to send the Packers to the Super Bowl.

It was as good as it looks.

It was as good as it looks.

Jake's first game in years!

Jake’s first game in years!

Me being an eternal optimist, I ignored the bad feeling in my gut, and told him it was only a dream—that the Seahawks were the better team, and while Green Bay could win, the odds were largely in our favor. But I was more worried about this one than the one against San Francisco the year before. I had something personal on the line. If the Seahawks won this game, my mom and I would be flying to Glendale to watch the Seahawks try to win their second consecutive Super Bowl title, something unprecedented in this era of the NFL.

We drove down to our tailgate at 6th and Washington, where we have prepared for Seahawks games for nearly a decade. This year, I had competed for the first time for the most prestigious award in Seahawks tailgating: the Mudbone Trophy, which is given annually to the best cook at our tailgate. I fought valiantly for a first-time competitor, preparing Seahawks Stroganoff, Pork tacos with homemade spicy guacamole, Pad Thai, and the aforementioned brats with cheese sauce, and today I would learn whether or not I could pull off the equivalent of winning the MVP in my rookie year.

The Mudbone, in all its glory.

The Mudbone, in all its glory.

We're ready. Photo credit: Paul Marsh

We’re ready. Photo credit: Paul Marsh

The rain was unbearable at times, but we would not be shaken. Tents covered barbecues, coolers, and more. We huddled under one tent, holding it down so the wind would not blow it away. During a brief break in the rain, one of fearless leaders, Pete (a pretty fitting name, I must say,) conducted the Seahawks prayer as he does every week, leading us to follow the great hawk who flies in from the sea. Using the tribal staff with the Seahawks logo carved perfectly at the end, he inspired us to cheer our loudest, and incited us to pour one out for the offense, defense, and special teams.

During the prayer, Pete announced the winner of the Mudbone trophy. It was not me, but I was just happy to be there, in the conversation. Given my relative inexperience cooking delectable tailgate food, winning would have been the cherry on top. I was simply honored to have made it as far as I did, and be in the conversation for an award I likely had no business winning.

Jake’s seats were on the opposite side of the stadium from mine. My mom and I climbed up Section 343 to row FF—five rows from the very top of the stadium There were a handful of cheeseheads around us—these must have been the only seats out-of-towners could pick up. The stadium roared to life, and the game was underway. Despite Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers leading a lengthy drive down the field, the crowd didn’t falter, and was rewarded with a Richard Sherman interception. This is our day, I thought.

Well, things didn’t go quite the way I had planned. At half time, the Seahawks trailed 16-0, and since I wasn’t responsible for driving us home, I made the trip to the concession stand to get beers number whatever and who freakin’ cares to make the experience a little better. 16-0 was not a death knell, not considering the fact that this Seahawks team had been a second-half team since Pete Carroll took over as the head coach. It would be hard to pull off a victory, but it wasn’t impossible.

The game continued to go in Green Bay’s favor until the Seahawks looked to put their first points on the board late in the third quarter. When the Seahawks set up to kick a field goal, I started down the stairs to get beers number screw you and god damn it why, when punter Jon Ryan threw a perfect pass to third-string offensive lineman Garry Gilliam for the first Seahawks touchdown of the game. I high-fived fans down the aisle and continued on my way to get beers number hell yeah and yes yes yes.

I thought that would be the turning point. It wasn’t, of course. When Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception with five minutes left in the game, for the first time at a game I had been to all season I thought, we’re going to lose. I refuse to be that pessimistic out loud, though, so I turned to my mom and said “This isn’t looking good.”

The Seahawks then blew up everyone’s brains, scoring twice in the last five minutes and converting a two-yard Hail Mary pass to give the Seahawks a 22-19 lead. I have been to nearly all of the biggest games at CenturyLink Field, and I have never heard the stadium as loud as it was when Aaron Rodgers got the ball back with 1:25 to go, needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win. The field goal to tie felt inevitable, but when the Seahawks won the overtime coin toss and chose to receive, I knew Rodgers wouldn’t see the ball again. We were going back to the Super Bowl.

 

We're going to the Super Bowl!

We’re going to the Super Bowl!

Nearly two weeks later, my mom and I landed in Arizona, ready to see the Seahawks try to become the first back-to-back Super Bowl champions since the 03-04 Patriots. Arizona was full of Seahawks fans—I think we outnumbered the Patriots at least 20-1 from the very unscientific eyeball test. I knew this game was going to be tough, and I told myself that win or lose, I was going to have the trip of a lifetime.

