Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Heartache is Over

My first heartbreak came in 1994.  It was the first time I had really followed a team.  Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Kendall Gill, Detlef Schrempf, Nate McMillan, Sam Perkins were all my guys.  The Sonics had the best record in the NBA, most home wins, most road wins.  It was looking like it would be a championship season.  But it wasn't to be, they lost to the Denver Nuggets in the first round.  It was horrible.  I just remember celebrating Mother's Day at the park and being in tears.  How could this happen?

Ninety-five ended in another first round exit for the Sonics, but 95 was the year for the Mariners.  I wasn't really a baseball fan, but the Mariner/Yankee series was truly exciting baseball, and though I wasn't emotionally vested in the team I did enjoy watching them.  But the miracles they pulled off late in the season didn't extend to the next round.

In 1996 the Sonics finally made it to the NBA finals, but it was also the year Michael Jordan decided to unretire and dominate the league again.  The Sonics just weren't as good as Michael Jordan and the Bulls (and Dennis Rodman was so frustrating).

By 2001 I had been dating Floyd for a while, and we frequently watched Sportscenter over and over and I had become more of a baseball fan.  2001 was a great year for the Mariners.  They won a record setting 116 games in the regular season.  Ichiro, Boone, Buhner, Freddy Garica, Carlos Guillen, Jamie Moyer were unbeatable and fun to watch, but they didn't make it to the World Series. That was a real tough one.

2005 was the year for the Seahawks.  The Seahawks had never been good in my memory, but that year they were.  Hasselbeck, and Shaun Alexander led the team to the Super Bowl. It was the worst officiated game ever.  There were so many game impacting bad calls that still make me sick to my stomach.  It was horrible, and left me feeling like there was no way a major Seattle sports team would ever win a championship--we were cursed.

Then I had kids and it was harder to watch sports.  Seahawks made the playoffs some years and some they didn't.  The Sonics were stolen and moved to Oklahoma.  The Mariners were terrible.  Floyd and I did make it to the playoff game versus the Saints where we were a part of the Beast Quake in 2011 when Marshawn Lynch made his epic run (that video gives me chills), but I still missed a lot of games that year and only followed them loosely.

Toward the end of last year I felt like I had more time to watch football, and Russell Wilson was amazing. He was a rookie quarterback, surprise draft pick that everyone thought was horrible, he was short, and he was amazing.  They won the Wild Card game and the NFC championship game was one of the craziest up-and-down games I had ever watched.  They were so close to pulling off the come back of a life time, but didn't quite manage.  When that game ended I knew that the next year would be our year (and re-watching those highlights I can see how much better the Seahawks were this year).  I could just feel that this Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll had the champion mentality, and this was the year that Seattle could have a world championship.

We were so excited for football to start.  For the first time ever I watched preseason games (which they won).  The 12th Man is the perfect marketing strategy because it makes you feel like you are an important part of the team.  We went to a couple games and really felt like we influenced the game and that we had a job to do (and it was exhausting).  The whole season was a perfectly written story.  There were games with amazing comebacks.  We smashed our biggest rival the 49ers at home, but then barely lost to them when we were away.  Commentators claimed that the Seahawks defense just hadn't played a good offense and thought the Saints would prove that, and we throttled them.

Then it was the NFC championships, Seahawks versus the 49ers.  It had to be that way as a huge rivaly had developed between the two teams and fans from each team played it out.  I was worried about the game.
The 49ers were on a roll and were looking good.  The teams matched up well against each other and I knew it would be a tough game. It was one of the most exciting games ever, and a bit stressful too.  The last play of the game decided who won, and it was truly awesome.

Whereas I was worried about the NFC championship game I wasn't as concerned about the Super Bowl. The commentators once again tried to say that our defense probably couldn't handle a truly great offense, but I didn't believe them--and I was right.  It was the most dominating performance of the year.  It was euphoric.

The great thing is I can live the moments over and over.  I have watched the NFC championship game 4 times.  I have watched the Super Bowl game twice.  We dragged the kids to downtown Seattle to the parade despite hating crowds and knowing we probably wouldn't be able to see much.  I have listened to way too many commercials on sports radio for just the chance to hear something about the Seahawks.

I wonder why do I like this so much?  Why does this victory feel like a great life moment.  Why did I feel so much heartache when other teams lost?

I was listening to the TEDRadio hour podcast the other day and there was a segment on Mark Pagel's Ted talk about humans, language, and whether it brings us together or drives us apart.  He said that we developed language because we are social and needed a way to communicate with each other, but if that is so, then why did we develop so many different languages?  He pointed out that language is used as a clear way to delineate who is in your tribe and who is not.  Your language helps you communicate with those in your tribe and it prevents you from communicating with those not in your tribe. Humans are tribal.  This is why I get really attached to my sports teams.  It is a way for tribalism to manifest itself in my life. It is why watching my sports team win magnifies feelings of euphoria so much more than watching an individual athlete I like.  It is why the 12th Man has been so huge in Seattle.  I feel like there were so many more Seahawk fans this year then there were in 2005.  I think it is the 12th Man combined with the internet.  Facebook and Twitter has allowed our tribe to be bigger and unite more thickly.  It has been such an awesome experience and I am so thankful I have finally got to experience it, that I got to experience it with so many more people, and to be able to relive it over and over because I can easily record my TV, watch Sportscenter, listen to the radio, read it on the internet, and talk about it on Facebook.