In Sickness and in Health

Image

I waited three decades for this party.

I am still recovering from one of the most exhilarating weekends of my life. I spent Sunday night dancing in the streets of Seattle with my best friends and thousands of complete strangers. On the surface, we were celebrating a Super Bowl victory. We shared hugs, laughter and even some tears. I know, I know: what kind of loser cries over a football game? Well, this loser does. Because some times a game can be about much more than Xs and Os.

The Seattle Seahawks were the first team that I considered my team. My family moved to the Puget Sound area when I was seven years old and I immediately worshipped at the altar of Steve Largent, Chuck Knox and even the criminally-underappreciated Dave Krieg. I’ve heard alot of people say that the Hawks have built up a die-hard following in the last decade or so. People who say that obviously weren’t around in the 1980s. The Seahawks were the kings of Seattle and sold out every home game. Back then, the Kingdome had a rep as the loudest stadium in the NFL- sound familiar?

Those 80’s Hawks never made it to the Super Bowl, but they were still a great team. They were our team. Then came the dark days. After the Knox regime ended, my team transformed from playoff contenders to punching bags. Even a Hall-of-Famer like Cortez Kennedy couldn’t make the Hawks winners. It would have been easy to jump off the bandwagon and adopt another team. Some people did. But most of us stuck it out. Like it or not, we were married to this team: in good times and bad, in sickness and in health.

It’s those down years that I think about now. My buddies and I sharing our (delusional) enthusiasm that 1st round picks like Dan McGwire and Rick Mirer would turn things around. Our shared panic that former owner Ken Behring would move the team to Los Angeles. Our myopic insistence that guys like Derrick Fenner and Chris Warren were destined for stardom.

One memory I keep coming back to is my 14th birthday on November 4th, 1990. My dad surprised me that day with tickets to the Seahawks/Chargers game at the Kingdome. This was no marquee matchup I can assure you. Both teams had losing records, Steve Largent had retired and Chuck Knox was trying to hang on to his job. But I was excited to be there. My dad didn’t have a lot of money at that time, so going to a Seahawks game was a big deal. At that time, my parents were going through a nasty divorce. The one pleasant topic that my dad I would talk about was football. Typical guys right? We couldn’t discuss our emotions, but football was something we could speak about with joy and excitement. When your home life is ugly, even a mediocre football team can provide some much needed happiness. The Chargers won 31-14. It was the last time I spent my birthday with my dad.

Fast forward to February 2nd, 2014. The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl and everyone is a fan. I knew that I had to be in Seattle for the big day and my friends were all in agreement. We are grown men with families and responsibilities that never get together at the same time. But we were going to be together for this. Some of my buddies flew in from Texas and some from California. I made the three hour drive from Portland. We all shared a six-bunk hostel room in Seattle’s Chinatown. For the entire weekend we ate dim sum, laughed at dumb jokes and talked A LOT of football. I’ve been friends with these guys since the late-80s, when Steve Largent was still catching balls and my dad was still around. These aren’t my friends- they are my family. No amount of time or distance will change that.

We watched the game at a packed Seattle nightclub. The first half was electric. The defense was dominating the historically-great Peyton Manning. By the time Bruno Mars took the stage for the halftime show, we were all dancing. But because we had been disappointed so many times before (see Super Bowl XL), we refused to say it was over. But then Percy Harvin started the second half with a kickoff return. As soon as he got past the first defender, my friend Tom lifted me into the air. I couldn’t breath. The entire nightclub shook from people jumping up and down. Touchdown. 29-0. This was really going to happen.

In the game’s final moments, I gathered with my friends and we put our arms around each other. For a quarter century we have shared our heartbreaks and our triumphs. But this was one triumph that had always seemed elusive if not impossible. We shared a giant group hug and more than a few tears. Why would a grown man cry at a football game? For me, it had very little to do with the game. I was just thankful to be with those people at that time and place. We poured into Pioneer Square and joined the biggest party that I have ever seen. We saw no fights or bad behavior; just 100,000 people expressing their collective joy by hugging complete strangers.

Look, I realize that for some of you, this whole thing may sound like overly sentimental drivel. IT’S JUST A FOOTBALL GAME you might say, and you would be right. In the end, this story isn’t about sports as much as it is about loyalty:  being loyal to your family, your friends and yes, your team. Because I’ve learned that when you share your disappointments with somebody, your shared victories feel even sweeter. Those are the moments when- on a scale of 1 to 10- you can feel like a 12.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: