Friday, October 24, 2014

Wolf Greyhound Blues

I finally thought I'd found what I was looking for.  The hunger, the passion, the unshakable belief that something good was always just right around the corner.  Believing in the universe coming up big when I needed it most and believing in the Seahawks always coming up big when we needed it most.  After tasting defeat unexpectedly at home against the Cowboys, I sat on my flight home (only my second flight back to NYC from Seattle after a loss) and thought about ways that I too, like the team, could get back to my roots and rediscover my identity.  Then, the idea came to me. I'd finally found it.

With funds low and the budget tight, something drastic had to be done.  That's when I thought about the possibility of taking the bus to St. Louis rather than taking a flight.  As I looked up tickets, they were actually pretty affordable, and midway through the week I had convinced myself that I would be taking a bus from Manhattan to Missouri.  At 22 hours each way, this would no doubt be the most grueling travel that I had faced since my Seahawk odyssey began in September of 2013.  Still, despite the seemingly daunting task, I was excited for an opportunity to see parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio that I hadn't seen before.  I'd even be getting a chance to see parts of Maryland, Indiana, and Missouri, so I was actually looking forward to the trip by the week's end.  Then, everything changed.

It was at Horman's Best Pickles stand that I first learned of the news regarding Percy Harvin's trade.  I'll never forget where I was or what I was doing on that day.  I'm sure a lot of people will feel that way on what was surely one of the most shocking days in Seahawks history.  In my case, I was working selling pickles on the corner of Carmine and the Avenue of Americas.  My lovely lady Laura was off to the right of the stand, having come to visit me after getting off from her job nearby.  Suddenly, a man and a woman stood before me and the first thing the guy says to me is "you heard about the trade, right?!"  Having been working, I wasn't able to check my phone for a while.  "No, what trade" I replied, as I suddenly wondered what trade it could be they were talking about and who exactly these people were.

"The Seahawks just traded Percy Harvin to the Jets!" the man shouts, as his girlfriend chimes in protesting his virtue.  I quickly grab my phone from my jeans pocket, and realize that I have 11 unread text messages.  I stood there perplexed, first at the news of the trade, and secondly at the thought of who these people were, and how they knew I was a Seahawks fan.  It was then that I realized that I was wearing my Seahawks t-shirt from Training Camp in 2013.  I pull up one of the text's from my buddy Greg to discover that Percy Harvin had indeed been traded to the New York Jets.  I wasn't ready for this.  Just days before a long haul across the country, I was caught completely by surprise and it took me a while to be able to reel it in at work and focus on the task at hand.

As news of altercations from last season involving Harvin began to spread, my mind could not comprehend what had happened.  I had so many questions that I didn't even know where to start to look for answers.  All I could do, was think of the positives.  Greg passed by the pickle stand that night, and the two of us spoke about how the money saved from Harvin's deal could potentially be used to lock up other stalwart's of the team for the future.  Perhaps even Marshawn Lynch. Still, we could not help but think of the assets that were lost, both draft picks and players, to make room for #11.  Ironically, he'd be heading to New York.  Surely, the New York media will not be as respectful of Mr. Harvin's personal space as he's been used to so far in his career in Minnesota and Seattle.

However, we both agreed that what was important was that the Seahawks were attempting to fix the problem.  Not only that, but both Pete Carroll and John Schneider had to check their ego's at the door in making such a move, so they must have some serious conviction behind their beliefs on what needed to happen for the betterment of the team.  There's probably countless teams in the league where that wouldn't happen.  Where the player in question would have remained a member of the team for far too long, destroying the locker room while the coaches continue to justify his large salary by funneling him the ball.  Not in Seattle.  Pete Carroll's #1 rule is to protect the team, and he and John Schneider practiced what they preach in shipping Percy off to East Rutherford.

There wasn't much time to let the news digest.  The following morning, it was time to head to the Port Authority in Manhattan to catch a 9 AM Greyhound bus from NYC to Baltimore.  From Baltimore, we'd then be heading to Pittsburgh, followed by stops in Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis before finally ending up in St. Louis a mere 22 hours after it all began.  Luckily I'd only be making the grueling trip once as I found a reasonable ticket for a flight back home after the game.  All I had to do was work a shift that Monday at the pickle stand and I'd be making back the money spent on a flight home, so it wasn't that bad.  I figured that my body would thank me later and that it's a marathon, not a race, and that I had to preserve myself whenever I could.

However, things nearly ended before they even started, as I just missed the C train that I was banking on taking straight to 42nd Street.  I was a little upset, but I tried not to let it get to me.  Soon, I heard a Jamaican woman tell her son that they were going to walk to the next stop, Bedford-Nostrand, to catch the express.  I realized that she was a genius, the Russell Wilson to my Paul Richardson if you will.  She was going to lead me to the promised land. And much like Wilson, she set me up with the perfect play, and like Richardson hopefully, I took it to the house with the jets!

I sprinted down Fulton Street towards the next stop which was just a few blocks away.  I reach the station as I start to run out of gas, and as I swipe my MetroCard I see that the A train that was going to save me at just the right time, was just pulling out of the station.  My bus was scheduled to leave at 9 and it was already 8 and I had missed two trains.  Self-doubt began to creep in for a second, as I even thought about leaving the station and taking a cab to 42nd Street instead. With the unpredictable nature of traffic in Manhattan, a cab was no sure thing either, so I was caught in no-man's land.

Thankfully for me, another A train was directly behind the one that had just left me in the dust.  I got on this train knowing that, barring a horrendous collapse from the MTA, I'd probably be getting to my bus on time and I had the Jamaican mother with great foresight to thank.  She showed me the way, and I followed, and I was rewarded.  Fortunately, there was no collapse from the usually unreliable MTA, and I made it to my bus' gate with a few minutes to spare actually.

I've got to say, there's something liberating about not traveling with any bags or luggage.  The only thing I had with me this time was my "portable briefcase", otherwise known as a black plastic bag with an iPad, all of my chargers, and some snacks in it.  I've traveled with less before, and that's when you truly feel liberated.  Still, what I was rolling with wasn't half bad.  To make things even better, every bus that I'd be taking was equipped with free WiFi and power outlets so that I wouldn't run out of juice while I wrote or talked with my girlfriend.  The ride to Baltimore from Manhattan is a quick one, relatively, and before I knew it I was transferring to a bus headed to Pittsburgh.

I'm still haunted by Super Bowl XL, although I must admit, 2013 went a long way in my healing process from those scars.  That doesn't mean I didn't utter some foul words under my breath when the bus driver said "next stop, Pittsburgh, home of the Steelers."  I wished that we were still cruising through the Pennsylvania countryside, which was pleasant and made me feel like I was back in Pullman for just a minute.  After about an hour layover in Pittsburgh, we re-boarded with our sights set on Ohio.  As we were leaving though, we drove past PNC Park and I was able to get a shot of what's known as one of the nicest ballparks in all of baseball.

I dose in and out of sleep, trying to time everything just perfectly, doing anything I possibly can to make this ride seem shorter than it really was.  There was no avoiding it though, this was the long haul.  Although, I must say, a 22 hour bus ride is infinitely more comfortable than even a 6 hour plane ride.  We head in to Columbus, Ohio, our next stop.  It's my first time in the great state of Ohio, and it's a brief trip, but hopefully I'll be back next season for the game against the Bengals, which will be played in Cincy.  The Buckeyes had just trounced Rutgers, so the Greyhound employees were all decked out in their scarlet red.  I watch the third quarter of the Notre Dame/Florida State game before having to re-board the bus.  Our next destination, Indianapolis, which meant that we were finally almost in St. Louis.

One of the great things about traveling by bus is the type of people that you meet.  Gone are the suits, laptops, and break-neck paced travelers who are merely trying to get from point a to point b, not embracing the true spirit of travel.  Replace those suits with tattered velour jumpsuits, the laptops with what would now be considered ancient DVD players that made the whole bus sound like it was going to blow up when it first turned on and tried to read the disc, and instead of a stream of people moving at lightyear speeds you've got people traveling 4 days via bus from North Carolina to California.  The stories you hear are a lot different too.  Business meetings?  The guy behind me just got out of prison after 10 years and just wants to start a tattoo shop with his new lady and settle down.  These are the things you hear when you take a bus across the United States.  Real, gritty stories from real, gritty people.

Grit is a term I associate with Indianapolis.  We roll in to the city, drab and desolate surrounded only by smokestacks, power plants, and factories.  Indianapolis is old-school Americana at it's finest.  A charming town with some pretty cool residents as well.  The Greyhound station is right near Lucas Oil Stadium, and my mind starts to flashback to the Seahawks tough loss there last season.  What a game that was.  Much like some of the games so far this season, it seemed that lady luck just wasn't in Seattle's corner, in fact, she was wearing a blue #12 jersey on that day.  Still, a beautiful stadium and a great city and I was happy to be back.  I can't wait to re-board the bus this time, because the Indy Greyhound stop smells horrendous.  There's salt of the earth, and then there's the smell of salty sweat.

We hop back on the bus with St. Louis now in our sights.  18 hours down, 4 to go.  There go those salt of the earth type people that you find on a Greyhound bus, and this time there was one sitting right next to me.  He seemed to be a cowboy of sorts, legit though, not a Cowboys fan.  After a while of trying to sleep, we both realize that we can't so we start talking to one another instead.  His name is Josh, he's a Bengals fan, and he's from Indiana.  I've got a soft-spot in my heart for the Bungies (no, that's not a typo, but what I liked to call them as a kid), so I immediately was captivated by this Indiana cowboy who just wanted to smoke a damn cigarette.  We talk for a couple of hours about football, life in Indiana and life in NYC, and being fans of two teams that used to be prime candidates for "laughingstock of the NFL" that had now suddenly morphed into potential candidates for "best of the NFL."

Our bus driver gets lost for a few minutes, but eventually, we make it to St. Louis at around 7 AM Central time.  The game doesn't start until 12, so I contact my old friend Bob aka the PredatorHawk to see if there's anyone tailgating at this ungodly time of day.  The Midwest Seahawkers know how to party, so of course, they're already setting up things just near the stadium.  It's about a mile walk from where I'm at so I part ways with my new buddy Josh, wish the Bengals the best of luck, and head towards the Edward Jones Dome.  On the way, I see a statue of a kangaroo, and the Scottrade Center, home of the St. Louis Blues.  They've got an awesome statue of Al MacInnis out front that puts most other bronze statues to shame.

I feel like I'm walking through downtown Atlanta in the Walking Dead.  The downtown streets are empty, mostly all blocked off due to a marathon.  I walk through the roads with no fear, as I spot the legendary Arch in the distance, as well as Busch stadium.  It's the 4th stadium I've seen so far on this trip across the country to the midwest.  PNC Park, Lucas Oil Stadium, Scottrade Center, and Busch Stadium, and I hadn't even gotten to the Edward Jones Dome.  As a sports enthusiast my entire life, it's pretty cool getting to see all of these new, nice parks scattered about.  I continue my peaceful walk to 7th Street and just north of the stadium.  The tailgate awaits!

I'm down by the stadium now and it all comes back to me.  Things start to look familiar from last season.  I make my way to the rundown parking lot where the tailgate is about to go down and who do I see?  PredatorHawk!  Bob is a great guy and my girlfriend and I had met him in Charlotte for the season opener last year.  Along the way Bob hooked it up with a ticket to the Titans game, let me crash at his hotel room between the Titans and Cardinals games when lord knows I wouldn't have been able to afford one, and genuinely did everything he could to help me conquer my quest.  I owe a lot of what I was able to accomplish to Bob, and I'm thankful that I was able to meet such a good person along my travels.

Bob's got the bar going, and he's churning out bloody mary's for the masses like it's his job.  Peter Flores is there too, helping set things up.  Also in attendance, is the dude from the 'Rams Rules' videos of infamy, but I can't quite remember his name.  Nice guy though, along with all of his buddies, who seem to be certain that the Rams will find a way to lose this game.  I tell them, not so fast!  There's something unsettling about this one for me as a Seahawks fan.  Confidence isn't too high around both camps, but Rams fans are visibly dejected.  Losing is taking it's toll on them.  Still, we cheers to a good game and they go on their way.  Shortly after, Bob feels a twinge in his side.  Is it the dreaded oblique strain that so many Seahawks dealt with last year?!  Whatever it was, Bob was looking too good, so I asked if he wanted me to step in and bartend instead.  After all, that's one of my callings in this life.

I mostly enjoyed bartending.  I love talking to people and getting to know new faces, as well as hearing the stories that people are more likely to tell once they've had a bit of alcohol.  I always truly enjoy serving people, and trying to make something that their senses might like.  It had been a few months though, but I figured it was like riding a bike.  Soon, hordes of people were coming up to the table asking for drinks, so I decided to improvise.  The "menu", if you could call it that, would consist of three drinks.  The Hauschka, the Jon Ryan, and the Beast Mode.  The Hauschka was created because a dude was actually wearing a Hauschka jersey and wanted a drink.  The Hauschka was a combination of House vodka and Arizona Cherry Lime Rickey, and folks said it was delicious!  The Jon Ryan consists of Tanqueray Gin, Arizona Mango Lime Rickey and Arizona Cherry Lime Rickey, another crowd pleaser.

As the Hauschka and Ryan went like hotcakes, we had to improvise with what we had.  Sometimes, improvisation can lead to the greatest creations or moments in the history of mankind.  Russell Wilson is a living testament to this idea.  I ask Jane, who was sitting by me kind of overseeing all of this while talking to her husband, if we have any more liquor. She points to a black plastic bag.  I reach in and grab a bottle of Bacardi 'Wolf Berry' and with the Seahawks slated to wear Wolf Grey's on the day, I figure that this will be perfect.  Thus, the 'Beast Mode' was born.

Some blueberry rum (infused with Wolf Berry, whatever that is), Arizona Mango Lime Rickey, and Orange Citrus Mountain Dew energy drink and we were set!  People were loving these Beast Modes, saying they tasted exactly like Skittles!  It was a success, and it was great to see everyone having a great time and enjoying themselves.  Being able to help was also a great feeling, and for the first time all year, that great vibe and harmoniousness of the 12th Man was all around me.  As I stood there bartending and talking to people, I told them of my travels.  People were blown away, and couldn't believe that I traveled 22 hours on busses to bartend in the back of a beat-up parking lot across the street from the Edward Jones Dome.  "You gotta be a team player!" was my line for the day.

Some people were so blown away by my story, that they insisted on "wanting to contribute" and started handing me $20's!  I couldn't believe what was happening, but before I knew it, I walked out of that parking lot with more money than when I started.  A considerable amount more.  It was unbelievable and I'll never forget Marcus, Rob, or Bob, just a few of the people who went above and beyond the call of duty as citizens of this universe and Seahawks fans, to try and help someone out.  We cleaned up the mess we had made, toasted to a great tailgate with some slices of pepperoni pizza topped on the fly with some pulled pork (it was as delicious as it sounds!), and headed towards the gates to see if the Seahawks could regain their confidence and get back in to the win column.  I was especially optimistic, after having seen a great deal of compassion from complete strangers who reached out to me and helped me in a time of need, even though they didn't even know the magnitude of what they had done.

I ditch my "portable briefcase" at the gate, and the security guard who's about to screen me can't help but laugh at the sight of a man carrying his entire life in his two hands.  Chargers, an iPad, keys, wallet, ID, everything was out for all to see.  I'm sure that I looked like I was in various stages of homelessness, but I simply didn't care.   Our group gets through security and we head to our seats.  As fate would have it, my ticket that I had purchased in Section 420 for only $10 was right next to the Midwest Seahawkers in Section 419!  I bypass going to my seat and sit with my fellow Diehard's instead.  I'll always be able to tell my grandchildren that I paid $10 for an NFL game during the height of Roger Goodell's money-making empire.

We get to our seats as the game gets underway.  The Seahawks defense starts with an impressive opening drive, for a change, and forces the Rams offense to go 3 and out.  It's just one drive, but with the way the defense has been playing as of late, it felt like much more.  Soon, the Seahawks offense is on the field to try and answer questions about how the offense will look without Percy Harvin.  The answer to that question, is a little bit more like last year's offense, as the 'Hawks march down the field on the back of a great catch and run by Doug Baldwin.  Much like last year though, the offense bogs down inside the red zone and has to settle for a field goal.  Still, it's a positive start to the game and that's all the 'Hawks are looking for after a week shrouded by negativity.

The positivity doesn't last long though, after the Seahawks special teams are caught napping on a kick return.  Cunningham takes the ball into Seahawks territory with ease down the right sideline, as it appears that everyone just thought he'd take a knee.  It's not long before Tre Mason gets in the end zone, the Rams go up 7-3, and section 419 starts to quiet down a bit.  419 literally has their backs up against the wall in this one, as we are in the last row of seats in the stadium!  I bang the wall behind me whenever I feel the Seahawks defense needs a little more encouragement.  It's the second game this season, along with the Washington game at FedEx Field, where the group I'm sitting with has had a wall, or chainlink fence, behind us.  When I look at how this season is unfolding, it makes sense.  Our backs are up against the wall.

Things get even uglier for Seattle, as Bennie Cunningham adds to the Seahawks misery with a 5 yard touchdown reception from the surprisingly effective Austin Davis.  To make matters even worse, after a Seahawks drive stalls out around midfield, Jon Ryan's punt is fielded on an over-the-shoulder grab by Steadman Bailey and taken to the house for a 90 yard punt return touchdown!  The entire Seahawks special teams unit gets drawn in by Tavon Austin's coy acting job, pretending to camp under the ball about to field the punt, meanwhile the ball is on the other side of the field and Steadman Bailey has one of the easiest touchdowns of his life.  Once again, the Rams special teams unit takes the Seahawks to school.  As you would expect though, Russell Wilson leads a drive for a field goal at the end of the half, showing signs of life and the fight that helped make this team Super Bowl champions just 8 months earlier.

With the score 21-6 at the half, our group in Section 419 is dumb-founded.  This is not what we were expecting.  I did not expect to travel 22 hours on a plethora of buses just to watch the Seahawks get annihilated by the struggling Rams.  Was this rock bottom?  We soldiered on to find out, as we always do. 

The Seahawks offense picks up right where they left off in the first half, and steadily progress down the field before scoring a touchdown on a 19 yard scramble by Russell Wilson.  He beats Ogletree to the edge, and the rest is history.  It is obvious that 'Hustle Wilson' means business, and that his razor-sharp focus will have the Seahawks in this game at the end of it.  With a multitude of injuries and the trade of Percy Harvin, guys like Cooper Helfet, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Robert Turbin, and even Christine Michael start to get their opportunities.  All hands are now on deck.

The defense continues to stiffen, and the 'Hawks offense gets the ball back and once again #3 proceeds to tear the Rams defense apart.  Russell is absorbing some hits though, as the porous offensive line continues to struggle with keeping #3 upright.  As for Marshawn Lynch, he could have had a big day, but it seemed that any time he had a nice run for decent yardage, it was negated by a penalty.  It was just that kind of day for Beast.  It makes sense that the Rams were keyed in on Lynch after the Harvin trade.  With all the talk of "getting back to the basics" for Seattle, the Rams would be fools not to know that that meant a steady dosage of Marshawn.  They were ready though, and did a solid job of containing him for the most part.

Seattle didn't need Lynch on this day though, because Russell Wilson was doing everything.  He scrambles down the left sideline for a monster gain, one of the best run's I've ever seen him make in his young, 3 year career.  Later, Russ throws a perfectly placed pass to Cooper Helfet, who somehow manages to make an excellent grab while keeping both feet in bounds.  After reviewing the play, the ruling on the field is confirmed, and Cooper Helfet had his first career touchdown in the NFL.  A beautiful one at that.  The young man who is also Marshawn Lynch's roommate and considers Marshawn to be his best friend, had just made a remarkable catch to make the game 21-19.  The 'Hawks go for two, and nearly convert on a diving effort from Jermaine Kearse, but maybe Jermaine should have just let the pass float by because Robert Turbin was there waiting for the ball behind him, only to see it bounce off of Kearse's hands and off the turf for an incomplete pass.  The score reads 21-19, and I'll take it at this point after the way this one started.

Unfortunately, as has been the case too often this season, the defense was unable to stop the Rams.  Austin Davis continues to elude the Seahawks mostly invisible pass rush, and the Rams answer with a touchdown of their own from Davis to Kendricks.  Our crew in 419 takes it as a sucker punch to the gut that we saw coming from a mile away.  With 5:36 left in the game, and the Rams up 28-19, we were still optimistic that the 'Hawks could steal this game.  With Russell Wilson having been unstoppable since the end of the second quarter, the Seahawks were always going to have a chance.  Luckily, the Rams defense goes into prevent and looks more like swiss cheese than an NFL defense, and Russell continues to shred his divisional foes in an attempt to escape from Missouri with a W.  After a quick-strike drive gets the 'Hawks into scoring position, Russ finds Doug Baldwin, who continues his breakout game of 2014 by slipping past defenders and waltzing into the end zone for 6.  Is that Percy Harvin he's mocking, with his quick jab celebration?  We'll have to wait for Doug's playing days to be over, and for his autobiography to come out to find out the answer to that one.


The scoreboard now reads '28-26' with St. Louis on top, and 3 minutes and 18 seconds left to play in the ballgame.  Momentum was definitely firmly in the Seahawks corner, as the Rams started their drive knowing that they needed a first down or two to ice the game.  However, the Seahawks defense knew that as well, and on 3rd down Richard Sherman makes what appears to be a game saving play as he defends a pass into the slot from Davis.  What happened next, was the second worst thing to happen all day.  On 4th down, inside their own 25 yard line and up by 2, the Rams fake the punt and catch the Seahawks with their pants down on special teams for the 3rd time on the day.  The Rams pick up the first down and the Midwest Seahawkers dejectedly stand there with nothing to say.  Rams fans go insane, as it appears that their lowly squad had just gone toe to toe with the world champions and walked away victorious.

The rest of the game seemed a formality at this point, and the rookie officiating crew assigned to this game must have felt the same way.  With the Rams attempting to run out the clock, Bennie Cunningham picks up a first down that should end it.  However, he fumbles the ball before he hits the turf.  The ball rolls around on the ground and a mad dash to jump on top of it ensues.  A St. Louis player dives on the ball first, but the ball squirts out from under him and appears to fall into the waiting arms of Richard Sherman, or at least two other Seahawks defenders who were right behind him who also dove after the loose ball.  Section 419 perks up again, as it looks like the Seahawks might take a page out of their 2013 season and steal a road victory when it seemed most improbable.

However, the refs had somewhere to be after the game, as the ball is ruled having been recovered by the Rams, despite what everyone in the Edward Jones Dome had witnessed with their own eyes.  There is no review, no nothing.  Just a kneel down from Austin Davis and a Rams victory.  Russell Wilson's opportunity to win the game would never materialize on this day, and the Seahawks fans in attendance were left to rue what was a mysterious call at best, but probably one of the worst botchings of a fumble in NFL history.  I leave the arena absolutely furious, as are most Seahawks fans that had just witnessed that atrocity.  I didn't want to take anything away from St. Louis, who deserved credit for pulling out a tough victory, but the Seahawks were robbed of a chance to win it late, and that's all I ask for, is a chance.

The Midwest Seahawkers head back to our post on 7th Street and commiserate over our terrible luck.  Somehow, the Seahawks were now 3-3 and in the midst of a two game losing streak, something we hadn't experienced since October of 2012.  Still, we knew in our heart of heart's that it was well deserved, and as Bob, Peter, Jane, and I parted ways we knew that changes would have to be made if the Seahawks wanted to turn things around.  I say my goodbyes, assure everyone that the Seahawks are still going to win the Super Bowl, and sprint for the train to the airport on 6th and Washington.  I board the train with no time to spare, and am immediately greeted inside by two fellow dejected Seahawks fans.  We discuss what went wrong and whether or not the Seahawks could turn things around, which we all agreed that they could and would.

Seated just a few feet away from us was a woman wearing a Helfet jersey.  You don't see those too often, and usually in that case, it's a relative or friend of said rare name on jersey.  In this case, it was Cooper Helfet's mom.  We told her it was a pleasure to meet her, and congratulations on an excellent moment for her son and I'm sure her and all of his loved ones, too.  It was a beautiful grab, one that Sidney Rice is certainly proud of, the Seahawks toe-tapping king himself.  I'm playing, Doug, don't get upset.  You definitely earned that crown with the clutch nature of your toe-tappers last year, I'm sure Sid agrees.

Helfet's mother, Marj, is a down to earth person, who tells us that Luke Willson is a really good tight end also, and probably a better blocker than her son.  She was very honest about Cooper's abilities as a blocker, but pointed to the fact that her son is definitely more of a pass-catcher, as was evident by his play earlier in the day.  Before getting off at the airport, I let her know that the Seahawks are still going to win it all, and that Cooper's going to play a surprisingly large part in it.  He could be the red zone target Russell Wilson has been looking for since the injuries and eventual retirement of Sidney Rice.  I board my plane home truly wondering what's next?

So, despite a disappointing loss and a 3-3 record, there was still a lot to be upbeat about.  Much like the Seahawks, things started to come together a bit in St. Louis.  A bit of that magic from last season and 2012 had seemed to reappear.  I took a bus 22 hours to St. Louis just to watch the Seahawks lose, and the only thing I was left thinking was "maybe if I had taken the bus home also, they would have won?"  Much like the 'Hawks, I only went half way.  It was a great experience and left me know that I was capable of much more, much like the team must have felt after this game.  I know I know... it doesn't matter if I fly, bus, train, or walk it to a game, it has nothing to do with what happens on the field.  Still, that feeling of not giving it my absolute 120 percent of what I now remembered I was capable of, had me scrambling to buy my round-trip bus tickets from Chinatown to Charlotte.

It would be a return to where it all began last September.  So much has happened since then.  With the Seahawks season facing a major turning point, two 12 hour bus trips lie ahead.  Was St. Louis rock bottom? Or would 3-4, a losing record, be rock bottom instead?  Who knows yet?  Not me.  All I knew is that I was going to have to go back to my roots for a clue on what to do next.  All aboard the Chinatown bus.  Hope my driver got enough sleep last night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sunday Bloody Sunday

A trip to the nation's capital proved to be just what the doctor ordered.  It wasn't the prettiest display in Seahawks history, but it got the job done.  Having experienced last season, and remembering that there were some clunkers sprinkled in there, not much thought was given to the style of play or lack thereof.  Naturally, with a game in the fortress known as CenturyLink Field against the usual paper tiger Dallas Cowboys, it appeared that the magical elixir known as "winning" would help remedy the Seahawks early season blues.

Meanwhile, back in New York City, I was beginning to settle into a somewhat normal schedule at work.  Selling pickles on a street corner wasn't what I had envisioned myself doing to fund this season, but it was what it was, and I'm not too good for any job.  Whatever it takes, was what I kept telling myself.  Oddly enough, I find my new job quite liberating.  I still get to interact with tons of people every day, something that I love, but without the rigor, demands, and expectations of serving or bartending.  Generally, people are quite happy when they're buying pickles, especially when they're damn good like these ones are.

Once again, it was time for my two world's to collide.  Luck appeared to be on my side, as I found a ticket to Seattle from Newark, through Minneapolis, just a day before traveling for $195.  I'd be using some of my miles that I had accrued from last season and earlier this season for my return trip home, plus $30.  A round trip flight for $225 just a day before traveling, it felt like a major win for sure.  And it also felt like the football god's and the universe were firmly in my corner, once again.  A conveniently placed bye week while I found new employment, followed by a seemingly impossible trip to DC for the Redskins game on Monday Night for only $48, and now this.  Things appeared to be lining up for another miraculous season, just like last year.

I make the 2 hour trek from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn to Newark International Airport early Saturday morning.  I make it in plenty of time for my 11:34 AM flight and soon, I was off to MSP for a 3 hour layover.  Looking back on things now as I sit on this flight back home, this layover was probably the highlight of the entire trip.  That's not a good sign, save for the fact that it probably would have been even had the Seahawks won.  Minneapolis is the home of, in my mind, the greatest Seahawks fan of all-time and one hell of an amazing and interesting person.  Leif, a man who's passion for the Seahawks is only matched by the size of his heart and his passion for traveling and human interaction with people from all walks of life.

Leif truly is one of the special ones in this life, and after crashing at my place for the Super Bowl, he had left some of his gear behind.  I lugged it with me from home to Minneapolis, as Leif had told me that he'd meet me at MSP.  As our plane landed and I headed out the gate, I was greeted by the familiar face whom I had shared so many experiences with just a year ago.  What made things even better was that despite recovering from a serious injury, he looked good as new!  The travels have been a bit interesting this season, so far, and seeing Leif for the first time since the Super Bowl brought back a sea of great memories that I had almost forgotten because of the focus applied to attempting to witness the repeat.

In true Leif fashion, the man was prepared to do something interesting.  After checking with Delta to see if my seat would be needed and if I would have to be bumped to a later flight to no avail, we bolt for the parking lot and jump in Leif's ride.  Having not been unable to fly out to Minneapolis in the summer as planned, this was my first taste of the beautiful state of Minnesota. Even as my plane was flying in earlier, I marveled at how flying over the city felt like flowing over a giant Central Park.  I was even able to spot the Minnesota Gophers outdoor stadium and Target Field from a bird's eye view up above.

Our first stop was Palmer's, a gritty place that is truly the definition of a "dive bar."  Known for it's widespread crowd, mostly the haggard and mentally ill, it's a sort of institution despite it's ominous description.  We drink a local brew, Summit, I think, before heading to our next spot.  Leif warns me that the next spot isn't the coolest place in the world, but that there was a reason for us going there.  That reason was Leif's buddy James, who I had just stumbled into in DC prior to the Monday nighter!  It was beginning to feel a lot like last season again, with spontaneous twists and turns all ending up in glorious wins both on and off the field.  I have a Midnight Ryder, another local brew as the three of us catch up and watch the conclusion of the Gophers victory over Northwestern.

