NEW YORK – Someone forwarded me an article this week that really captured the delirium in Seattle, depicting a region fallen madly in love with its sports team.
It spoke of fans straining their vocal cords on “literally every … single …” play. Of a place where in a short span, everyone has suddenly become a lifelong fan. Where chatter about the team “is as common as rain and espresso machines.” Virtually all other news has been “shoved to the back pages.” Local TV anchors talk “breathlessly” about the players.
The article concludes, “It seems like the city’s entire population is watching and listening — closely.”
Yep, that pretty much nails Seahawks mania. Except the article, which appeared on Oct. 12, 1995 in The Akron Beacon Journal, is describing the Mariners’ “Refuse To Lose” playoff run.
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My take-away: Savor this moment. As the Super Bowl kickoff approaches on this national holiday and local day of equal parts revelry and angst, drink it in. Allow yourself to wallow in the pure joy of sharing a common goal with virtually every neighbor — strangers united in trying to will the Seahawks to victory.
These come along ever so rarely, when the confluence of an appealing, eclectic group of players, in pursuit of a championship, captures the heart and soul of a city.
And to think how fleeting it can be, just ponder the current plight of the Mariners, who once owned this town and now are fighting to gain back relevancy.
These Seahawks, young and talented and built for the long haul, believe they will be in position for many more Super Bowl appearances. But here’s another reason to savor the potential of this day: You can only win your first title once.
A national audience is finding out, upon closer inspection, what a compelling group of individuals comprise the Seahawks roster.
The undersized quarterback, composed beyond his years. The outspoken defensive back whose swagger can’t overshadow an inspiring rise from Compton to Stanford. The reticent running back with street smarts and relentless effort. The overlooked wide receiver who burns to prove his worth. The deaf fullback and, of course, the energetic 62-year-old coach who makes it all work.
It’s all fresh stuff, because not one Seattle player has appeared in a Super Bowl (though seldom-used receiver Ricardo Lockette was on the 49ers’ roster last year).
But you can only be fresh once, too. Eventually, those cool stories get familiar and overplayed, and fans and the media look for the next new thing.
That’s down the road, however. Right now, the Seahawks are poised to remain a focal team nationally. They have all the elements — just enough likability to win some people over, and just enough controversy to make the rest pay attention. And enough young talent to keep them playing at a high level for at least the foreseeable future, despite the NFL’s thirst for parity.
With the Richard Sherman postgame outburst, the Marshawn Lynch media furor, and a lightning rod like Pete Carroll at the helm, they are a team that already invokes strong reactions. And there’s a certain perverse satisfaction in that, too, given the normal resignation to the fact no one pays much attention to our remote outpost in Southern Alaska.
Somehow, Carroll and John Schneider built a team that transcended the geographical isolation, and savor that fact, too. Savor the camaraderie that has allowed this disparate group of players, most with a shoulder-chip from being perceived as undersized, under-talented, or some other sort of problem, to thrive.
“We have a bunch of guys that are growing up together as a team,’’ Carroll said. “It comes together to try to do something special, rallying around the brotherhood of it all. It’s very exciting to see how it can be in such different formats and makeups. You can still get championship play coming out of your locker room.”
That talk might tend to make you roll your eyes, except that the Seahawks buy into it 100 percent.
“It feels good when you’re out there competing with guys that you’re close to, guys that I look up to as brothers,’’ linebacker Bobby Wagner said.
“The chemistry is amazing,’’ added defensive end Michael Bennett. “The difference between us and a lot of different teams in the NFL is that we actually care about each other. We’ve got love for each other. We know each other’s families. We know each other’s wives. We play like that, like we actually care about each other, and that’s what makes us so good.”
It’s also what allows them to constructively rip into a teammate who is not living up to those standards, with no backlash or hard feelings.
“It’s hard sometimes,’’ said cornerback Byron Maxwell, “when you’ve got to come to that person and say, ‘Get it together.’ If you don’t hang out, if you don’t have that type of relationship, you can’t do that. He might take it the wrong way. You need that in a team.”
Put it all together, and you have a vibe within the Seahawks that pulsates with energy, and a connection to the fans that somehow has conveyed the impression that they are all in this together.
“This is legendary, I feel like,’’ said safety Earl Thomas.
But as golden and as stable and as solid as it all might feel now, it won’t last forever. So embrace it while you’ve got it. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @StoneLarry