Well, maybe it's a little different. It also would have been fitting for me to miss this game due to injury because of all the man-games the Seahawks have lost due to injury this season. However, luckily my buddy Dev had my back, quite literally. I wouldn't have to miss the game due to injury because Docter Dev was going to take care of my cyst and sew it up so that I'd be good as new. I could barely get through the work week with Nicky at the Pickle stand on Carmine, the discomfort from the cyst on my back was getting so bad. Within minutes though, the non-stop annoyance was gone, replaced instead by the feeling of stitches right across your spine.
The procedure wasn't pretty, no, there was blood, puss, and little to no glory. It was necessary though. In a way, it was almost like the Percy Harvin of my body. It had to be removed in order for me to continue forward. Like Percy, the less said about it the better. All there is to say is that if not for an amazing act by an awesome friend, I would have been watching this one at home. Not only did my friend see to it that I was comfortable and relaxed, but he did an outstanding job as well. What could have been a nightmare wasn't, instead I was already thinking about the weekend's travels.
Along this journey I've been lucky enough to experience, my friends have come through for me in ways that I could not have imagined, seemingly always in the clutch. It's monumental to never lose sight of these acts, no matter what twists and turns life takes. They're as big a part of the odyssey as the games or myself, if not bigger. A homeless man in Seattle asked me last season, "do you believe in random acts of kindness?" I answered yes, knowing that if I knew anything, I knew that acts of generosity and kindness still exist all over the globe. Sometimes random, sometimes planned, either way, acts of kindness do exist and it's always been a mission of mine in life to prove it.
Another person who's mission in life, literally, is to be a beacon of civic virtue is my friend, Luis. Big Lou is one of New York's Finest. It is his job to serve and protect, and he puts his life on the line every day just by suiting up and going to work. Lou's also a diehard New York Giants fan and season-ticket holder. The big man bleeds blue, even sporting a tattoo of the Giants classic 'NY' logo on his bicep. While football players put their well being on the line every Sunday and they get paid millions and millions tune in to watch them work, Luis' job doesn't come with that kind of adoration, or price tag. It's not about the money though, and it's definitely not about the fame. It never should be when it comes to that line of work. Frank Serpico would agree with me from his cabin in Harlemville, New York.
Once again, it was a friend who had my back. A week earlier, Lou had booked our flights and hotel to Seattle. He was intent on checking out the game in Seattle with me, whether I had the funds available at the moment or not. Our itinerary was set, and we'd be flying out to Seattle on the morning of the game. That's always a risky decision, but it was our only option with both of us needing to fulfill our various obligations. For Big Lou, it was the graveyard shift. For myself, it was moving from Laura and I's room downstairs to the newly open room upstairs. Our roommates, Becca and Jay, were moving into new digs which meant a bigger room for my lady and I. They leave behind a legacy at our place, and we're left trying to fill their shoes as best as we can. A similar theme to the Seahawks, whose young players have adjusted to trying to fill the shoes of proven leaders past.
In life, and in football, it's a process. Now, the moving process is usually horrendous but with my back in the condition that it was, more help was on the way. Wael and Alex, both good friends of Laura and I, came through to help shuttle things up and down the stairs. I sat there in amazement at the outpouring of support. Just when you think you've seen everything, something else totally unexpected happens and makes you reassess that. As the guys grinded out a thankless task, my body got as much rest as possible before the impending grueling flights out west.
For Luis, it would be his first trip out west, ever. It was an honor that that first time would include a trip to the CLink. The fact that I would be attending as well meant it was an excellent opportunity to see my friend writhe around in discomfort. Our journey begins at 3:20 AM, Sunday morning. Luis picks me up at my place and we're on our way. We head to his place, where he picks up his Giants jersey, and where our buddy Dah-Un meets us to drive us to the airport. Dah-Un, unfortunately for him, was also in attendance at Reliant Stadium last season when the Seahawks came from behind to beat his beloved Texans. I won't lie, I felt bad for Dah-Un on that flight home. Even if the Fireball in my system didn't exactly allow me to display that bit of empathy for my friend.
After getting to the airport and getting through security, we board our flight bound for Sea-Tac. Both of us were exhausted. Our respective schedules and obligations for the week meaning that quality sleep was virtually non-existant. I finally wake up to see that the flight tracker on the TV in front of me says there's 3 hours left to go. Sleeping half of the flight is a win for me, as I'm usually a light sleeper in the air. This was magnified by the fact that my 6'4 1/2" friend's knees had no choice but to invade my leg room. In retrospect, that was the least of our worries. Seated directly in front of us was our own personal nightmare for the remainder of the flight.