After saying our goodbyes, Leif and I head to his apartment, a sweet pad that makes perfect sense of you know Leif.  After I taste some excellent rum and bourbon, we head to our third and final spot during this action packed 3 hour layover.  We go to another local watering hole of his preference, where I try a Grape Ape for the first time.  I now see what people in Minneapolis do with their free time.  Leif rushes me back to the airport just in time for my flight to Seattle.  Unfortunately, I wouldn't be getting that $300 voucher from Delta, and I wouldn't get to hang in Minneapolis with Leif any longer.  As we part ways, Leif adds that there's a possibility that he could be in Seattle for the game.  It would be his first game of the season.  This news is music to my ears, and I sleep like a log after breezing through security and boarding my flight to the Pacific Northwest.

It's the first time on any of my travels over the past year and change now where I've literally fallen asleep before take off and woken up in an entirely different place.  Usually, I can't sleep worth a lick, but the Grape Ape in me makes sure that I finally get some sleep while in flight.  I rise from my slumber, and head out into the rainy abyss known as Seattle.  Seattle's so beautiful that even when it's pouring outside and miserable, it still leaves you in awe of it's beauty.  I head down to Temple Billiards to grab a bite as I normally do, devouring a delicious spicy Italian sandwich.  After chatting with Damian, the doorman at Temple and an awesome person, I begin to head towards SeaTac, which will be my resting place for the evening.  Luckily, my buddy Bart who gave me a Marshawn Lynch jersey last season, (as well as handing fellow road warrior Greg $100 to buy a Russell Wilson Super Bowl jersey) was also in town for the game and he offered me a place to crash for the night.

Bart is the definition of a standup guy, and his wife is the best too for agreeing to let me sleep on their hotel room floor.  You know, they say that sleeping on the floor is good for you, or something, and I've got to say that it beats trying to sleep in a chair on an airplane!  That's got to be as bad for your back as sleeping on the floor is good for it, and I can attest to that as I developed a painful cyst on my back from all of my traveling last season. I choose to rationalize these sort of things that happen by thinking "hey, I'm just like Marshawn! Playing through back pain and not letting it hold me back."  Luckily, I was better now and I got a good night's sleep before gameday, which is a rarity for me as anyone who knows me will attest.

The three of us awaken to a pleasant Seattle day, with the rain from yesterday just a distant memory.  After grabbing some breakfast, Bart and his wife head for their rental car in a nearby parking garage.  I head a different way, to the bank to take out some cash just in case I need to purchase a hard copy of a ticket.  Leif tells me that he won't be making it to the game, and to start looking for one ticket for myself.  Did I mention that I didn't have a ticket to the game yet?  Things had fallen through with my ticket connections and I was forced to fend for myself on the secondary market.  Somehow, this game started at $250 for the cheapest ticket just to get into the stadium!  Having paid $225 for the season opener against the Packers, and $225 for the home opener against the Niners last year, I knew that there was no way that I was paying $25 more for a game in October against the Dallas Cowboys.

I understand, Super Bowl champion prices, people want to cash in on their season tickets after years of being unable to even give them away, and the Cowboys are debatably still "America's Team" and they have fans all over the country who hopped on the bandwagon over a decade ago when Dallas was still relevant in the NFL.  Of course, the NFL and the sports media go out of their way to always keep the Cowboys relevant because of that widespread fan-base and because they sell but that's another debate that we won't start up right here, right now.  The bottom line was, I did not have a good feeling about this game after reading the secondary market.  With ticket prices being so high, it probably meant that the place would be polluted with Cowboys fans, as the more seasoned Seahawks fans had sold their tickets to watch the game at home because it was a probable win for Seattle.  Still, I remained optimistic that I was just being overly pessimistic and continued on in my quest for a ticket.

With last week's game ticket only costing $18, and with tickets to the Rams game in St. Louis starting at only $10 (which is 2 dollars higher than last year's $8 tickets for the same game), I figured that no matter what I payed I'd still be winning overall.  I watched Stubhub as prices continued to drop the closer we got to gametime.  I head down to Temple after hitting up Chase bank, and take my chances with someone in attendance possibly having an extra ticket. No dice.  However, I see a random ticket on sale on Stubhub for $179.  This being the lowest price I had seen since the start of the week, I jumped all over it and made the purchase.  I would be sitting in Section 334 for the showdown with the 'Boys.  Soon, Bart and his contingency arrive at Temple, as does Todd and his.  Also making an appearance was LymonHawk, a Seahawks.Net legend and pretty awesome dude who originally hails from the Bronx.  It wasn't long before I had to split though, to go to a random FedEx to print my ticket for the game.

After accomplishing that mission with ease, I head back to Temple to talk about the game at hand with my fellow diehards.  Eli is there too now, and all of us discuss what it'll take in order for Seattle to beat Dallas.  Largely, we are all skeptical of the "paper tigers" from Dallas, as Todd proclaims.  After spending years watching the Cowboys flounder to 8-8 record after 8-8 record, I must admit that I was skeptical as well and that I took this team lightly.  We all agree that Seattle will break the Cowboys spirit by midway through the third quarter after a heavy dosage of Marshawn, and that the Seahawks will be 4-1 in a few hours.

Now, unlike most people, I don't hate the Dallas Cowboys.  I have too many friends, family, and loved ones in my life who are Cowboys fans that I just can't bring myself to genuinely hate them like I do the 49ers.  They just don't occupy a lot of space in my mind, they hardly ever face the Seahawks, and they haven't posed a legitimate threat to Seattle, the NFC, or the NFL for years.  The group leaves Temple, and there's someone up above flying a plane with a banner with the Cowboys star on it that reads "How bout them Cowboys".  Some people are upset by this move, which is pretty funny in my mind, especially when you consider that Seahawks fans did the same thing in San Francisco last year in the game at Candlestick Park. What goes around comes around.

The march to the stadium is a brief one, and unfortunately it appears that my worst fears may come true.  The streets are lined with Cowboys fans, boisterous and annoying as usual, severely lacking in any form of self respect or class, but it's to be expected from the bunch.  I've never heard "woo!" as much as I did from Cowboys fans entering the stadium, they seriously love screaming "woo!" to one another and giving each other random high-fives.  I make it half way up one of the walkways behind the Hawks Nest, before I'm stopped by the opening kickoff and the insatiable desire to see every play.  Once again, as expected and as I pointed last week, teams are trying to throw Seattle off their game even from the coin toss.  Or, everyone is trying to mimic Seattle's success from last season by deferring.  One of these days lady luck needs to reappear in the form of a coin toss, so that the Seahawks can win a coin toss and get back to having the defense set the tone for the game.

Only, as the game gets going, it doesn't appear that that would be necessary.  The 'Hawks march down the field on their opening drive before ultimately settling for a field goal.  It's a solid start to the game, and it only gets better after the Seahawks defense stymies the Cowboys offense and forces a punt.  Doug Baldwin appears to be lined up with the Cowboys gunner, but at the last second he crashes down hard on the left side of the Cowboys line and comes through clean for a diving punt block.  Mike Morgan recovers the loose football and takes it straight ahead for the score and a quick 10-0 lead!  Usually, that's enough at CenturyLink for the Seahawks.  And usually, most teams would just fold like a cheap suit under such pressure.  However, not the Cowboys, not on this day.

Despite being down quick, the Cowboys stick with their gameplan.  That means a steady dosage of DeMarco Murray, some clutch throws by Tony Romo, and a defense that excelled with their man coverage that the Seahawks just couldn't seem to exploit.  Somehow, in the blink of an eye, it's 10-10 and the Cowboys are now marching down the field with time dwindling in the first half.  Up to this point, the game has been a disaster, as every category is largely in the Cowboys favor.  Total yards, first downs, and most importantly time of possession.  Suddenly, this game is starting to feel a lot like the San Diego game from a few weeks ago.  Even more shocking this time around, since the Seahawks were being dominated at home, an extremely rare occurrence.  Things continue to get worse, as Tony Romo fires a touchdown pass with 16 seconds on the clock in the first half.  The Seahawks had coughed away a ten point lead, at home, to the Dallas Cowboys.  Not good.

At halftime, I head to my seat in 334.  Despite the cool view from the ramp way in the North End Zone, I remember that during the Cardinals loss at home last season, I kind of wandered around the stadium too, and never got situated at my seat.  I figured that this was my punishment for not being a part of my fellow 12th Man for the game.  Once I get to 334 though, and once the game gets underway in the second half, I start to wish that I had stayed in my spot by the ramp way.  What I saw was quite disturbing.  Cowboys fans littered all over the section, but that's not even the worst part.  The worst part was seeing my fellow Seahawks fans sitting down on 1st and 2nd down's while the defense was on the field!  People would rise to their feet on third down, but that's what every fanbase around the league does, we're usually better than that.

How could this have happened, I wondered.  Well, this explained tickets being so expensive on the secondary market.  Apparently, all the diehards stayed at home or couldn't make it for one reason or another, and decided to cash in on their tickets for triple the face value.  That usually equals more opposing fans and Seahawks fans who can afford $200 tickets in the upper deck.  I can, barely, and that's for one person.  What about the average Joe dad who wants to take his kids to the game?  Sorry, not this one pops.  The working class Seahawks fan had been squeezed out of this one, the heart and soul of this team ripped from it's chest.  You just know that the players picked up on the lack of energy, and there were times in the second half where Richard Sherman and company were bouncing around, trying to do anything to get the home crowd hyped.

All of the positive energy, and relentless noise that helped earn a Lombardi Trophy months prior, were replaced by entitled fans who bemoaned every Seahawks failed attempt at making a play, as if they expected a Seahawks blowout because they dropped serious coin on attending.  It doesn't work that way, unfortunately.  We had a bunch of people who wanted to watch a victory, and celebrate one, but it appeared that most in attendance didn't know what was required of them as a member of the 12th Man in order to help the team achieve victory.  Hopefully, the occurrences of the next several minutes will ensure that the seasoned diehard's return to their seats.

And those occurrences that I just referenced weren't pretty.  Despite once again scoring the first ten points of the second half on a muffed punt that set up a Russell Wilson rushing touchdown and a fumbled snap by Tony Romo that led to a field goal, the Cowboys stuck with their game plan and came roaring right back.  While the Seahawks appeared to be content with empty sets and having Russell Wilson wing the ball all over the field, with little to no success while neglecting Marshawn Lynch entirely for certain parts of the game, the Cowboys rode the horse that got them to their sparking 4-1 record, DeMarco Murray.  Murray consistently gashed the 'Hawks when he needed to most, and Tony Romo continued to stand tall in the pocket and make all the throws he had to, a la Philip Rivers in San Diego in Week 2.  Once again, the Seahawks pass rush was invisible to the naked eye, and the Cowboys had made it a 23-20 ballgame just like that.  However, after a vital holding penalty, they were now faced with a 3rd and 20 and the game seemingly on the line.

