That Just Happened

NFL: St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history.

But first, a note about Richard Sherman, anger, and the city of Seattle.

Richard Sherman stared at the camera and unleashed the rant heard ‘round the world.

It was performance art that launched a thousand “think pieces” and debates about race, thugs, class (in more ways than one), Compton, Stanford and Erin Andrews.

But what stood out to me was how angry Sherman appeared, even though the Seahawks had just won the NFC Championship Game. His anger was directed at Michael Crabtree but it meant so much more to me. I embraced his anger, his competiveness, his determination to show that he is the best. The vast majority of Seattle fans embraced Sherman as well, because our anger is just as intense and goes back decades.

***

Author’s note: It should be noted that the WNBA’s Storm have won two titles. It should also be noted that the MLS Seattle Sounders (who have not won a title) are very popular. The length of this paragraph should indicate how much I care.

There are three major professional sports leagues that most sports fans in America care about: the NFL, MLB and the NBA. That’s the focus here. There’s a fourth called the NHL if you’re from Chicago and recently became a fan because it’s cool and Patrick Sharp is so dreamy. There’s a fifth called the English Premier League if you’re the type of person who hates America.

In 1967, the NBA arrived in Seattle. The Seattle SuperSonics became the first major professional sports franchise to call Seattle home. They would enjoy pretty consistent success and popularity through the years, even winning a NBA title in 1979. The Sonics were the most stable sports franchise in Seattle, a consistent winner. They produced legendary players known around the country by their nicknames: Downtown, Slick, Mr. Sonic, The Glove, The Reign Man, Big Smooth and Aaron Morse’s Hero (Steve Scheffler).

In 2008, the NBA left Seattle and has yet to return. The cliff notes version of this sordid tale is as follows: local coffee baron betrays the people of Seattle by selling the Sonics to a shady businessman from Oklahoma City, a Triple-A town, who promises not to relocate the team, then does. Seattle politicians make no effort to prevent the move and the NBA’s commissioner helps facilitate the destruction of more than 40 years of basketball history because Key Arena is somewhat small and he’s a grade-A asshole. It’s enough material for a movie. The Seattle SuperSonics became the Oklahoma City Th$$$$$. They have yet to win a NBA title in their new city.

In 1969, MLB arrived in Seattle. The Seattle Pilots competed in the American League’s West Division.

In 1970, MLB left Seattle. A used car salesman by the name of Allan Huber “Bud” Selig stole the Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee, a city that is most known for lousy beer. The Milwaukee Brewers debuted in 1970 and have yet to win a World Series. Selig went on to become the Commissioner of Baseball and played a major role in attempting to destroy the game’s popularity in 1994.

The Pilots did achieve immortality though thanks to “Ball Four”, a book that cheerfully outlines how the major power brokers in sports don’t give a fuck about the fans or the players.

Not one, but two of the sitting league commissioners actively helped steal major professional sports franchises from the city of Seattle.

Angry yet?

Let’s talk about the Mariners. In 1977, MLB returned to Seattle under the threat of a lawsuit. The Mariners played in the Kingdome, a multi-purpose facility that stretched the boundaries of the word “ugly.” The M’s didn’t have a winning season until 1991. Of course, by the time they finally had a winning season, their owner, a reprehensible man by the name of Jeff Smulyan, was threatening to move the team to Tampa Bay, a city that is most known for absolutely nothing.

Luckily, in the short term, unluckily in the long term, the Mariners were sold to a group led by the late Hiroshi Yamauchi of Nintendo. While the new group kept the Mariners in Seattle and had a run of success from 1993-2003, the last decade has been an embarrassment of historic proportions. The 2008 Seattle Mariners managed to become the first team in MLB history to have a payroll of one-hundred million dollars and lose 100 games. Even during their run of success, the Mariners embarrassed themselves by setting the AL record for most wins in a season (116 in 2001) and then failing to get past the ALCS as they lost to the Yankees in five.

The Mariners and the Washington Nationals are the only two current MLB teams that have never participated in the World Series. It should be noted that the Mariners had Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Ichiro and an allegedly roided up Bret Boone in their primes…and never made it past the ALCS during their run of relative success. Damn Indians. Damn Yankees. Damn Orioles (oh, yes, I remember 1997).

At least the Mariners play in a beautiful ballpark that the public voted against, you guys. Also, Robinson Cano.

***

This brings us to the Seahawks and Richard Sherman.

In 1976, the NFL arrived in Seattle. The original Seahawks were terrible but they had the wildly entertaining Jim Zorn and future Hall-of-Famer Steve Largent, so they are remembered fondly. They were lovable losers, like the Cubs, but with some talent.

During the Chuck Knox era, the Seahawks made their presence felt, especially in 1983 and 1984 as they made the AFC Championship Game for the first time in ’83 and went 12-4 in 1984, beating their hated rival the Raiders in the playoffs before falling to the Dolphins.

The win over the Raiders would be their last playoff win until 21 years later.

