Out of curiosity, I dialed up the San Francisco 49ers ticket office Sunday night. I wanted to see if their phones, like their franchise, would quit after five rings, too. Alas, the hotline was designed to operate much like the Niners of 2014 — and of each of the prior 19 seasons, as well — going straight to a pre-recorded message and resulting, however unfortunately, in no rings.
As many are well aware, the world has been reminded numerous times over the course of this season that the Seattle Seahawks, unlike the mighty 49ers, have amassed a total of zero rings, zero Lombardi Trophies, zero Super Bowl titles throughout their 37-year existence. Niner fans love to bring up the past in that regard, not only because the days of yore are where all of their success lies, but in turn because the past, you see, allegedly has some bearing on the present in today’s NFL. The Seahawks of right now, ringless wonders that they are, are somehow inferior to all those title teams of years gone by because, you know, SCIENCE.
Admittedly, we’ve waited anxiously for our time to come. For Seattleites like myself who grew up in the eighties and nineties, waiting has become second nature. The Seahawks teams of our childhood were occasionally dotted by big names — Largent, Krieg, Tez — but often characterized by substandard results. Back then the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl, seemed as far off as Bali, an exotic greener pasture a world away that we would likely never see with our own two eyes. And then Mike Holmgren — as well as Holmgren’s successor’s successor, Pete Carroll — came along and changed all that.
We’ve had it pretty good the past decade-plus, watching (and cheering, and yelling, and screaming) as the Seahawks have found their way to the postseason eight times since 2003. That’s not a bad run of prosperity by any stretch of the imagination, so good in fact that fans have started to yearn for more, like a championship, for instance. As the wins have increased, so too have the expectations, culminating in the start of the 2013 campaign, where never before had such unbridled enthusiasm and nervous excitement greeted the opening of a Seahawks football season.
The regular season may as well have been an exhibition. Sure, we found ourselves fretting over the development of the team’s play week in and week out, but we all knew deep down that it didn’t matter. The Hawks were destined to trample opponents one by one over the course of sixteen contests, and so it happened just as fate foretold. For all the buzz in the air about Seattle’s superior ball club, there was a certain ho-hum shoulder shrug of expectancy that met each victory along the way. Only on the three occasions when defeat occurred did the earth seemingly stop, the pundits murmur, and the fan base raise a collective eyebrow.
But then each defeat was thrice met with a subsequent victory. And for each loss a veritable asterisk seemed to appear alongside the big red “L,” a caveat indicating why it was that perfection was briefly interrupted on the way to otherwise undeterred greatness. Indianapolis was a tough road game against a quality opponent, with a 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time kickoff, to boot. San Francisco was the biggest rival and arguably the second-best team in all of football; no shame could be felt in losing on the Niners’ home turf. And Arizona was that all-important “get it out of the way” defeat just prior to the playoffs, the type of loss that builds character and serves as motivation down the stretch. They weren’t excuses, per se, but reasons. As every shortcoming was reasoned away, each victory became more and more validated. And with each emphatic mushroom stamp of success teabagged upon the résumé of a damn good football team, the end result became clearer and clearer: the Seahawks would play in the Super Bowl.
If this article has bored you until now, that’s the point. Because like the eighteen contests we’ve just witnessed, everything up to right now has just been “Eh.” It’s been absolute “Eh.” And though you may have drank yourself to silliness on Sundays or gone batshit crazy for certain plays here and there, you’ve woken up every Monday morning with a feeling of reserved satisfaction, knowing in your heart of hearts that the previous win, exhilarating as it may have been, was only a small piece of a much larger puzzle. Eighteen puzzle pieces now sit on your grandmother’s coffee table attached in strategic juxtaposition. One final piece strays from the group ready to cap off a beautiful image of a Monet impressionism or a city landscape. The ultimate game, some two weeks away, will make a work of art complete.
This is it. This is what we’ve waited an entire season — or eight seasons, or thirty-seven seasons, depending on your point of view — for. One matchup to determine the best group of fifty-three guys in all the sport. And if you believe there’s another team better equipped to prove victorious in this event, you’ll be reminded by a group of badass mother … lovers … why you’re sorely wrong.
They are loud, they are brash, they are confident, they are cocky, they are arrogant, and they are so effing good at what they do. Richard Sherman won’t shut up, but why should he? He’ll beat you, then tell you how he beat you, then tell you how he’ll beat you again, and the world will explode in a cornucopia of reactionary emotions. But none of it will matter, because between the lines he will back up all the talk with a game that cannot be conquered, and his attitude, however aggravating, will permeate amongst his teammates.
Two crazy chicks in a Jerry Springer stage fight don’t possess nearly the bombastic hubris of each member of the Seahawks roster, each with a chip the size of Jupiter beneath the requisite shoulder pads. The quarterback? Too small, passed on by every single NFL team at least once, and in most cases twice, in the draft. The running back? Too quirky, jettisoned from his first team before ever proving his worth, traded for next to nothing in return. The receivers? Too mediocre. The defense? Too braggadocious, too noisy, too concerned with extra-curricular activity, too physical, too whatever. Even the kicker (cut previously) and the punter (also cut previously) have reason to be angry. Anger, as it turns out, fuels hunger. Hunger, meanwhile, is dealt with by each individual in different ways. Some just play the game a little harder than their counterparts. Others, like Sherman, for one, want to make sure you remember why they’re here now.
The universe doesn’t quite know what to make of the Seattle Seahawks. There has never been a team with such a brief and undistinguished pedigree that has polarized a nation as greatly as this one. The Dallas Cowboys of the nineties may have divided sports fans into two passionate love-or-hate factions, but they did so only after winning Super Bowls — and this after spending decades as “America’s Team.” The Seahawks have no such acclaim to their credit, and yet they’ve already pissed off twice as many people as they’ve endeared, which is a generous ratio to say the least.
Squaring off against the distinctly white bread vanilla Denver Broncos, Seattle will surely assume the role of “villain” in the 2014 Super Bowl production. But loathe or love the Pacific Northwest’s one and only NFL team, the Seahawks will do everything in their power to make you notice them. Because they are hungry, because they are angry. And as they torpedo toward what they see as an inevitable outcome — the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy — you won’t be able to take your eyes off the baddest, best football team to grace the planet.
For now, they are a hotline that takes you straight to a pre-recorded message: ringless. But give it two weeks and that story might — and will, if you believe the players — change.