With Bruce Irvin closing in on Tony Romo's blindside, Romo pulls his best Russell Wilson imitation and spins away from the hit, steps up in the pocket, evades Bruce Irvin's lunging efforts again, and fires a rifle down the right sideline.  Miraculously, Terrance Williams is a) able to get open over 20 yards downfield on a 3rd and 20 and b) tap both of his toes in bounds before falling in a heap on the Cowboys sideline.  Seahawks fans argue that he didn't get his feet in, but it was clear when it happened that he did and that it was a fantastic play by Romo and Williams.  How was Williams able to get open 23 yards downfield?  We'll never know.  I suddenly have flashbacks to Gus Bradley's soft zone coverages down the stretch in numerous games in 2012.


That was the game changing play right there.  DeMarco Murray would go on to finish the drive in impressive fashion with two excellent rushes, one of them for a touchdown that gave the Cowboys the lead with under 5 minutes to play in the 4th quarter.  Cowboys fans everywhere rejoice as Murray's crosses the goalline, the crowd reaction a disturbing reminder that this was not a typical day at the office at the CLink.  Having burned a bunch of timeouts throughout the 2nd half, the Seahawks were faced with having to march down the field with no timeouts and time running out.  No problem, we've got Russell Wilson!  Or so we thought.  After some lousy execution on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down gets the 'Hawks offense nowhere, a recurring theme throughout the day for a struggling unit, the 'Hawks go for it on 4th down deep inside their own territory and fail to convert, fittingly on this day.

Still, they manage to hold the Cowboys to a field goal and hope still remains as the score is now 30-23 with 1:09 left to play.  We've still got Russell Wilson, and I'll always believe in Russell's ability to do the improbable.  This would have been one of those moments.  However, clearly some of the other fans in attendance didn't feel the same way, as droves of people head for the exits to beat the traffic, I guess.

What followed was to be expected.  Two plays into the Seahawks last ditch drive, Russell's pass floats right into the waiting arms of a Cowboys defender and the game is sealed.  A few kneels and the Cowboys legion of fans begin the celebration.  I was sitting next to a Cowboys fan, and luckily he was a pretty cool dude, one of the few humble Cowboys fans in existence on this earth.  Luckily, the way out of the stadium is a breeze since a ton of fans had already abandoned their team early, and all of the Cowboys were staying in the stadium and cheering their team on as they walked off the field.  My Seahawks beanie goes off to Dallas.  They came in to the lion's den when many people didn't give them a shot, and slapped the lion around and pounded the lion into submission.  It was yet another stinging, humbling defeat just like the one in San Diego weeks prior.

Still, I left the stadium with my head held oddly high.  This team, and it's fans, needed a real wake-up call.  Not one that we could blame away on the heat or some poor officiating, just a real proper whooping like the one the Cardinals handed them at the CLink last season.  The Seahawks never looked back after that loss, and while I'm sure there are more losses on the way for this team that's still struggling to find it's identity on offense and defense, you just have to believe that everything is going to be alright.  No matter how dejected any fan is, they'll never take it harder than this group of players and coaches will, and that's what makes this team special.  They are human, as they are proving this season especially when it comes to their depth which doesn't seem as impressive as it did last year, but they'll outwork anyone and I fully expect them to play a better game in St. Louis verse the Rams.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that years ago I wouldn't have been able to handle this loss.  I would have been distraught, devastated.  My entire week would have been ruined.  Now, I understood that losing was a necessary part of life and some of life's greatest lessons can be learned in defeat, so long as you gave it your best effort.  This team tried their hardest but awful play calling, horrendous execution, miserable crowd support, mounting injuries, and despicable officiating combined to lead to their downfall.  Also, an outstanding effort from the Dallas Cowboys who proved that they just might be legit.  Don't get too excited Cowboys fans, you all know that in the back of your mind you could see this ending in another depressing 8-8 season.  No doubt, they look legit, but it's not how you start but how you finish, as Pete Carroll would surely attest to.

With my head held high I head back to Temple Billiards to commiserate with my fellow 12th Man after a rough day at the office.  Most agree, even members of the Blue Thunder band, that the crowd didn't have the juice on this day, and neither did the team.  Most also agree that Pete Carroll and his coaches would get this figured out, and quickly.  They would have to, or else they'd risk losing ground in the treacherous NFC West, as well as the race for the always important homefield advantage.  My hopes for homefield took a huge hit after this one, but there's a sick part of me that wants to see the Seahawks win a Super Bowl in New York Giants fashion, being road warrior's and slaying opponents in their own house and ending their dreams of taking away our championship from us.

Damian, the doorman at Temple, and I chat about the Seahawks, Sounders, and life.  FC Dallas scores a last-ditch winner at home against the LA Galaxy and the place livens up a bit.  This win means that the Sounders remain in first place, probably the only good thing to happen to Seattle sports over the weekend.  Yes, I refuse to acknowledge the Washington Huskies and their accomplishments.  That's what being bitter rivals is all about.  It's okay Dawgs, the Cougs dropped another one and now need to win 4 out of 5 to even get a chance to Coug It in another bowl game.

Despite an awful sports weekend for yours truly, I leave Temple for the LightRail with a smile on my face.  Good times, with great people, and great conversations were more important than a Seahawks victory in October.  Especially when I still knew deep down in my heart that everything was going to be alright, and the Seahawks would still win the Super Bowl in improbable fashion.  I make my way to the airport, which would be my free hotel for the evening before my flight back home in the early morning.  SeaTac is actually a pretty comfortable place to sleep, and there's something cool about seeing weary travelers sprawled out in whatever position they can manage to find some bit of respite.

I guess if I was being honest with myself, complacency had set in. This wasn't just a reunion tour to try and relive the amazing memories of last year. Those were a part of the past now, a beautiful past, but the past indeed. Instead of trying to replicate last season, just like the team I would have to adapt, make the necessary changes, and realize that this year was different. Different circumstances, different trials and tribulations, and different experiences. I no longer wanted to just be happy to be along for the ride again. I needed to find that hunger that was so present last year.

Friday, October 10, 2014

You've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone

Never in my life have I been happier for a Week 4 bye.  Any other year, I'd hate it.  I remember the days of not too long ago, when it seemed as if the 'Hawks got jobbed annually with the early bye week, as a sort of reminder as to how little the league cared about their existence.  This was different though.  Having been recently cut from my last job's 53 man roster because of my love for the 'Hawks, things weren't looking so good for the prospects of witnessing the 'Hawks Super Bowl repete performance.  Still, we soldiered on despite the cloudy forecast and stepped into the future to embrace what the universe had in store for us, because it's the only way we know how.

The week got off to a great start with a new work opportunity.  During the bye week, I bumped into an acquaintance that I had met about a year and change earlier at a NYC Department of Health exam.  Yes, I passed...  with my usual score in the 75 range.  It turns out this acquaintance, Nicky, needed help with his personal business, Horman's Best Pickles.  I had never had any interest in pickles before, other than I loved them, but I figured I need the work and it was a pretty great coincidence.  So my life as a pickle hustler began.  Whatever it takes, I told myself.  Whatever it takes to witness the Seahawks win it all again.

Luckily, the Seahawks week 5 opponent resides not too far from yours truly.  DC is about a 4 hour bus ride from Manhattan, and a round trip ticket will only set you back $30.  This game absolutely could not have come at a better time.  And if not for the kindness and generosity of my friend's, Jazz and Juan, this would have never happened at all.  The three of us sat at Olde Prague in Astoria, Queens a few weeks ago and watched the Jets self-destruct against the Bears on Monday Night Football.  It was then that Jazz and Juan pledged to help get me to my next two games.  That kind of friendship and loyalty is so impossibly rare to find these days, I just know that I'm one of the lucky ones in this life.

My good luck continued during the week, as my buddy Jeff who works at The Huffington Post, was able to get me the rare opportunity to ask Russell Wilson a question during his segment on Huffington Post Live during midweek.  What's really weird about the whole situation is that Jeff and I imagined a scenario like this unfolding just a week earlier in my backyard.  It went something like this...

Me: "Come on man, get me on Huffington Post Live." 
Jeff: "Look, I know you've been in the newspaper and a bunch of other things but it doesn't work like that.  Now, if Russell were to come on the show, I could probably get your question read on the air." 
The two of us laugh it off due to it's impossible seeming nature and carry on. 

Literally about a week or two later, that scenario that we had laughed off became reality.  I was going to be asking Russell (Wilson, sorry Okung) a question, live and on the air.  I thought about what to ask him for a little while and rolled with it.  In my head, I knew what his response might sound like, but just hearing it was enough for me to get the message loud and clear.  Having been going through what I've been going through, it's exactly what I needed to hear, at the exact right time, from the exact right person.  If not for my buddy Jeff, Russell Wilson still doesn't know of my existence.

Not only have my friends been there for me, but my lovely lady Laura has been also.  Big time.  Unlike Adrian in Rocky, she's stuck with me through thick and thin.  As a newly crowned Super Bowl champ (that never gets old), and as someone trying to find their way in this life.  Short on cash, high on aspirations, but needing to strike a balance between the two.  That's not why we do this though.  Just like with the Seahawks on the field, it's the love of the game at the end of the day, that's why we do this.  Nobody ever said that attempting to go to every Seahawks game over a 3 year span would be easy, but I do it because I love it.  That's how much this team means to me, and it's my way of expressing it, just like everyone else has their way.

Right before the game on Monday, my lady and I were able to make it up to Cooperstown for a relaxing weekend.  We would get away from the city, do nothing and be okay with it, enjoy the views, and relax and clear our minds for a minute.  There were birthday festivities too, Happy Birthday Jen and Brian, and a great time was had by everyone.  Even if going hiking wasn't the greatest idea in the world.  Everyone survived, it happens.  Getting away from the city is an instantaneous stress relief, especially when going to a beautiful little town like Cooperstown.  It's an awesome little place where you leave all your problems at home before heading up there, only to realize that those problems aren't as bad as you thought when you were so wrapped up in them.