No, it wasn't a screaming child or a crying baby. It was far worse. It was a man who had no control over his actions, who's body was being held prisoner. He throttled violently seemingly every few seconds, while Luis and I and the man next to him looked at each other puzzled at first. Were we just asleep and didn't notice this at first? What was wrong with this man? He continued throughout the remainder of the flight, the woman next to him never once telling him to relax or to control himself. What was going on? With every jolt, his chair went crashing back into both mine and Luis' knees. I sat there in discomfort, my back aching, crushed into a corner with a window view with no end in sight. We try zoning out and falling back asleep but our attempts are futile. We were going to have to tough this one out.
Finally, it was too much for Big Lou to bare. With fifteen minutes left in the flight, we tell the man to "please, stop." He turns around to us and reveals an eye covered by a metallic screen. He's obviously just had some sort of surgery on his eye. "I can't", he says, as the reality of the situation sinks in. With the worst of it behind us, it suddenly didn't matter to us anymore. There were more important things. We sat there for the final 15 minutes of the flight, not saying a word to one another. Our plane lands, and despite wanting to kiss the ground like the pope, we refrain and instead head towards the Light Rail to make our way to the game.
Before we could head to the Stadium, or to do any sort of tailgating, we first had to buy our tickets to the game and print them out! I know Luis probably didn't like the idea of heading all the way across the country without tickets in hand, but we needed to find the cheapest tickets possible, and waiting out the secondary market was the best way to ensure that. We find a pair for $110, the lowest that I had seen all week after prices started at nearly $200 on Stubhub. Unfortunately, they get sniped from us just as we pull the trigger. We settle for a pair for $116, still a massive win compared to the $198 tickets I saw in the same section for the same game just days earlier. With our tickets now in hand, we head down to Temple Billiards to kick off the festivities for the day and show my buddy Big Blue Lou, a taste of Seahawk Sunday's in Seattle.
On our way through Pioneer Square, I ask my friend one simple question. "Are you afraid of Marshawn Lynch?" "I'm afraid of no man", he says with added conviction. I tell him that I think his faith is misguided, but that I can't fault him for his approach to life. Upon arrival to Temple, we link up with the usual gameday crew. Todd, Dom, Jordan, Matt, Steve, and a slew of .Netters and those special to them are in attendance and getting properly geared up for yet another crucial game for the home team. Somehow, some way, we were all together again. Just like the Seahawks, we were finally starting to come together at just the right time, or so we could hope. Ryan, a bonafide .Net character if such a thing ever existed, is in attendance and just like Lou, it'll be her first game at CenturyLink. Even more impressive than Lou's milestone, it's her first Seahawks game ever. A battle of the good vibes probably sees her through to victory if the football god's have any sense of justice, rhyme, or reason.
Luis and I toast as we head for the exit's with the rest of those in attendance. The collective mood was optimistic. There was a genuine feeling that perhaps the worst was already behind us. Injuries, poor play, unexpected defeats. That was behind us and there would be more good things to come in the near future. Not to say that everything would be pleasant, no, that wasn't even the case last year when the Seahawks won it all. Just that the team was rounding into form and starting to show the toughness and perseverance that it took to hoist the Lombardi Trophy earlier this year at MetLife. How fitting yet again, as the team standing before the Seahawks as challengers on this day called that same field "home."
Luckily for Luis, he wasn't present last year when the Seahawks intercepted Peyton's brother five times and thumped the Giants. Being the standup guy he is though, he gifted me his two tickets before going away for the weekend. While he was out getting some sun in the Dominican Republic, his team was getting humbled in front of a half-filled stadium by the flock from Seattle. Even worse, half of the half-filled stadium were Seahawks fans. He didn't have to taste the shame of that day, even if I had to taste defeat in front of Luis numerous times before. There was the Giants hellacious destruction of the Seahawks, 44-6 at the Old Meadowlands in 2008. Then, there was me hurrying from my sister's baptism to watch the Seahawks and Charlie Whitehurst get baptized by the GMen by a score of 41-7, at home. Those were some dark days.
Even before then, my first live Seahawks game ended with the Seahawks crumbling late on a frigid day at the Meadowlands back in December of 2001, with Ron Dayne and Kerry Collins helping stun the away team late. I cried that day. A fourteen year old boy crying because Kerry Collins ruined Christmas. To further rub salt in the fresh wounds, the Giants spoiled the kid from Queens' day again the following year with a sloppy 9-6 victory over the team formerly known as the "Seabags." Life is cyclical, and Brandon Browner proved that, albeit in this case almost exactly ten years later. With his memorable interception return for a touchdown to seal the Seahawks improbable road victory at the then-newly named MetLife Stadium in 2011, balance was restored to the universe. After getting abused for four quarters by those around me, I walked out that day with the last laugh, as did every other Seahawks fan in attendance. My friend Luis was just a few seats next to me. He sat stunned, unable to comprehend that his beloved Giants had lost to the team he had seen his team handle numerous times before.
