So, I have to come right out and say it: I was an English major in college, and I’m in graduate school now for an English-related degree. I love stories, plot arcs, characters and their development. I love Hemingway’s terse sentences and e.e. cummings’s nonsensical-sensical verbosity. Lewis Caroll’s word-puzzles and riddles will always be more interesting to me than a baseball game (sorry, Mariners). Still, I’ve been something of a reluctant “fan-by-association” of the Seahawks, Mariners, Cougars, and whoever else my family follows, my whole life. Washington State, though, isn’t exactly known for its victory dances. In fact, the most glorious sports moment I ever witnessed was when the Mariners won the AL Division series in 1995, back in the golden years of Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey Jr. But I’m not gonna lie, I was six years old at the time, and to this day, the most interesting thing about that is the Macklemore song on the topic.
In fact, to get by in my life, I never needed to like sports. I was almost proud of the fact that I didn’t care. After all, It’s really cool to not like football. I used to be one of those, “Why the heck do they keep updating me with super irrelevant stats about a sport I don’t understand and a team I don’t care about. Even now,I can’t log into Facebook on gameday without reading another status to the effect of, “Casually not caring as football season starts,” “So, my wall is full of game updates and I’m just sitting here like \(._.)/,” or even, “How low would my IQ have to be to get into this broo-ha-ha?” (Okay, I admit. It didn’t say broo-ha-ha. But this is a family friendly blog!) Basically, a lot of my English Major, “intellectual” type friends are above football.
I was that same pseudo-“intellectual!” I was very “cool” to give no hecks about football. Trendy, even. But then, on that fateful day in December, a bestie of mine, who I’ve known since my early days in Seattle (we go back to 2007) insisted we go to a divey bar to watch a football game. I was spending the night with her, but really didn’t care to watch the game. I even texted a friend named Derek, “Blah, about to go watch the Seahawks. I hate football.” He wrote back (and I quote), “I love football. I do not love that comment.”
But I could not be stirred. I went to the dive-bar with the ambition of getting homework done. I had no idea that this one game with the 49ers would change the way I saw football, and my place in the franchise.
Melissa and I ordered some dive-y bar food and a pitcher and sat down to watch the game. The game itself was a disappointment – we lost 11-2, and the two San Fran fans in the room were standing up and screaming at every disheartening moment. They had their jerseys on and they were waving their jackets in the air, and every other person in the bar was glaring, and for the first time in my life I understood what was at stake.
It’s the same with stories – the thing that makes them good is the tension or implied tension between characters, actions, and movements. For a story to be effective, we must know what the character wants, as well as what stands between her and getting it. Something has to be at stake – whether a marriage, a homecoming crown, a job, whatever. All this works for the plot-based story.
What is at stake when the Seahawks play? At last, I understand – it’s glory. It’s the fact that someone is fighting for you. Not just you, but your city, your state, all this, yes, but more than that, it becomes personal. You have a champion. A lot of things in life are uncertain. A lot of times, the little guy feels bogged down, or like a cog in a machine, but when the Seahawks play, it doesn’t matter how I did at work or what short story got rejected or accepted, whether that guy liked or didn’t like me, what matters is there’s Richard Sherman flying in from the outside like a glorious, neon green and navy angel, for the sack.
But the type of writing I love is the literary story. It isn’t just the plot, it’s the characters. And once I realized what unbelievable, glorious, stranger than fiction characters we have in the Seattle Seahawks, I was hooked. Think of Russell Wilson. He prays before games. He talks about Jesus. He visits kids in hospitals. This is a good guy, a strong man with solid moral fiber. This is our protagonist. Then we have Richard Sherman, easily the most talked-about player in football, one of the more controversial, and undoubtably, the best corner in the league. And he’ll let you know it in a heartbeat. Richard is the Wildcard. His 29-second rant was the most talked-about thing for weeks after we nailed the Niners on January 19th.
I would have to say that Richard Sherman is one of the main reasons I got into football. The intensity with which he spoke, the clarity and purpose and drive behind his articulation of the facts, is what made him alluring. “DON’T YOU EVER TALK ABOUT ME! DON’T YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH ABOUT THE BEST! LOB!!!!!”
Man, how often do we wish we could say this to the people who step on us or piss us off? And here we’ve won the game that takes us to the Superbowl, the strongest team in the league, which originally came into the season with a 17/2 chance of winning the Superbowl, tied with ITSELF for the record of double-digit wins, and Richard is having NONE of your bullshit. I mean broo-ha-ha.
As I continued to look at what was going on here, and to understand how football works, and how the characters and the players in the game create meaning, and how that meaning translates into our lives, and the way that victory impacts us as a culture and a people group, I realized that I love this. I love the strategy and the plays. Do I understand it? Not really. I’m only beginning to understand its complexity now. But I LOVE when we run a trick play. I love watching Richard Sherman’s face after a ref makes a bad call. And I love the idea that a victory for the Seahawks is a victory for the entire Legion of Boom, and the 12th man plays a role in that.
The Seahawks have the best team in the league. We’re the strongest, the fastest, the youngest, and the most interesting. I’ve never really been the strongest or the fastest or the most interesting at anything. But all of a sudden, by association with a team that I love, I partake in their glorious victories. This also means I have a staggering stake in their defeats. It’s not easy to watch a team you love fumble the ball. But damn, if we don’t all fumble sometimes. If we don’t have some of our best plays intercepted. And damn if we haven’t all, at one point or another, wanted to shout, eyes directly into a camera, “DON’T YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH ABOUT THE BEST.” It’s just that not all of us can do that. But I can be a part of it when the Seattle Seahawks make that statement, because that’s what being part of the LOB, 12th man community is.