With a refocused mind, fresh and rested up both physically and mentally, I felt rejuvenated and ready to conquer the rest of the journey.  Bring on Week 5, and bring on the Washington Redskins.  Making the quick trip up to the national's capital would be road warrior Jazz, who would be attending his fourth Seahawks game overall, and his third road game.  Also joining would be my roommate Cole, who made it out to the Giants game last season, and my friend Michelle, who was good friends with my girlfriend and an avid fan of football in general.  Both Cole and Michelle are Ducks fans, so I don't mention much about Oregon's catastrophic loss to Arizona.  It's quite the motley crew we have, one that doesn't even make sense to the naked eye from afar. 

However, we all shared one thing in common on this day.  The desire to watch the Seattle Seahawks pound Washington into submission.  It was a feeling that called to us for one reason or another, like the wind crying Mary, as good ole' Jimi would say.  I still maintain that Jimi Hendrix would love this team, by the way.  I'm pretty sure Marshawn Lynch would be his favorite player, wild, reckless, and an innovator much like Hendrix himself, but Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas might strike a chord within the Voodoo Child as well.  Regardless, he would love the passion, energy, aggression, reckless abandon, and raw talent that this team possesses an abundance of.

It was me, and not Jimi, who was walking through the clouds.  I was in a dreamland.  The same dreamland that I've been since before last season.  I keep pinching myself to make sure that I'm awake, and I think I am, or am I just stuck in this dream forever?  Either way, I'm fine, it's the best dream ever.  The Seahawks are champions and taking the world by storm.  It's everything I ever wanted, everything I ever imagined, and then some.  Suddenly, I rise from this dream sequence and my eyes try to adjust to their new surroundings.  I had slept through pretty much the entire four hour ride, a rare occurrence for me when traveling.  Something about cars, buses, and trains makes them infinitely easier for me to sleep on then planes.  We had reached our destination, now came the fun part.

Except, D.C. isn't really any fun.  At least not on a Monday afternoon.  We walked up and down the same block three or four times, trying to find anything that remotely resembled a good time.  Or at least something that wasn't a museum or a federal building.  The first person we see, someone working at the bus station, is not a fan of my Marshawn Lynch jersey, or my Seahawks beanie.  With the Seahawks having eliminated the Redskins from the playoffs three times in the past ten years, I had expected a bit of hostility from the 'Skins fan base and they did not disappoint!  A man riding passenger in an oncoming car yells "Hail to the 'Skins!" at me as his car speeds by.  These people are not playing around.

Well, actually, they were.  A few more people offered quips about our Seahawks allegiance but we come to find that they were really just busting our chops and messing around with us.  It's obvious to us that this isn't Philadelphia, or San Francisco, and we aren't going to get knifed in the middle of downtown in broad daylight. 

Most of the fans are actually quite apathetic towards the home team and expect the Seahawks to win, and win big.  Even one of the bartenders, Marcus, at the bar near my house, thinks that "it's going to be a slaughterhouse."  Confidence in the 'Skins among the locals isn't at an all-time high.  Conversely, I'm feeling very confident that the Seahawks will at least walk out of the nation's capital with a W, if not a blowout.  Having watched the New York Giants go to work on them, you just knew that it was going to take a Herculean effort to upset Seattle.  Even the weathered and beaten Seahawks fan in me, the one who had seen the Seahawks fail to show up against weaker competition routinely in years prior, was looking at this game as one in the win column.

After printing our $19 tickets at a random FedEx, we tried to find some form of existing life form in downtown D.C.  The sun beat down on us as we navigated our way through the poorly constructed and wobbly streets.  Seemingly none of the sidewalks were completed, and random tiles would pop out at you.  We wondered if we had somehow traveled into another dimension on that BoltBus and ended up in the Twilight Zone.  With Rod Serling thankfully nowhere in sight, we traveled onward, to the Penn Quarter Sports Tavern.  Apparently, this place is DC's Seahawks bar, or sort of like their answer to Carlow East.  Although their BBQ burger was absolutely delicious, they could not compare to the watering hole of mythical lore from back home.  Still, there was a strong gathering of Seahawks fans present, and a pretty cool framed jersey of the Boz!

As we sat there watching various highlights from the previous day's action in the NFL, some familiar faces walked through the door.  Originally, months prior, the plan had been for our old friend Leif and his buddy James to meet me in D.C. and to sit together in the 'Dream Seats' at FedEx Field.  Unfortunately, Leif was still at home recovering and would be unable to attend.  The plans fell through and James and I made our own plans.  My "plans" weren't really plans though, just good timing, excellent luck, and 48 dollars.

Now, in to the bar walks James with his buddy Peter, who I had also met last season prior to the Vikings game.  We catch up and talk about James' experience volunteering at Russell Wilson's Passing Academy over the summer in Madison, Wisconsin.  As you'd imagine, he says it's a great experience and that Russell was a stand-up dude.  Exactly what you'd expect to hear about Russell.  Thank god he's our quarterback.  I can only hope that I won't be as annoying about Russell Wilson at the end of his career as Derek Jeter fans were at the end of his, but I think it might end up that way.

Our group decides to head to the Seahawks tailgate that would no doubt be ongoing upon arrival.  That's just what happens at these road games nowadays.  A stark contrast from the times I froze my butt off at the Meadowlands with two other dudes in ragged Ricky Watters jerseys.  We part ways with James and Peter and agree to meet in the parking lot.  Our original motley crew of four now faced with the challenge of navigating the DC subway system.

Which you would think would be no problem for a group of New Yorkers.  Instead, we looked like a fish out of water.  The locals could definitely tell that we weren't from around those parts.  After literally 10 minutes of trying to figure out how to put money on the card, we were on our way.  The trip over included discussions about why their version of the Metro Card was on a piece of paper and why would they ever install carpeting on a subway car.  To those questions that Jazz, Cole, and I asked, we received no answers.

After unknowingly buying a Kirkland Sport Drink pawned off to me as a Gatorade, we made our way down a street named after Joe Gibbs in a random suburban neighborhood to the stadium.  The parking lot is a sea of humanity, most wearing Redskins gear.  Large groups gather with TV's, jacked up sound systems, and there's even a Redskins diesel truck that looks pretty cool.  Still, we were having no luck finding the tailgate.  As I was trying to check up on the specifics, my phone died.  We decided to walk around the parking lot in the hope that we would eventually bump into it.  Little did we know that the parking lot was enormous.

Our effort may not have been valiant, but we decided to head in to the stadium early and watch the players warm up.  If you ever wonder how one can watch an NFL game for 18 dollars, one needs to know that you might be sitting directly in front of a chain link fence.  That's the unique experience we had in Section 433.  Still, the sight lines were pretty good because of our altitude and the view of the game and the ability to watch plays unfold was still great as well.  18 bucks, to watch the Seahawks on Monday Night Football?!  Count me in!  It might not have been the "Dream Seats" that I had imagined a few months earlier, but they were a seat, and that's all that mattered.

The Seahawks look sharp in warmups, especially Russell Wilson, as gametime quickly approaches.  A chill that let's you know it's just about time for some autumn football rolls in with the wind.  One of the Redskins defenders stays out at midfield, over the team's logo.  He looks to the skies above with his arm's raised and the crowd begins to roar.  David is ready to try and slay Goliath once again, only this time with a national television audience watching too!  Another Seahawks opponent wins the coin toss and elects to defer, an obvious response to Seattle's preference to defer that we'll see mimicked throughout the entire season in an effort to throw the Seahawks off their game.  Much like Denver in the Super Bowl earlier this year, the Redskins kick it short to mah boy, Luke Willson.  

The Seahawks come out throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Washington.  Unfortunately for Washington, they tried coming out aggressive as well, and this cost them a few times early on when it came to containing Russell Wilson and not letting him get into acres of space.  It didn't take Russell long to realize that this option was going to be open for him repeatedly, and he took advantage.  If you were a Redskins fan, you could at least take solace in the fact that Robert Griffin Tres was probably watching and might have taken a few pointers when it comes to sliding.  Russell was putting on a display.

Add to that that the defense was absolutely stymieing the Redskins running game and you had a recipe for the early 17-0 lead that the Seahawks had posted.  Which brings us back to our buddy Jazz, who was sitting in Seat 12 today as an shameless attempt to appease the football god's by yours truly.  With the 'Hawks ahead 17-0, this meant that in the three Seahawks road games Jazz had attended, the Seahawks were ahead 82-0!  Add to that the 36-16 pasting of the Packers back in September that he also witnessed, and he was at 3-0 all-time with 118 points for and 16 points against.  It must be true.  He must be the Seahawks good luck charm!  The evidence is just so overwhelming...  Guess who's making the second trip to Zona this year?!  That means you, Jazz, if you're reading.

Of course, all good things come to an end, even Jazzy's Seahawks road scoreless streak.  Just like that, DeSean Jackson had torched the Seahawks secondary and the streak was up in smoke.  I tipped my Seahawks beanie and clapped in Jazz's direction, as if to commend him for his outstanding work in Seahawks fandom.  I could tell that the touchdown had stung, but that he had to be reminded of his mortality, and that winning in the NFL isn't easy.  At least, it's not supposed to be, although all he's seen in person is otherwise.

Not only was the streak no longer in play, but that feeling of comfort that came with the opening minutes of this game was gone as well.  With every Percy Harvin touchdown that came off the board, you could tell that things were going to get a little whack in the capitol on this night.  Still, no matter how many cooky things seemed to happen that seemed to give the home team life, the feeling of doubt never truly crept in.  There was frustration, and possibly a general failed sense of expectation, as well as many bright spots as well.

Marshawn Lynch continues to give his heart and soul for this team and there were multiple runs and catches of his where I'd find myself wondering about the future.  Life potentially without Beast Mode.  I don't like to think negatively, usually, so we'll save that for a rainy day.  Maybe life post-Marshawn won't be so difficult, if Russell continues to evolve into one of the game's most well-rounded talents.  It figured as much, that in such a historic town, Russell would have a historic night.  122 yards rushing, the most ever for a quarterback on Monday Night Football, and we were there to witness it.  It's a shame we had printed tickets, it would be nice to have a stub from this one.