That game marked the swinging of the tide in many ways for Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks. It was a massive road victory, at a time when those weren't easy to come by for the Seahawks. The fact that it was a dreaded "10 AM" game made the victory even that much sweeter. You started to see players believe in themselves, no matter the opponent, no matter the circumstances. The Giants ended up winning the Super Bowl that year, despite the unexpected home defeat. Fast forward just three years later, and that same bunch who pulled the upset on that day in October back in 2011 were now Super Bowl champions. A true rags to riches story if there ever was one in the NFL.
Life had now come full circle for us. Both of our teams were Super Bowl champions now, and the Seahawks were the ones who had won the previous two meetings between the two. They entered this one as the favorite's, as Luis and I entered CenturyLink through the North End Zone. It's cloudy with a light myst falling. "Typical Seattle weather" if you were to ask someone from New York City. In fact, it was the perfect weather for the occasion, if I might say so myself. We get to our seats in time for player introductions, just as Luis had hoped. Soon, Capt. Scott Smiley, the first blind active Army officer is getting the crowd revved up as he raises the 12th Man Flag. It's Luis' first time witnessing the tradition, and it's the perfect candidate to raise the flag to show the true spirit of what the flag raising means.
As the action gets underway with a boot from Steven Hauschka, it's finally time to see what all the fuss was about. The cyst removal, the late shifts at work, the grueling flight, it was all in the rearview mirror at this point. The only thing that stood before us was the present. It was time to fully embrace the moment. It was time to live and die with every play. We had traveled too far and long not to. An NFL game can fly by right in front of you if you aren't truly focused. Luckily, both of us had been looking forward to this moment for a long time, so that wasn't a problem. The Seahawks defense fires the first shots of the day with a resounding three-and-out. In fact, it's a perfect double-tap, as the offense takes to the field and quickly marches down it to that magical place they call "pay dirt." It's Marshawn Lynch who gets in to open the scoring, clearly eager to pick up where he left off against his hometown Raiders just a week earlier.
At some point last year I decided that I was going to enter every game with the same mindset. A simple one at that, but I needed it to help me keep things in perspective. I expect every game to be a blood bath. I'll keep hoping for a Seahawks squashing of their opponent, but that's not what I expect. I expect a dog fight every game, especially with the rest of the league giving the team it's best shot every week with the hopes of adding that signature victory to their resume. So even though the Seahawks took an early 7-0 lead, I knew that there would be more plot twists sure to come.
The Seahawks defense answers the call again, and it's up to Russell and the offense to pad the early 7-0 lead. Russell's pass to Paul Richardson on the drive's opening play is read perfectly by Zack Bowman, who jumps the route before Richardson can finish it and snatches the ball for an interception. Eli Manning shows his savvy later on the ensuing Giants drive as he finds Preston Parker in the back of the end zone for a game-tying touchdown. Things get better before they get worse, as Luis now has something to cheer about. Andre Williams puts the final stamp on a Giants mini-comeback of sorts, as he plows forward into the end zone to put the Giants up by seven early on in the second quarter.
Just like last week, the Seahawks had flown out of the gates, but then stalled after some sloppy play. The sloppy play this week included two Russell Wilson interceptions and a Robert Turbin fumble. For the Giants, Odell Beckham Jr. was showing his immense potential, as he found holes in the Seahawks zones and flashed good hands to haul in several tough balls from the Giants quarterback and captain. Things were even sloppy in the stands, as a motley crew of Canadian women seated directly behind Luis and I start joining the ringing chant of "Seahawks." The only problem of course, is that the Seahawks now have the ball on offense! Admittedly, this is their first Seahawks game and NFL game, period, so I decided to help them instead of mock them. I told them that when the Seahawks have the ball, all communications must cease. When the Giants have the ball however, be as loud and obnoxious as you possibly can be!
With that reminder, and with several reminders from other fans around the 300 sections, the crowd slowly began to rise from it's dormant slumber. Almost like clockwork, so did the Seahawks. Marshawn scores his second touchdown of the game to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the Giants got the ball back before the half and were able to march down the field and set up a Josh Brown field goal before the half. I still don't know how quite how I feel about Josh Brown after disowning him upon his move to the division-rival Rams many years ago. His parting comments weren't too classy, either, so he went from being one of my favorite Seahawks to someone I could care less about. It's weird seeing him in a Giants uniform, but I can barely muster up the energy to dislike him if I tried my hardest. Time truly does heal most wounds.
