While I’ve written a few times before about my own ambivalent relationship with the game of football, this is not one of those times. Because my team played an incredible game on Saturday, and I’m still bouncing around with joy over the many amazing feats of skill and athleticism that I got to watch (sometimes multiple times–and not always because of replay!).
I grew up in the Central Rocky Mountain region, where most people were fans of the Denver Broncos, Denver being the closest city with an NFL team to most of those places. There were always some people who were fans of other teams for various reasons. After my parents divorced, Mom, my oldest sister, and I moved from the Central Rockies to southwest Washington state. We moved in August of 1976. The same month that a brand new NFL expansion team called the Seahawks started playing their first pre-season games. I came to Washington the same time that the Seahawks came into existence as the state’s NFL team, so I’ve been here from the beginning.
Although I had rooted for the Broncos in the past, I hadn’t been a real fan, because I didn’t understand the game. My dad got extremely angry when I, as a kid, asked what was going on on the field. So I stopped asking. And at school, the correlation between whether a guy was a football player and whether he was someone who bullied me was very high. So it was new friends I met after moving to Washington who explained the game to me as they watched Seahawks games on Sunday afternoons.
I became a Seahawks fan during the team’s first season. And for most of the subsequent 38 seasons, our guys kept finding new and excruciating ways to give us hope, and then snatch it away from us. Which is why up until almost the end of last year’s Superbowl, even when we were so far ahead of the Broncos it was almost embarrassing, I couldn’t let myself believe we were actually going to win it.
So it’s still more than a little bit unbelievable, as we prepare to play the Conference Championship game next week, that we’ve not only managed to put together a really good team and win the whole thing last year, but that we have a reasonable chance of repeating it this year. And some of our guys are unbelievable. Such as Kam Chancellor, who plays Strong Safety on the Seahawks, who usually delivers an astounding performance was especially unbelievable this last weekend.
I mean, just watch this perfectly timed leap:
Anyone who has watched much track and field or a good Parkour athlete knows that the leap itself isn’t unbelievable. What is amazing is the circumstance. In order to do that, you have to correctly guess the moment that the Center on the other team is going to snap the ball. Which they are actively trying to surprise you about the timing of it. If he starts running too soon, he crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped and gets a penalty. If if starts too late, the ball gets snapped a fraction of a second before he gets there, and the lineman will surge up to their feet.
He has to hit his leap in that fraction of a second between when the ball is snapped and when the other players react to the snap. He pulled it off, but because of a penalty elsewhere on the play, the referees stopped the game. The ball was moved five yards, everyone got in position again… and even though they were expected it, he did it again!
And that wasn’t even his most amazing play. That was when he intercepted one of their passes at the ten-yard line and ran the ball 90-yards to score a touchdown.
Kam was not the only Seahawk doing incredible things on the field that day. And to be fair, a number of the Panthers did some amazing things. Just not enough.
One of the things I enjoy about the playoffs is that, because it’s only the teams that did best during the year that are playing, and everyone is trying their hardest, you see a lot of good hard playing on every team in every game. So I watched Sunday’s playoff games. Since I used to be a Bronco’s fan, I try to catch their games when I can. I wanted to root for them, not because I want a re-match in the Superbowl, but just for old times’ sake. But the Colts were playing really well. The Packers/Cowboys game turned out how I hoped, since I’ve never liked the Cowboys (for reasons that are no less silly than rooting for the team that just happens to play in your city), but it was also fun to watch.
Humans are able to do some amazing things. Particularly working together. And playing a good game of football requires skills, strength, and endurance, but also quick thinking, strategy, and the willingness to work as a team. So part of the enjoyment is watching people do some amazing, and sometimes breath-taking things. And it can be just as inspiring to watch someone try and almost succeed, only failing because on that play, at that moment, one or more of the players on the other team was just a little bit faster, or a little bit luckier.
Then there are moments, like one time I was watching one of my favorite players, Marshawn Lynch, run one of his impossible carries, where four or five or more of the other guys had tackled him, but they hadn’t managed to knock him down, and he just kept moving, dragging them along. The camera had caught the grim and frightening determined expression on his face earlier in the play. And then at the end, once it was over, Marshawn climbed to his feet, grinning and laughing. He reached down, offering a hand up to one of the guys who had just tackled him. And they gave each other congratulatory slaps on the back before heading to their opposite sidelines.
The fact that we humans can do that, is pretty awesome, too.