The Journey Was The Point
Catharsis is a powerful feeling to me, if that’s even the way to describe it.
In an increasingly chaotic world (either the world becomes more chaotic, or you notice it more as you get older and have more responsibilities) I feel like I’m constantly chasing catharsis. Not necessarily chasing a high or “the dragon” but just longing for calm. The release of pent up feelings and emotions for once to just, come back down to earth and feel grounded. Maybe catharsis is the impatient person’s high. It’s the one opportunity to feel the relief of waiting, to release the repression, gratification at last.
Time allows for a hell of a lot of repression of feelings. Both good and bad. Waiting to achieve some semblance of success when seeing people around you not having to repress those feelings makes them ache. It makes them burn. But in theory, isn’t that what makes the catharsis worth it? Isn’t that why the sweet release becomes so sweet?
New Jersey is an objectively terrible place to host the Super Bowl, an event that famously takes place every year, in the winter. Even increasingly more bizarre to pretend that New York City is actually the host of the big game. Spending the entire week hosting events in Manhattan, miles away from MetLife Field. But hey, when has the NFL ever been reasonable?
Of course the league’s biggest day of the year, taking place in the country’s largest city and media market would turn out to be a total dud, featuring two relatively small-market teams both from west of the Mississippi River. Of course it would be over by half-time, or should I say, the first play after halftime, with most of the interested television audience switching the game off as a man waltzed into the end zone on only his second kickoff return of the entire season. The first, not quite as successful nor impactful.
But these were only the highlights and the peak of the story. At the end of the day it really was about the journey. We all thought that it was all about the mountain. I thought that it was about getting back to that mountain, hardly recognizing that it was the magic of the entire trip that should’ve been focused on.
Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner joined the Seattle Seahawks on the exact same day in 2012. Ten years later, after a dominant run; two Super Bowls, one of those a win, multiple division titles, and some of the best records the NFL has seen over a decade, they left Seattle on the exact same day. Maybe this was the way that it was always supposed to be. It just doesn’t feel like the ending they deserved in Seattle.
They weren’t the first two pieces to the puzzle, and you might not be wrong to say they were the last. They joined a stacked roster of defensive talent, Richard Sherman, Kameron Chancellor, and Earl Thomas. You may know them as the Legion of Boom. Not to mention the offensive talents of Marshawn Lynch, Russell Okung, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, and more. This Seahawks team was as stacked as could be headed into the 2012 season. They were if anything, a little young. They came oh so close to advancing to the NFC Championship game in the 2012 season, staging a remarkable comeback against the #1 seed Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round. We should have known that remarkable things would be the new norm around here. We didn’t know how good we had it.
The journey was as special as the view from the top of the mountain. From that first season in 2012 until 2015, and maybe even later, everything just felt like magic. The Seahawks were never truly out of a game. For the longest time (85 regular season games and 10 extra in the post season) they didn’t lose by more than 10 points. They didn’t lose a game in the first quarter, or the second quarter, the third quarter, and rarely the fourth quarter, for over five complete NFL seasons. We still didn’t know how good we had it. I’ll at least shine the light onto myself and say that I didn’t. The entire ride was much to our chagrin. That team never played a normal game, and we lauded it as a bad thing. In hindsight, it was a blessing.
After another full season of remarkable moments, offensive and defensive hijinks, the most amazing football you’ve ever seen a team consistently play it all started to unravel.
After the most tremendous, batshit crazy, against-all-odds comeback you’ve ever seen, disaster struck three quarters, 14 minutes, and 40 seconds later. Yep, you know what I’m talking about. The wheels fell off at the worst possible time in the worst possible way. Ironically, after one of the most magical, insane, and remarkable moments of them all thanks to that guy Russ and Jermaine Kearse. What happened next doesn’t matter anymore, it’s irrelevant, there’s no need bringing it up again. We’ve spent years dissecting it and re-living it anyways. In a nutshell, it was who that team was. A remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime moment, something that we could try to bottle up and capture, only to bobble it the entire way to the ground to catch it at the last fateful moment as we fall. Incredible, remarkable, and never again. Impossible to replicate, for the opposition impossible to retaliate. We lived through such a large stretch of time where the football team from Seattle just felt, inevitable. They were the stuff of legends in every way.
In a vacuum, Jermaine Kearse’s catch may have been as indicative as one single play can be for those Seattle Seahawks. The stupidest, most insane, low-odds play to be made at the most opportune possible time. Those happened all of the time in those days. We saw them at least once a week and didn’t even bat an eye at it. It became incredibly normal to see Kameron Chancellor leap over the opposing offensive line to stuff a field goal attempt down the kickers throat. That shit doesn’t just happen. And it used to happen all of the time.
The reason that I left out the details of the Second of February 2014 is that it deserves its own place in this story. It deserves to be the moment to truly stand alone amongst all of the other moments, because of all of the angst we shared over the close games, the close calls, and the agonizing losses, that day gave us the one thing that we longed for. Catharsis.
It had been 34 years since the city of Seattle had won a major sports title. When the SuperSonics defeated the Washington Bullets in the 1979 NBA Finals, the Seahawks were a few months away from starting their fourth NFL season. They wouldn’t feature in the postseason until 1983, they didn’t win the division until ‘88. Between that first AFC West title in ‘88 and their next in 1999, the Seattle Seahawks came within mere minutes of not existing at all, with the team packed and ready to move to Los Angeles in 1996. Bankrupt and planning to re-locate, the teams offices were even moved to Anaheim. They were saved one year later by the late Paul Allen.
Mike Holmgren was hired in 1999 to kickstart the road to the first success. It had been 22 years in Seattle, with no Super Bowl appearances and as many conference changes as conference title game appearances. That will lead to a lot of repressed feelings, waiting and begging to get out. Holmgren, Matt Hasselbeck, and Shaun Alexander led the team to Super Bowl XL, or as it is now remembered National Bill Leavy Makes Everything About Himself Day. Fire burns hotter when you come that close to the release, and it burns loud.
The city nearly exploded when Marshawn Lynch stumbled, rumbled, and stomped his way to the end zone during the 2010 Wild Card win against the New Orleans Saints. Always with a flair for the dramatic, this was after finishing the regular season 7–9.
But on that frigid first Sunday of February, it all came together at just the right time. The Seahawks 16th “championship day” of the 2013 season, and the single most important. Peyton Manning forgot how to catch a snap, Denver’s defense forgot how to tackle, their high-octane offense couldn’t string together a decent drive, the best Defense that the NFL has ever seen put together its magnum opus. Super Bowl MVP Malcom Smith had no one near him as he broke the goal line on an interception return to make the score 22–0 before halftime. Percy Harvin did his best Malcom Smith impersonation on the first play of the second half, and it was all over.
Catharsis. The sweet release. I hadn’t to that day (and haven’t since) watched a Seahawks game more calmly.
We were so used to riding the lightning. We were so used to seeing the remarkable. In a way it only makes sense that once it was time to climb to the peak of the mountain, everything would just finally click into place. The second half was just a further justification that this team was at its most dominant. The Seahawks were World Champions, Seattle’s wait to be Titletown again was finally over.
During his time in Seattle, Russell Wilson both figuratively and in some instances literally, owned the place. His #3 is as iconic in Seattle lore (not just Seattle sports lore, but Seattle lore) as the numbers 24, 51, 80, 20, and 10. Despite his physical height (who really knows for sure if he’s over six feet tall) he is larger than life. The savior of our beloved Seahawks, the magician with his arm and his feet, Russell Wilson could do no wrong. He was a vocal advocate to bring back the Sonics, he was constantly supporting the Mariners and Storm, he even became a part owner of the Sounders. Russ loved Seattle and Seattle loved Russ. He visited Seattle Children’s on a weekly basis, even virtually over the last two years. His impact can’t be understated on this city. An entire generation of Seattlites, Washingtonians, Pacific Northwesterners, and Seahawks fans all over the world will live better lives because we got to watch Russell Wilson play football for our team for 10 years.
Bobby Wagner is a freak of nature. He is a superhero in real life. One of the best if not the best defensive players and most gifted all-around football players that we’ve ever seen. As dominant a leader and a presence on the football field that Seattle will miss so dearly. The perfect embodiment of that Seahawks team for so long. An inevitability. 8 time First-Team All Pro, 6 Pro Bowls, Bobby Wagner can tackle anything.
I’ve been laboring over writing this for days. I wanted to say something, I just really didn’t know how. When I sit down to write these, I try to dump my heart and soul into them. I try to help readers understand why this shit is so important to me, why it matters, and what it feels like. But for some reason in this instance I just couldn’t find the words.
I remember all the feelings, I’ll never forget them, I just can’t figure out how to put them into words, and onto here. We’ll try to explain it to our kids, to future generations, but you just can’t. You had to be there. You had to feel it. I know I did. Thank God that I was there.
I saw it all, I felt it all, and I was so spoiled to be around for what we witnessed for the last decade in Seattle, even though I wasn’t physically here for the whole ride. What a fucking ride it was.
Thanks Russell, and thanks Bobby, for everything. We had a hell of a lot of fun, didn’t we?
I’m just glad I was there.