With the Giants leading 17-14 at the half, Luis and I try and walk around the stadium for a quick tour. The lines for the bathroom are outrageous. The lines for beer and food are equally depressing. Even the pathways to walk around the sections are horrendous, so after walking in place for about 10 minutes, we head back to our seats before we miss any action. Giants fans are excited. They high-five each other, chest bump one another, and mention how they're here to pull the upset no one expected. "I see a lot of big blue", Luis yells, as he high-five's a man wearing an Eli Manning jersey just like he is. Once we get back to our seats, I fixate on the fact that the Seahawks are a second half team. Remember Dave, it's not how you start but how you finish.
After a field goal by 'Hausch Money' ties the game at 17, the two teams continue to fight. The Seahawks defense steps up it's game and the halftime adjustments made my the coaching staff appear to have paid off. Odell Beckham Jr. is no longer having his way with the Seahawks zone. The Giants running game is non-existent, despite the massive (pun intended) loss of Brandon Mebane for the Seahawks defense. Conversely, the Seahawks rushing attack is absolutely throttling the boys in blue from the other coast. Marshawn, Russell, even Turbin and Michael start ripping off huge run after huge run. It's almost as if the Giants have never seen the read-option in their lives before. With every first down, the Giants will to win gets crushed further.
The fourth quarter begins, and what ensues is one of the greatest beatdown's in recent memory. Beast Mode continues his utter domination with a 3rd rushing touchdown, and the defense continues to go to work. This is starting to look like patented Seahawks football. Earl Thomas snags his first interception of the season and races towards midfield on the return. Luis is demoralized as the 12th Man is in mass hysteria. At this point, the Giants are done. They have no chance. The Seahawks continue to run at will, and minutes later, Marshawn scores his fourth touchdown of the game! I turn to Luis and tell him that he clearly upset Marshawn by saying that he fears no man, even Beast Mode himself, before the game. We share a laugh, before focusing back on the action because the Seahawks aren't done yet.
I'll spare the gory details, but when it was all said and done the scoreboard read 38-17. Despite Russell Wilson's struggles through the air, and despite a mediocre performance from the defense in the first half, the Seahawks had dominated. Alvin Bailey filled in nicely for James Carpenter at Left Guard, Russell Okung and Max Unger made their impacts felt with their returns to the lineup, and the running game amassed over 350 yards in the finest single game rush performance ever by the Seattle Seahawks. On defense, the boys tightened up the ship after an uninspired first half of play. Kevin Pierre Louis continues to flash his studly potential in limited opportunities, while Jeremy Lane made a return to the lineup, and broke some poor guy on the Giants' leg in the process. Despite a never-ending list of injuries, the 'Hawks still stood at 6-3 and in control of their own destiny, which is all you can ask for in the NFL, especially with so much season left.
As the rain intensifies, we make our way out of the stadium and back to the streets. We head back to Temple to collect our bags that we had left behind the bar, and while we sit and charge phones, a gentleman in the truest sense of the word arrives at our table with a shot for Luis. A kind gesture from a Seahawks fan to an opposing fan that absolutely blows me away. I thank the man for being so cool, and then we realize that we had met each other just a few weeks ago before the Cowboys game! It turns out he was in the Navy, which is funny, because earlier in the day I had told Luis "I don't know what it is, but most of the people I know who were in the Navy are outstanding, generous people." This man had just proven me right, just like Marshawn had minutes earlier with four touchdown's. Luis and I get to know this man and his girlfriend, before we head on over to the J&M.
Now, the reason we were heading to the J&M was because I received a text message from a very special Seahawks fan to come hang out and catch up. Kam Chancellor's brother Cornel, who I met and befriended during last year's magical quest, was hanging out with friends and family who were all wondering where I had been. As we walked through the doors and towards the seating area in the back, my eyes lit up as I saw the people who helped make last season so special. Before I could sit down and catch up though, the drummer from the house band that's a fixture there known as 'James King and the Southsiders' gives me a shoutout over the microphone. Her name is Susan, and we met last year after a game and always made a point to catch up whenever we saw one another. It was our first time crossing paths this year, and Susan went out of her way to make me feel special with a warm welcome over the mic.
Afterwards, I park next to the Chancellor's and we all catch up. Despite his rival colors, the group is nothing but classy to Luis, as they always are. It's the first time we've seen each other since the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, so we relive the memories and good times one more time before we decide that the flight and everything in between have taken it's toll on us. It's time to go to bed. Luis and I walk to the Moore Hotel, our creepy resting place for the evening, and eventually pass out. I rest easy knowing that the Seahawks won, looked good while doing it, are 6-3, and even demolished my friend's favorite team in the process. It was a good day.