The Seahawks have their own ugly history, nearly moving to Los Angeles in 1996. Ken Behring, the team’s owner, claimed a fear of earthquakes made him want to move the team from Seattle to LA, a city most known for, well, really big earthquakes. I wish I was making this up. He even managed to move the team’s operations to Anaheim before he was stopped at the last minute and Paul Allen bought the team, saving football in Seattle.

In 2005, 21 years after the ’84 season, the Seahawks finally made the Super Bowl.

Then this happened.

And for anyone who thinks the Seahawks and their fans have no right to complain, there’s this.

Seattle fans have suffered a lot through the years on the field. But off the field, the lack of respect nationally has been very noticeable. Seattle is isolated, up in the great northwest, so out-of-towners love to stereotype Seattleites as mild mannered coffee drinkers who live in a city that has lots of rain. Being on the west coast means all of Seattle’s home games in baseball start late, too late for the east coast to care.

The mild mannered stereotype is what the 12th Man and the Legion of Boom have worked so hard to dispel. Obviously, Sherman is not from Seattle, as we all know, he hails from Compton. It just seems like all-too-often, outsiders think they can push Seattle around. Starting with Bud Selig, continuing on to David Stern and Clay Bennett, to David Justice (two homers off Arthur Rhodes in 2000 ALCS) and Roger Clemens (brushed back pretty boy A-Rod in 2000) and Hines Ward (dirtiest player of all-time), these villains have waltzed in and made a mockery of what we Seattle sports fans love most dearly.

Well fuck them. That time is over. As embodied by Richard Sherman’s rant, a new era has risen in Seattle sports. We are no longer your punching bag. We’re the ones doing the punching. We’ll fight to the death to get our NBA team back. We’re taking the Yankees’ star player, not vice versa. We are the Super Bowl champions.

I repeat, WE are the Super Bowl champions. The 12th Man is real, it’s not because of acoustics. Just ask Peyton Manning. No one could hear him calling out the signals on the snap that went over his head for the safety in the Super Bowl, at a supposedly neutral stadium across the country. The 12th man travels. It’s because of the passion, the hidden anger that has built up in fans through years of injustices perpetrated by cold hearted capitalists and evil connivers who think they can come into our house and push us around. Don’t you ever disrespect us again. You know what you’re going to get.

LOB.

***

I decided to fly to Seattle to watch the Super Bowl with my friends. This game meant that much to me. My flight was slightly delayed. It was only a few minutes, really. But I found it very interesting that I landed in Seattle at exactly 12:12. Also, baggage claim for my flight was at carousel 12.

12’s were everywhere, on buildings, in ice cream shops, on tree stumps by Green Lake. An airplane even traced a giant 12 above the state of Washington. Laughably, some (49ers fans and other ignoramuses) have accused Seahawks’ fans of being bandwagon fans. Remember that part about people having no clue what goes on in Seattle? I give you: exhibit A. Seahawks fans have been creating the 12th man atmosphere at home games for years, but it took a second Super Bowl appearance for anyone to notice.

Very few people outside of the Pacific Northwest wanted the Seahawks to win on Sunday. The Seahawks were the villains. Marshawn Lynch didn’t talk enough. Richard Sherman talked too much. Russell Wilson wasn’t Peyton Manning. Pete Carroll is an evil robber baron. It rains. (Less than New York City, but…narrative!) Macklemore didn’t deserve those Grammys.

Whatever the case may be, it was very fun for me to root for the “bad” guys. For once, it was a team from Seattle that people around the country were actively rooting against. This is a big step up from “not caring.”

And then the Seahawks dominated the Broncos from start to finish. I almost felt bad for Peyton Manning until I remembered that when he was looking for a new team he refused to talk to the Seahawks. Another slight. Another little jab at Seattle sports.

I don’t really blame Manning for that, for years big-time players haven’t had any desire to play in Seattle because of the fact it’s isolated in the northwest. But now, thanks to the Legion of Boom and the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history, that is changing. Who wouldn’t want to play with this level of talent and swagger?

Before Sunday, our only prior major professional sports title was literally stolen from the 206, along with a franchise. None of my friends and I were alive to witness that title. We were alive to witness the hijacking. The younger generation had no idea what it’s like to celebrate a championship.

They do now.

After the game I was just in a state of elation. I really didn’t have a desire to take to the streets and celebrate politely or not-so-politely. That anger that had been accumulating for years was gone, swept away by the championship. I just wanted to sit down and soak it all in. There is still work to be done. The NBA must return. The Mariners must win a World Series. But the first step has been taken towards healing years of frustration, and it’s a big one.

I brought my friend to Seattle for her birthday. She has no connection to the city, had never been here before. But she too got caught up in the passion of the 12th man. She is a Bears fan so she is passionate about football but she had never witnessed anything like this. We took a redeye back to Chicago that night after the game. We sat down in our respective seats, exhausted. I looked up at the overhead bin and noticed what row we’d been assigned.

It was row 12.

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