I'd say the highlight of the entire trip occurred with 11:24 remaining in the fourth quarter.  With the 'Hawks lining up for a would-be 49 yard field goal attempt that would put them ahead 20-10, they instead ran the fake field goal with punter and holder Jon Ryan!  Ryan followed his blocks and got to the sticks, a masterful 5 yard gain and one that Marshawn himself would surely be proud of.  We went nuts because you have no choice but to go nuts when Jon Ryan runs for the first on a fake field goal on 4th down!  The legend of Ryan now surely will continue to grow, much like his career rushing totals.


Even then, after such an amazingly rare play like a fake field goal, I still can't say with complete certainty that that was the best play I saw all day.  Watching Russell somehow manage to not cross the line of scrimmage before getting off a slick pass was pretty impressive, as was his impression of Harry Houdini in the 4th quarter when he evaded pressure from Washington's front and was somehow able to float a pass to a waiting Marshawn Lynch in the flat.  That play defied the laws of physics, and summarized in one single play what makes Russell Wilson so special, and us Seahawks fans so lucky to have him.

As the Seahawks killed off Washington's final attempts at a rally with a Steven Hauschka field goal, our motley crew turned our attention towards the exit's and getting home.  The last train back to the bus station was set to leave at just past midnight, and it was nearly just past midnight.  I don't normally leave games early, but with the Seahawks up 27-17 and less than a minute remaining, this time I did.  It was a race against time to get back to the train, but we hustled like Russell and made it to the train on time because things usually have a way of working themselves out.  Of course, we made sure to trash-talk DC a little bit more on our way out the door.  As Jazz said, "it's constructed nicely, but it's not made for people!"

The 2AM bus from DC to Baltimore and then back to New York City might not have been the ideal trip home, but it was necessary.  Like Russell had said earlier in the week on Huffington Post Live, it's about that work ethic.  All of us had to get back to work, although we had the whirlwind memory of an odd, but ultimately interesting day spent in the nation's capital.  Much like the Seahawks victory, this trip might not have been pretty, and it might not have gone exactly according to plan, but at the end of the day it was a success and we all had fun.

There was no time to sleep, though, as an unexpected challenger loomed in the distance seemingly ready for a showdown.  Could it be true, that the Dallas Cowboys were finally for real?  I guess we'd soon find out.  Although, I must say that I'm a skeptic.  In the mean time, it was back to work.  Suddenly, things were beginning to feel a little bit like they did last year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

It's the size of the fight in the dog

"But I'm not one to complain. Sometimes, as a man, you get your ass whupped, you get up and fight again." - The great Kam Chancellor

After the events of last week, I could feel where Kam Chancellor was coming from.  Well, not really, as I'll never know what it's like to try and play a game of football against other highly skilled professionals with bone spurs in my ankle.  Still, life had beaten me down in it's own way.  We've all been there.  Like the modern day warrior quoted above though, I'm not one to complain either.  It was time to pick ourselves up and continue the fight as if it were the only way, because it is.

The week crawled by as it usually does after a loss.  Luckily, since this journey began last season, there hasn't been a whole lot of losing.  Fellow road warrior Greg and I joked on our way back from San Diego that I can't complain, since beginning this quest last year, the Seahawks had gone 17-4 with a Lombardi Trophy already in the bag.  Complaining about this loss would make me no better than the entitled, spoiled Yankees fans I grew up hating for those very reasons!

So after a week spent dropping off resumes and waiting for calls that never materialized, it was time to put that all in the rearview mirror and focus on this week's challengers, the Denver Broncos.  A Super Bowl rematch that fans and media pundits alike had hyped up beyond mythical proportions by Week 3's usual standards.  Still, the feeling in my stomach was different for this one.  With the bye week looming and a Monday nighter at Washington in the distance, a loss here would mean that we'd have to go two football Sunday's hearing about the Seahawks demise.  It wasn't a must-win game by any stretch of the imagination, but we really needed a W here.

Luckily for the Seahawks, I believed that I had found what had gone wrong a week earlier.  While cleaning out one of my dressers due to it's horrendous condition, I stumbled upon a random San Diego Chargers mini-helmet.  Surely, some form of black magic or voodoo was in play here and it was to blame for the events at Qualcomm Stadium.  I had to rid myself of the mini-helmet in order for balance to be restored to the universe and the Seahawks to return to their winning ways.  The only question was where?

The answer came easily, as my Saturday flight reservations called for me to fly from LaGuardia to Denver, and then to Seattle.  Amazingly, despite all of the traveling that last season entailed, there were no connecting flights in Denver.  In fact, I had never been to Denver International Airport before.  Just another bizarre coincidence in this series of unexplainable occurrences that dates back to the beginning of last season.  I decided to look at it as a sign that the universe was still in my corner.

The plane lands in Denver and I walk through the airport with a Seahawks beanie and scarf on display for all to see.  The looks that I am getting are absolutely priceless.  No one says a word to me, but mostly all are staring at me as if I were personally responsible for their unhappiness since that night in February.  I had never experienced this feeling before, as usually I was the one looking miserable in this life as a Seahawks fan.  This was different and something I wasn't used to, but it beats being miserable.

Just before my flight leaves for Seattle, I unveiled the San Diego Chargers mini-helmet.  2 minutes later, a man headed to Hawaii wearing a Junior Seau shirt passes by.   I had planned on dooming the Broncos and leaving the mini-helmet somewhere in the Denver airport.  However, after Aldon Smith's run-in at LAX earlier this year, I decided that probably wouldn't be such a good idea, so I gave the man in the Seau shirt the helmet instead.  I explained the story behind it and we shared a laugh, and I told him that his team played a hell of a game and thoroughly deserved that win.  He thanks me and heads to his gate, while shouting that he'll see me in Arizona at the Super Bowl!

I allowed my mind to drift and think about the possibilities of such an occurrence on the short trip from Denver to Sea-Tac.  Despite the display the Chargers had put on a week earlier, I convince myself that on a different day, on a neutral field, the Seahawks could extract a bit of revenge.  The plane lands and yet again, it's absolutely perfect in Seattle.  Mount Rainier looms in the distance, majestic and beautiful for all to see.  There's hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun is beaming, a proper sendoff from summer in it's final days.

By now, I'm starving, as I usually am when I land in a new city.  I'm not the greatest at self preservation, and it shows when I travel.  I always forget to eat a decent meal before I fly and then I'm usually stuck paying $7 for a pack of peppered beef jerky.  Hey I can't complain, it gets the job done.  Must be all the protein.  Such is the life of a traveler, however, and by now I'm resigned to my fate.  I still needed some real food in me, beef jerky aside, so I headed to Ping's Dumpling House in Chinatown.  With some absolutely delicious soup dumplings now in my belly, it was time to start the weekend.

My first order of business was to go to the FedEx Kinko's on 3rd Avenue to finish up last week's writeup.  Then, I decided that the best thing to do with my Saturday was to just watch as much sports as possible.  I started with the Sounders/Red Bulls match at Temple Billiards, before watching the Astros seemingly dash the Mariners fading playoff hopes.  Unfortunately, the Sounders weren't any better, as they were routed in New Jersey.  Ironically, a few of the staff from Temple are off from work and at the game, having made the same trek that I make during the football season, only in reverse.  I feel bad for them as Rolando, the bar's owner, tells me about their travels, for I know how much it stings when you travel far and wide just to watch your team lose.

Afterwards, I head to Columbia City on the LightRail to meet up with my host for the weekend, Eli.  Eli played a large role in last season's improbable run, having hooked it up with a ticket 4 rows from the Seahawks tunnel to the Rams game, as well as selling his extra ticket to the Super Bowl to my buddy Greg without asking for a king's ransom in return.  Not only that, but when I was stranded outside of the CLink before the parade finally reached the stadium with no ticket or hope in sight, it was Eli who appeared out of basically nowhere with an extra ticket in his hand.  When we bumped into each other in that same exact spot randomly before the Packers game in Week 1, we knew that it was a good omen and the universe working it's magic yet again.

Eli and I head to his place to catch my alma mater Washington State mix it up with the Oregon Ducks out on the Palouse.  A neon Seahawks sign lights the room and the walls are graced by posters of legends like Jimi Hendrix and Slayer.  There's even a Seahawks luchador mask from Mexico.  It rests right beside a Sports Illustrated magazine with Russell Wilson on the cover.  I'm in shock as we turn on Eli's TV to see that it's 7-0 Cougars.  As I've been conditioned to believe as a Cougars fans, surely this can't and won't last.  Surely the heavily favored Ducks will score 3 touchdown's in the span of 5 minutes and the route will be on.  After awful losses to Rutgers and Nevada, there was just no way that the Cougs would be able to hang with the #2.

There goes life flipping the script again just when you think you finally know something.  To Eli and my delight, this is actually a pretty damn good football. We sit and talk 'Hawks as Connor Halliday and the Wazzu Air Raid attack continue to carve up Oregon's suspect secondary in the background.  We reminisce about Seahawks new and old, as names like Floyd Wedderburn and Sean Dawkins get thrown about.  To this day, talking Seahawks football is one of my absolute passions in life and it's something that gives me a sort of a natural high.  Finding people in life to help quench this rare thirst has never been easy, but when it does happen it makes it that much sweeter.

Unfortunately, the Cougars bid for an upset goes the way that most Cougars games go, with a disappointing loss and a huge sense of what could have been.  Thanks to some horrendous officiating from the home of horrendous officiating, the Pac-12, Oregon walked out of Martin Stadium.  Still, I couldn't help but feeling like this was a huge day for Mike Leach and company.  They made me look like a fool, but looking like a fool never felt so good.  Even though they didn't get the win, they showed that they could hang with one of the nation's elite programs.  Losing stinks, especially when the loss drops you to 1-3 and especially when you don't get even get a chance to make a comeback thanks to spotty officiating, but they can keep their heads held high and continue to work toward the future.  With the taste of defeat in my mouth, Eli and I call it a night in an effort to preserve our bodies for the big day that lay ahead of us.