My mom and I golfed on our first full day in Arizona. I am a terrible golfer, but a lover of both beer and the outdoors, so I have taken to the sport and am trying to become at least competent. I took a lesson from a friend and former co-worker, who helped me shave 15 strokes from my average game—I shot 125 in Arizona. Yes, I’m that bad. The highlight of the round was a 30-yard chip-in birdie. I have never had a birdie in my golfing career. That’s not a bad way to get the first one. Putters are for losers, anyway. Screw putters.

Probably the best shot I will ever make.

Probably the best shot I will ever make.

After golf, we made our way to Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks for Paul Allen’s “12Fest.” It’s possible there were more Seahawks fans there than Diamondbacks fans at an average MLB game. There were certainly more fans than an average Mariners game. We met up with John, Kenny, and Cammy from our Seattle tailgate, and made an event of it, drinking overpriced domestic beers. The confidence in the air was astounding. We would go out, and enjoy our friendship over drinks and food, but my mom and I at least called it an early night, saving our voices and energy for the task at hand—Super Bowl XLIX.

When we woke up the next day, we started with our gameday traditions. I took a beer into the shower, and played “Have A Drink On Me” by AC/DC, finishing the beer before the song ended. I donned my gameday uniform—black sneakers, grey pants, Super Bowl XLIII champions shirt, 2002-2011 era blue and green sweatshirt, Wolf Grey Russell Wilson jersey, College Navy Richard Sherman jersey, fitted 7 5/8 sideline Seahawks cap, Nike Receiver gloves, and right sleeve pulled up to reveal my 1980s-colors, 2002-current logo design Seahawks tattoo on my forearm. We were ready.

Before the game, we met our tailgate friends Kenny and Cammy at a spot that was located nearly the same angle and distance away from University of Phoenix stadium as our standard tailgate is from CenturyLink field. We polished off a few bottles of whiskey and a case of beer. Without Pete there to lead the prayer, Kenny called out to the great hawk who flies in from the sea, and led a prayer. As per usual, we poured one out for the offense, defense, and special teams.

Just like home.

Just like home.

I was surprised at how loud Patriots fans were. I expected Seahawks fans to rowdy and loud, and they were. We were insanely loud. The Patriots fans were only a handful of decibels below, however.

Before half time, I expected the Seahawks to kick a field goal and make it 14-10 Patriots going into half time. Big Balls Pete made an appearance, though, and it turned out to be the right call, as Chris Matthews hauled in his first NFL touchdown to knot the score at 14-14 going into half. The Seahawks should still draft a tall, big-bodied receiver in 2015, but Matthews’ performance in the Super Bowl makes a ‘Hawks fan wonder—could Matthews be that red zone target that we’ve been lacking since Russell Wilson became the quarterback?

Our vantage point.

Our vantage point.

When the Seahawks took a 24-14 lead, I thought holy shit. We’re going to win the Super Bowl again. I don’t believe in jinxes, but I didn’t want to say anything out loud. Anything could happen. The Seahawks are great at holding on to second-half leads. But Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all-time, if not the very best. I began to notice him picking on Tharold Simon, who was playing much more than I expected him to. My phone had died, and I would learn later about Jeremy Lane’s injury on his interception. I wish I could un-see the picture of his bent wrist. Absolutely brutal.

When the Patriots took the lead with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter, I figured it was about a 50/50 chance that the Seahawks could take the lead and win the game. Despite the struggles of the offense in the fourth quarter, I knew they would be aggressive with everything on the line and nothing to lose. Wilson seemed to be throwing deep every play, a curious decision given the amount of time left and the fact that the Seahawks had all three time outs.

Jermaine Kearse’s catch at the four-yard line was unbelievable, and I thought then that if the Seahawks were unable to pull it off, it would take an incredible defensive stand or insanely bad mistake. Marshawn Lynch ran the ball, and the clock ticked to 27 seconds. Wilson dropped back to pass. I was a bit confused. Our seats were at the goal line where the play happened. I will have a freeze frame in my mind for the rest of my life of the ball being intercepted. My mom fell over into me, and I hugged her close and consoled her. We just watched the Seahawks lose the Super Bowl in maybe the worst possible way they could lose it.

