Seahawks Season In Reflection: The Highs, the Lows, And the 12th Man that Never Left

After a year filled with everything from utter disappointment to unbridled elation, the turbulent season of the Seattle Seahawks has finally come to an end.  Accompanied by 284 roster transactions and an unprecedented playoff appearance and subsequent win, the season carried enough emotion to shorten the lifespan of any true-blooded Hawks fan, and had far too many ups and downs to adequately explain in words. However, as a lifelong supporter of the Hawks, I write today urging Hawks’ fans alike to focus on the bigger picture. Take a moment to remove the sour taste Sunday’s loss left in your mouth, pat yourselves on the back, take a deep breath, and recognize the window of opportunity that awaits our beloved Hawks.

It’s undeniable that after the nauseating 2008 and 2009 seasons we all shared common goals and aspirations for our boys in blue: a return to normalcy or, at the very least, mediocrity. While it’s debatable whether these desires actually came to fruition, two things are certain. First, this team made football in Seattle relevant once again and in turn, re-created a culture of winning and brought about a restoration of expected success in the Emerald City. And second, while these intangible necessities may not come with any glamour or glitz, they are essential to the franchise, and most importantly, could not have been attained without the unwavering fan base of the Seahawks – the steadfast support of the 12th man.

Admittedly, I too found myself immersed in the rhetoric surrounding the Hawks this season and although I never missed a snap, was often amongst other doubtful, demoralized Hawks fans. I witnessed the Kansas City Chiefs macerate us at home first hand, and cringed throughout Matt Hasselbeck’s despicable performance against the Falcons in week 15. However, this self-destructive play was only a pre-cursor to Charlie Whitehurst’s (aka ‘Clipboard Jesus,’ ‘Check down Charlie,’ or  **insert nickname here**) pathetic performance that made a mockery out of Seattle the following Sunday in Tampa Bay. If you didn’t question how he is one of the highest paid backup quarterbacks in the NFL (2 year, $8 million), I sure hope you are now.  Needless to say, this particular Jesus is definitely not our savior in Seattle. I digress.

The pain associated with this season was usually swift, certain, never short-lived; the perfect buzz kill to the already mundane, and perhaps the most depressing day of the week. However, similar to many of the Seahawk faithful, I looked for small victories each and every game. Negligible occurrences slowly transformed into celebratory Sunday moments. For example, the anticipation of watching Leon Washington prepare to return a kick and just praying he would break one for 6. Or the satisfaction I got when the 12th man flag was merely raised by the mystery guest of that respective week, a time when the scoreboard still showed goose eggs. I was forced to locate the glimmers of hope in the midst of such a whirlwind season. While trivial and inconsequential, these small victories helped thousands of Hawks fans show up week in and week out. And that’s exactly what we did.

To me, the second half of the season, for better or worse, encompassed what Seattle sports are all about. I was lucky enough to attend a few games this season, and it’s no lie that what happens inside the walls of Qwest Field transcends numbers, records, and statistics alike. Non-Seattle natives often ask “I know it’s loud but why is it so different from other great stadiums?” Well, simply put, it presents an environment that makes a victory over the defending world champions possible. An environment in which false starts are commonplace, and an atmosphere that is so unique that touchdowns are mistaken for fault line activity on the Richter scale. The power and advantages that come with playing at Qwest are invaluable, and Sunday’s loss to the Bears in Chicago only affirms how vital a home game can be.

However unlikely and improbable the late season playoff run seemed just weeks ago, we defied the odds and continued to make history, and I’m a firm believer that the loyal 12th man had something (if not everything) to do with the timely success. Just think about it. After squeezing into the playoffs at 7-9, we suddenly came under more scrutiny than Rex Ryan did after his alleged foot fetish leaked to the media. Destined to fail by all and constantly scrutinized under the mass media’s microscopic lens, critics referred to our beloved Hawks warning that the matchup may be more like “watching a bloodbath than a football game” as we were continuously derided as a pathetic team that would forever live in infamy. We were deemed by many as the building block that would be used in opening arguments to restructure the NFL playoff requirements. As laughable as we were to the media at the time, it warms my heart to know that we got the last laugh. No, we didn’t beat the Steelers, but hell, seeing 41-36 on that magical playoff Saturday still has me smiling and is all the motivation we need to move forward. As in the past, we will continue to be our own biggest advocate (aside from the perennial support of John Clayton and the unexpected playoff endorsement of TO, of course).  Frankly, the Hawks have all the support they need and couldn’t care less if the media is at odds with that. After all, 800 miles separate the Hawks from the nearest NFL stadium, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So next time you overhear some uneducated acquaintance or fair weather friend rant and rave about what a calamity it was to see the embarrassing Hawks represent the “NFC WORST” in the playoffs, tell them to f**k off. Then take the high road. Shed light on the fact that we celebrated four straight divisional titles as a franchise from 2004-2007, or the Super Bowl that was stolen from us, or even better yet, the divisional title banner that is currently en route to Seattle, which will forever wave proudly from the rafters of Qwest field.

A win as inexplicable and incalculable as the one which came on a beautiful Seattle evening against the reigning world champs speaks volumes about the future of our franchise. This is where we are, and we know where we need to go. So don’t let the naysayers talk about how many draft picks we lost by making the playoffs. The draft is everything but an exact science. Not convinced? Ask the Raiders if they’d trade a playoff banner and win for first round overall pick JaMarcus Russsel a few years back; or if the Chargers would stand by their decision to take Ryan Leaf 2nd overall in 1998. Or even better yet, did you think you’d ever see Tim Tebow not only take snaps under center but also throw for TDs in his rookie season?  Who knew an SOB like that who has the throwing motion of a ten year old girl can still make it in the world’s most prestigious football league.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. Why? The front office, Paul Allen and John Schneider in particular, have the resources and will to turn this thing around. Less than 48 hours after the loss to the Bears, and Jeremy Bates has already been fired. You see? It’s a successful off-season already. Not to mention the hiring of Tom Cable, who will undoubtedly bring both his expertise to the offensive line and the character we need to maintain a cohesive offensive unit. Demanding success and producing wins will always trump any other factor. So don’t sit there and sulk on our recent loss and find reasons to convince yourself otherwise. Additionally, we should relish the opportunity to play in a young, improving division like the NFC West. “We simply expected to win,” Pete Carroll stated emphatically after the victory over the New Orleans Saints, an attitude that we all need to embrace going into next season if we are to successfully grow as a franchise.

In many ways this was the year of the 12th man. It has tested our allegiance and further affirmed exactly why we do the things we do as loyal Seahawk fans. So keep your chin up and wear that blue and green with pride – it’s damn good to be a Hawk, and it’s only going to get better.

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