"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.
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.