The time was late 1991. The place was my couch. It was late Tuesday night and I was up with the television and no plans. On screen was an ex-pat American TV host named Don Lane, well known to most Australians. But Don wasn’t doing his national talk show. Instead, he was hosting a program about American football, a weekly program of NFL highlights. I watched, transfixed, as this complicated and unfamiliar new sport shone into my darkened room. I was 23 years old. And I was back again next week for more.
Because I was so fascinated I didn’t feel the need to choose a team. The season flew by and I knew who I hated* but there were a lot of teams I didn’t mind. In week 17 I finally put my top half-dozen teams in a hat. As I reached in I became very aware that the process was irrelevant, there was only one team - there had only ever been one team. And when the slip of paper said ‘Seahawks’ it simply meant I wouldn’t have to ignore the result.
But the season was over, which was a real bitch. No more Seahawks for nine months. And this was pre-internet so there was no access to any information about the team. I finally found a sports book store which sold NFL football cards, so I could at least have some names and faces to learn: Cortez Kennedy, Brian Blades, Eugene Robinson, Terry Wooden, Roert Blackmon, Joe Nash, Patrick Hunter, Dave Wyman, etc etc etc. These guys are burned into my brain. Even Kelly Stouffer.
To keep learning about the sport I bought every book I could find, and there were a few at that time. When I found a local league here in Melbourne I signed up, even though I hadn’t played a team sport since primary school. I played cornerback in a preseason game, and proved myself no athlete. But I remember a guy in the locker room passing around a copy of USA Today with details of the draft (the what?). I saw that the Seahawks had drafted Ray Roberts, Tackle. The draft sounded cool. Then I found out about Madden, the only place where my athleticism matches my idealism.
Finally the long winter of 1992 ended and next season came and kapow, the Seahawks lost 14 games and won only 2. Every week I’d scour USA Today for details, and stay up after midnight to watch and tape the highlights on Don’s show, even when I knew we’d lost 45-0 or whatever. I still have the article about the last minute win over the Broncos when Robb Thomas caught a deep pass. It was so shiny and wonderful it made up for all the losses. Then came the next draft and Rick Mirer, and you know the rest.
At some point I subscribed to Inside The Seahawks, a fan newspaper which had articles, interviews and photos, and which popped my brain. On my honeymoon in 1994 I called their head office to find out who we drafted. The surprised guy (you’re calling from where?) explained that the 49ers had moved up to steal Bryant Young from us and we had to settle for the less-heralded Sam Adams. I found a way to feel ok about that.
Soon the internet made following the team ridiculously easy, and even though I’d be lucky to see even one Seahawks game on TV each year I felt I knew the team intimately. In April 2002 I made my first trip to Seattle (I was in America for a film festival in Houston). The team graciously allowed my wife & I to tag along with some season ticket holders and walk around the half-finished new stadium. It was amusing and fun for all of us. I was also in town when we drafted Jerramy Stevens, not necessarily something to remember fondly.
Last year, when I finally had a little unexpected cash and a hole in my heart, I flew to Seattle for my first Seahawks games. They were wonderful, the city was wonderful, and what has seemed so impossibly distant for so long finally began to feel close and familiar. I’ll write more about the trip later but its impact was deep and moving. It got me thinking I can actually share the many Seahawky thoughts which buzz through my head. I’m not such a stranger anymore.
Then yesterday, another sublime moment. After I’d written about Pete Carroll’s absorbing Q & A session the day before I woke to find he’d sent me a tweet:
I find that pretty cool. What time is it, indeed.
In short: it’s about time.
* Cowboys (America’s Team, wtf?), Redskins (Redskins? WTF??), Buffalo Bills (that man should not be honoured like this), Patriots (“patriotism is the first refuge of the scoundrel”), Broncos (Elway), Raiders (morons), Browns (Browns?? Lol)
Note. We don’t talk about Superbowl XL in happy blogs like this one.