As usual, I didn't get much sleep.  I've never been able to get much sleep the night before gameday, and it's only been magnified by all of the traveling.  Luckily, my body runs on adrenaline when the Seahawks are playing, and that natural rush of blue and green energy keeps me going even when my mind thinks I might be done.  Despite all the adrenaline, my body still needs food, and Eli's landlord, Jason, came through in the clutch for us with some breakfast from Jack in the Box.  Jason's another huge Seahawks fan, and you can tell that his love for the team is real, as he speaks with unrivaled passion and knowledge about all things Seahawks.  He and his wife Amy would be sitting with us to help cheer on the home team to victory.

We had all had a good time talking Seahawks and life the night before, whether it be talking about reality or hypothetical scenario's in which the Seahawks take over the entire NFL.  As the four of us boarded the LightRail towards the stadium, we knew that the time for chilling and shooting the breeze was over.  Despite still being unemployed, there was still a job to be done that day, and that job was to give the Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos hell all day long!  Much like the week before in San Diego, it was unseasonably warm for a day in mid September.  However, field temperatures wouldn't be approaching temperatures of 120 degrees, so thankfully it wouldn't be a factor in the outcome of the game.

As per my pregame ritual, we dropped in at Temple Billiards and had a drink with Todd, Dom, Matt, Jordan and some of the usual faces that have become a staple of my life.  After exchanging pleasantries, we quickly got down to business.  Our attention turned toward today's game and whether or not the Seahawks could pull this one off.  After last week's disappointing performance, many didn't know.  And some even thought that the Broncos just couldn't lose this game if they had any shred of self-respect.  Even yours truly felt that the Broncos might steal this one and that I wouldn't be worried with the 'Hawks sitting at 1-2 heading into the bye week because I knew that they are capable of going on a major winning streak at any time.  We finished our drinks, said our goodbyes, and started what has become my favorite of all-time.

The walk down Occidental towards the stadium, that's when I really start getting hyped up.  There are street performers all around, Seahawks fans swarming from all angles with a few traveling fans sprinkled about, and music of all kinds being played by local talents just trying to earn an honest buck.  Eli and I and the rest of our gameday crew head through security and around the stadium to our seats in the South End Zone.  We get there just in time, as the Seahawks defense is being introduced as we make our way down to our seats.

Sitting in the South End Zone is quite the experience.  It feels almost like you're at a party and there just so happens to be a football game being played for your entertainment.  There's an intense and positive feeling in the air, and it's a vibe that you hope will last for eternity.  Once in our seats, we see Charles.  Charles sits behind Eli's seats and is another cool Seahawks fan whom I met at the Rams game in Week 17 last season.

As player introductions ended, and as Nate Robinson hoisted the 12th Man Flag to get things underway, I couldn't help but think of how lucky I was and how I had to cherish this moment because not everyone could be so fortunate.  In particular, I thought of my buddy Leif.  In my mind, he's the biggest Seahawks fan I know and he exemplifies what every Seahawks fan should be and should strive to be.  Two years ago, it was he that asked allowed if anyone had planned to go to every game.  At the time, something in me told to spring into action and answer his call.  The rest of history, but let it be known that none of this might have ever happened if not for my buddy Leif.
Unfortunately, Leif was assaulted and seriously injured a few weeks prior.  Originally, Eli had planned for Leif and I to sit with him in section 124.  Life had other plans and the original Seahawks road warrior would not be able to join us.  Although he was recovering slowly, odds are it wouldn't be a great idea to watch a game at the CLink in such physical condition.  It was a devastating blow, as I knew how much being at this game would mean to him.  As the Broncos got ready to open the game with a kickoff to Percy Harvin, my thoughts were elsewhere as I thought of my friend and how I hoped the Seahawks pulled this one out for him.

As the ball flew through the air and into the waiting arms of Percy Harvin for a touchback, my mind quickly jumped back into focus.  The Super Bowl rematch that everyone was talking about was finally here.  A feeling of deja vu quickly sweeps over the record crowd on hand as Montee Ball turns over the ball on a fumble.  Once again, disaster had struck on the Broncos opening play from scrimmage.  As the first half continued, a similar story began to play out as the one that had in New Jersey in February.  Although the Broncos were definitely a much tougher side defensively than the one the Seahawks dispatched of in the Super Bowl, offensively they still couldn't seem to figure out the enigma that was the Seattle Seahawks defense.

Eli and I joke that Terrelle Pryor should have learned how to catch and he could have been the one catching passes from Jermaine Kearse.  We absolutely loved the pass to Wilson and it reminded me of the pass he caught for a touchdown at Wisconsin, only down the sideline.  It wasn't a great throw from Kearse but it got the job done and got the crowd going.  An even better play from the first half was when Russell Wilson found Ricardo Lockette streaking past Aqib Talib down the sideline for a 39 yard touchdown pass.  The play developed right in front of us in the South End Zone and words can't express the joy I was filled with when he came down with the ball just a few feet away.  I'll try though, it was athleticism personified.  It took going to a Seahawks game to a whole new level.  Getting to watch Beast Mode line up at receiver and catch a touchdown pass was pretty damn awesome too.

It's halftime now, and the scoreboard reads 17-3, Seahawks.  After a week of wondering whether the Seahawks would be able to answer the bell, it appeared that our concerns had been alleviated.  As they say, winning is the magic elixir, and that appeared to be the case on this day as well.  Then, inexplicably, the Seahawks did everything they could to give the Broncos the game.
No, I'm not talking about on the field.  At the half the Seahawks revealed a new version of their mascot Blitz and even a new sidekick for Blitz that goes by the name of Boom.  It was obvious that this messed with the Seahawks, as they came back from the halftime interval and slowly began letting the Broncos back into it.  Numerous stalled drives, a safety, and an untimely interception deep in their own territory among other things, meant that we had a ballgame on our hands again.  Things were looking bleak and it was time for a hero to stand up and save the day.

With time waning in the fourth quarter and Seahawks fans everywhere at the edge of their collective seats, that hero appeared in the form of a 6'3" 235 pound "deathbacker", as Eli has awesomely coined.  Kam Chancellor leaps into the air and robs Manning's pass intended for Wes Welker.  For his troubles, Welker is absolutely leveled by Earl Thomas, as Kam Chancellor zips down the sideline to set up the Seahawks with excellent field position.  The man who's face graced the ticket for the day's game had just proven to be a man of his word.  Kam said earlier in the week that when life gives you a whooping, you just get up and keep fighting.  Well, that's exactly what Kam did on this day.

We absolutely lose our minds in jubilation, and for a second the pain in my head is killing me.  Must be the combination of yelling and constant, deafening crowd noise.  With the score at 17-12, Steven Hauschka adds another field goal to his tally and puts the 'Hawks up 20-12 with just about a minute left in the game.  The ending seems a foregone conclusion at this point.  With no timeouts left, 59 seconds to work with, and 80 yards to march, the Broncos hopes seemed dashed.

However, there's a reason why Peyton Manning's going to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio once his playing days are over.  I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, but there it was.  In 41 seconds the Broncos managed to march down the field, and after a 26 yard strike from Peyton to Jacob Tamme of all people, the game was now only a 2 point game!  The crowd rose to it's feet for what we hoped would be one last stand.  The Broncos needed this 2 point conversion in order to send the game into overtime, an outcome that seemed highly unlikely just minutes earlier.  My head begins to throb again as CenturyLink live's up to it's billing as the loudest stadium in the country.

Still, despite the amazing wave of noise, it isn't enough.  Demaryius Thomas makes an amazing grab while also managing to get his two feet in bounds to tie the game.  The crowd falls silent, stunned by what we had just witnessed.  As the Seahawks offense takes the field to take the customary kneel-down to end regulation, I can't help but notice how unflappable Russell Wilson appears to be in this moment.  He claps his hands after the final knee, and hands the ball to the official, seemingly poised for an opportunity to win the game in overtime.
The man would get his chance, as Peyton Manning clearly subscribes to the "tails never fails" theory.  Only it did on this day in the Pacific Northwest.

The Seahawks won the toss and their brave leader embraced the opportunity.  Aided by some excellent playcalling from Darrell Bevell, and some timely, tough running by the man they call 'Beast Mode', Russell Wilson marched the Seahawks down the field.  Most impressive was Russell's ability to scramble and pick up key first down's to keep the drive in tact.  After some nice plays that resulted in big gains to Percy Harvin and birthday boy, Doug Baldwin, The Seahawks were in position to win this seesaw affair.  As Marshawn Lynch leaped through the air and landed in the endzone, the referee signaled touchdown and the crowd went wild!  Despite giving away the lead, the resilient Seahawks had bounced back and won it in overtime, 26-20.

We watched the players run towards the tunnel, some with the look of relief on their faces and others jubilant after a tough, hard-fought victory.  In the stands, we felt a bit of the same.  Sure, the Seahawks probably should never have been in such a situation, but at the end of the day they earned the W the hard way, and that's all that really matters in the NFL.  These type of character building wins will all be appreciated in January.  My thoughts shift to my buddy Leif one last time, as we head for the exit's.  I'm just glad they pulled this one out for him.

Unfortunately for me, a redeye to Newark meant that any postgame celebrating would have to be kept to a minimum.  Eli, Jason, Amy, and I grab a drink at the Hawk's Nest before I meet up with Jordan at Temple for one more.  Everyone is pleased with the win and hopeful that the bye week is coming at exactly the right time, despite being earlier in the season than most would usually prefer.  When all was said and done, I headed for the LightRail to catch my flight at Sea-Tac.

As I waited for my flight to take off, I couldn't help but think of how proud I was of this team.  Despite the negativity all week, with their backs up against the wall, and despite the poor performance in San Diego, they were able to answer the bell and not only did they just answer the bell, they came back fighting just like champions do.  I vowed to never underestimate how important heart is, ever again.

We took off and despite the uncertainty and unemployment, I was still here.  I had just witnessed an amazing game where the Seahawks showed the world what makes them so great.  Now, the future seemed bright again.  With a conveniently placed bye week coming up, I now knew that everything would be alright.  I had been through the lowest lows and more good times lay ahead.  Just stick with the plan.  I drifted off into sleep, the nightmare of last week behind me, replaced by sweeter dreams of Kam Chancellor interceptions and Marshawn Lynch touchdowns.  Balance had been restored to the universe.