The following morning Luis and I catch up at the hotel before making the usual Seattle tourist rounds. After a Dungeness Crab Omelette breakfast, we stroll around Pike Place Market. Luis is definitely impressed, even purchasing some trinkets for his son, along with some teriyaki glazed salmon jerky. Next, it's the Space Needle and an unexpected trip to the EMP museum. Like Luis, this is my first trip to the EMP, and I must admit that I was blown away. Not only is the 'We Are 12' exhibit a really cool toast to the 12th Man and the Seahawks in general, but there's an outstanding horror film exhibit to go along with a great section on Jimi Hendrix. Jimi is one of my inspirations in life, his wild and untamable spirit a true example of how free people should be with themselves and the rest of the world. Forget the pretense.
After the EMP museum, it's over to Dick's for one of the best burgers in town at a classic Seattle institution. We head back down towards the stadium to Temple for one last drink before our flight home. Not before Luis inhales a Japanese gourmet hot dog though. He goes with Andrew Zimmern's favorite, known as 'The Samurai.' How could a chicken apple sausage with delicious traditional Japanese toppings NOT be amazing? So amazing, in fact, that Luis implores me to use my new-found knowledge of street vending at the pickle stand to create my own Japanese gourmet hot dog stand back in New York City.
The closer we get to CenturyLink, the volume starts to amplify. It's a Monday evening but not just any Monday night, no, it's the second leg of the MLS Western Conference semifinals, and the hometown Sounders are welcoming FC Dallas to town. With the score 1-1 after the first leg a week earlier in Dallas, the atmosphere is intense! Supporters gather in the park on Occidental Ave for their traditional march to the stadium. They stand behind their 'Emerald City' banner, as a man with a megaphone inspires the crowd and hypes them up with war cry after war cry. The crowd is electric, but with a schedule to keep, we keep it moving and make our way to Temple.
The place is packed with Sounders fans, not a Dallas supporter in sight. Damon, the doorman, is geared up and ready to go. A very passionate Sounders supporter, Damon had tried his hardest to snag me a ticket. My impending flight made that impossible, but the effort was still greatly appreciated. It appears this "Seattle Freeze" thing that I had told Luis about might have been greatly exaggerated. Luis can't stop mentioning how nice everyone is in Seattle! We finish our last few sips, watch the crowd empty out on their way to the CLink, say our goodbyes, and hit the road.
On our way to the airport, we ponder the future and discuss the possibilities. Things might appear dark now, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel. That light is growing brighter and brighter by the minute. It appears that the worst might be behind the Seahawks. Hopefully, the worst is behind yours truly. We breeze through security before boarding our flight home. A redeye to ensure that I can make it to work a mere four hours after we land at JFK. Again, the trip home is difficult due to the stitches on my back and Luis' long legs, but we make it in tact and with a new great experience under our belts. We part ways, a mere 48 hours after our epic adventure had begun.
On my ride home from the airport, I thought about what had just happened. Yeah, the Seahawks had won and that's always great and that's always the goal, but I couldn't help but look at the bigger picture. I stood where I was, because of the help and generosity of a few brave souls. Laura, Jazz, Juan, Steve, Margaret, Luis, Bart, Melissa, Steven... you get the point. The list goes on and on. To my little sister Chloe, if you ever read this, it's the experiences that make it worthwhile in this life. However, those experiences don't mean anything if you don't have anyone to share them with. This road that I've traveled over the past year and a half has been a lonely one at times, a lonely road filled with amazing experiences and memories. However, it doesn't mean as much to me as the continued love and support from the people I call friends in this life.
Much like the Seahawks, it was time to rise to my feet and thrive. Before you can thrive, you have to survive. The survival part was hopefully now over. The future wasn't too bright though, with a trip back to Missouri in the offing. I had traveled long and far to watch the Seahawks lose to the Rams just a few weeks earlier. After a 22 hour bus ride, I couldn't help but feel bad about "taking the easy way out" and flying home instead of bussing it back. With funds still low, I would get my opportunity at redemption. Funny how life works sometimes. The obstacles never seem to stop coming. Instead of 22 hours, this trip would be 29 hours. The forecast for next weekend? Horrendous. This would be the most difficult trip of the season yet, for myself and for the Seahawks. It was time to see what we're truly made of. The championship spirit never dies, the trick is, can you rediscover it in time before it's too late? There was no more holding back. Like the old slogan's from Seahawks seasons lost, it was now time!