Why didn’t they run the ball? Having had a day to reflect on it, I understand why a pass may not have been the worst call in the world. But, since the Pete Carroll era started, perhaps the worst route in the Seahawks’ passing game has been the slant. Targeting the third-best receiver on the team on a slant in a tight formation is a bad play call, even though replays show Lockette was open. Had Jermaine Kearse been able to shove Brandon Browner back one foot, he would have bumped Butler, the intercepting defender, out of the play, allowing Lockette to be the hero.

But, you can’t count on Jermaine Kearse pushing one of the most physical defenders in the league off his spot. You can’t count on your third-best receiver making a play on a tough pass on a route your team doesn’t execute well. The decision to pass wasn’t the worst call in the world. The decision to run a slant with Ricardo Lockette as the primary target, however, might have been the worst call in the world.

We left the stadium after the interception, not wanting to see the ceremony, and happily not seeing the fight that broke out during the kneel-downs (come on, guys, at least lose with some class.) For hours, my posture sank, and I felt empty, broken, defeated. I’ve never experienced sports sadness on quite that scale. It was, without a doubt, the most crushing loss I’ve ever seen, and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever see one of my teams lose a more important game in a more disappointing fashion.

With that being said, I’m over it. The fact that the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII softened the blow a little bit—if they had had their first Lombardi Trophy denied from them in that fashion, I may have gone missing for a few weeks. Having had one in the bank reminded me that they’re good enough to win it all, and left me extremely disappointed instead of inconsolably devastated. I was happy they were able to make it back to the Super Bowl. Winning it would’ve just been the cherry on top.

They may not make it back to that stage in my life time. Russell Wilson will probably play 10-15 more years in the NFL, and the odds are he probably won’t play in more than 1-2 Super Bowls from here on out. But this team has made its name defying the odds and doing what they’re not supposed to do. The Seahawks are still one of the youngest teams in football. Their core is locked up, and it’s likely both Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner will receive contract extensions this offseason. General Manager John Schneider has something like 11 draft picks to play with.

The point is, while the Seahawks may not play in Super Bowl 50, or 51, or 52, they’re going to be one of the favorites to make it there almost every year of Russell Wilson’s career. We as Seahawks fans have seen him win one, and come heartbreakingly close to a second. Even if he doesn’t win another, we’re watching the “glory days” of Seahawks football. This is the best time to be a Seahawks fan in the history of the franchise. Just because that loss really, really, really, freaking sucked doesn’t mean we should lose sight of how lucky we are to root for this team.

Simply being in this position shouldn’t have been possible. Winning a second Super Bowl in two years would’ve been unprecedented. With one in the bank, I can write this post on my flight back to Seattle feeling extremely disappointed, but not life-changingly devastated.

It’s a great time to be a Seattle sports fan. We generally expect our teams to be eliminated from playoff contention by mid-season. Well, in the past year, the Seahawks have played in two Super Bowls, winning one. The Sounders have won the Supporter’s Shield, and are still probably the best team in MLS. The Mariners fell one game short of the playoffs in 2014, and are now projected to have the best record in the American League according to FanGraphs.com. This loss sucks. It’s terrible. It’s the worst loss in Seattle sports history. It’s also the best time ever to be a fan of Seattle sports teams.

In 2008, the Sehawks went 5-11 under Jim Mora. The Mariners lost over 100 games. The Sonics left town. Seattle was the worst city in America to be a sports fan. Now, we have the best football team in the NFC. We have perhaps the best baseball team in the American League. We have the best soccer team in MLS. As tough as Super Bowl XLIX to stomach, there is no better time to be in this city, loving these teams, living and dying on every snap, pitch, and pass.

Trust me. I was there. If there is to be greater heartbreak in my life, I don’t want to even consider it right now. The two images I will have burned into my head forever as still images are my vantage point of the game-ending interception–etched into my head as a still image–and the look on the face of a young boy in a Wolf Grey Richard Sherman jersey, bawling as his dad held his hand. And you know what? I’m over it. It’s time to move on. We’re still the luckiest sports city on the planet.

Despite what may be the most devastating loss in the history of any sport’s championship game, Seattle is currently the best place for anyone to be a sports fan. Don’t lose sight of that. Go Sounders. Go Cougs. Go Mariners. Go Seahawks. I’m ready for the most enjoyable and memorable baseball and soccer seasons this city has ever seen. But before we move on to the next sport, let’s pour one out the offense, the defense, and the special teams of perhaps the most entertaining team in the city’s history, the 2014 Seattle Seahawks.

 

SEA!! HAWKS!! SEA!! HAWKS!! SEA!! HAWKS!!

SEA!! HAWKS!! SEA!! HAWKS!! SEA!! HAWKS!!

Mariners give up good outfielder for mediocre starting pitcher

December 3, 2014

KFCWe all knew it was going to happen at some point. Michael Saunders was going to be traded. When the Mariners publicly voiced their displeasure with Michael Saunders for getting injured, he was probably gone. When his agent publicly blasted the Mariners, it became a foregone conclusion. First of all, it seems curious that the Mariners would essentially be mad at Saunders for hurting himself crashing into a wall, straining an oblique, and getting a viral infection that made him lose 12 pounds. Clearly, they concluded, this means he didn’t prepare well enough for baseball playing.

It was that lack of preparedness that  had the Mariners intent on trading Saunders this offseason. Most of us held out hope that the fact that he is as good as he is when healthy would lead to a decent return. After all, Saunders tied Kyle Seager for second on the team with a 126 wRC+. Saunders was arguably the team’s second-best hitter in 2014. And now he’s been traded for J.A. Happ. Read more…

Stop undervaluing Brad Miller, Mariners fans

December 3, 2014

KFCYou know, I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why so many Mariners fans believe Brad Miller is a terrible baseball player. When I take to Twitter to try to spread the good word that Miller is an average-or-better player, the most common response is that Miller is “garbage”, and the Mariners should be willing to include him in a trade package for whatever the hell the other team is offering.

I’m not going to try to present a case that Miller is a superstar, or even a great player. My point is simply that he’s much better currently than many Mariners fans believe. I realize, the advanced stats I’m about to use are not perfect. But then again, our eyes aren’t perfect at telling us how good a player is, either. It takes a blend of both. Because the argument that Miller is not good generally comes from those who believe their eyes first and fully, I thought maybe a few advanced stats may at least lead that crowd to question their conclusion.

Miller is by no means untradeable in my eyes, but I’d have to know I’m getting fairly certain and immediate MLB production to let him go. And I promise, it’s not just because I really, really want a “B. Miller” to be a successful baseball player on the Mariners. I mean, that’s part of it, but not all of it. Read more…

Nelson Cruz: Hitter of dingers, at least for now

December 3, 2014

KFCIt’s a move many of us in the stat community dreaded last offseason, and one year later, it’s finally happened: the Mariners have signed OF/DH Nelson Cruz to a four-year, $57 million deal. Perhaps the worst-kept secret of the offseason was the Mariners’ desire for right-handed power in the middle of their lineup, so from day one, Cruz was an obvious fit, because he bats right-handed and hits dingers. The Mariners love them some dingers, even if they haven’t had many players that hit a lot of them lately. Read more…

An incomplete list of Seahawks things to be thankful for

November 26, 2014

Most of the time, I write about baseball for this blog. Sometimes, I write about football, even though I haven’t done so in close to, or over, a year. It’s time to fix that, and what better time to talk about the team that has given all of us in the Seattle the most happiness than Thanksgiving?

Read more…

Reacting to some things that have happened lately in professional baseball

November 19, 2014

KFCIt’s the baseball offseason, and that means that baseball players that are not employed are signing contracts with new employers, and in some cases, baseball players that are employed are being traded for other baseball players on other baseball teams. Baseball things happening in the baseball offseason. Imagine that. Baseball. But you know that things have been happening, what you really need to know is how to feel about it. Don’t worry. I’m here for you. And if you disagree…well, please comment and we can debate like rational adults over our differences in opinion! On to my opinions. Read more…

Brett’s offseason how-to guide to attend the World Series in Seattle

November 6, 2014

KFCWe’ve reached the time of year where the Major League Baseball season concludes, which is of course celebrated with the San Francisco Giants raising the Bud Selig Is The Greatest Bro I Know trophy that I presume is what World Series winners get, as is now tradition in baseball. Now, we get to dream of a league that might not conclude with the Giants winning it all, even though that seems strange and foreign to the tens of hundreds of people that watch the World Series from year-to-year.

So, although it seems downright silly to think of another team winning the greatest prize in all of the baseball land, I’ve taken it upon myself to lay out a path that would allow the Seattle Mariners, who have never even competed in the deciding series of their sport, to dethrone the dastardly dynasty in the Bay Area. How will they do it? It’s quite simple, really.

Read more…

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