Life comes at you fast, just like football. But with perseverance, toughness and a great fanbase (or Savior) at your back, anything is possible. Just don’t expect it to be easy (especially if you’re a Seahawks fan).
But, why watch football at all? I have my own answers (your results may vary).
To me, football is war without guns; epic poetry with violence; a brutal ballet.
As Willa Cather wrote:
Of course it [football] is brutal. So is Homer brutal, and Tolstoi; that is, they all alike appeal to the crude savage instincts of men. We have not outgrown all our old animal instincts yet, heaven grant we never shall! The moment that, as a nation, we lose brute force, or an admiration for brute force, from that moment poetry and art are forever dead among us, and we will have nothing but grammar and mathematics left.
The only way poetry can ever reach one is through one’s brute instincts. “Charge of the Light Brigade,” or “How they brought good news to Aix,” move us in exactly the same way that one of Mr. Shue’s runs or Mr. Yont’s touchdowns do, only not half so intensely. A good football game is an epic, it rouses the oldest part of us. Poetry is great only in that it suggests action and rouses great emotions. The world gets all its great enthusiasms and emotions from pure strains of sinew.
Football is a game of yards and inches. It’s men pushed to the limits of human athletic achievement, hurling themselves into the fray, either after a ball, toward the goal, or to protect a teammate, with no thought to how they land, or what happens afterward (except for making sure those toes tap in bounds). It’s a pure team sport. No ball is thrown or caught or run without a teammate being willing to throw himself into harm’s way.
It’s as mental as physical, a contest of strategy, physics, sinews and muscles, speed and power. Stoic about pain, the players are stoic about nothing else. Victory or loss is etched in their body language and faces, whether hurling themselves in the air with joy or sinking, head between knees, into a dejected hump on the sidelines.
It’s deeply rooted in faith. The media might have you think Tim Tebow was the only overtly Christian player, but that’s dead wrong.
Just looking at the current starting QB crop, for example, there’s Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Carson Wentz and Nick Foles (Eagles), Drew Brees (Saints), Matt Ryan (Falcons), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins), Joe Flacco (Ravens), Andy Dalton (Bengals), Marcus Mariota (Titans), Sam Darnold (Jets), Derek Carr (Raiders), Jared Goff (Rams), Kirk Cousins (Vikings), Philip Rivers (Chargers), Deshaun Watson (Texans), Alex Smith (Redskins), Mitch Trubisky (Bears), Case Keenum (Broncos), Dak Prescott (Cowboys) … and that’s just one position (apologies to anyone I forgot).
I root for the Seahawks, and not because I’m from Seattle. They’re not my team by birth or geography, but by choice. I’m a happy 12, part of the fandom called, collectively, the 12th Man. Any team that’s entered the deafening crucible of CenturyLink Field in Seattle knows just how effective the 12s are at drowning out even your innermost thoughts (and they’re pretty good at the local Seahawks bar in Culver City as well). While our QB may not be tall enough or fast enough, he’s got a faith bigger than any stadium — and a fan base who are (like Jesus) behind him with all they’ve got.
As a revert to Catholicism, I had to do a deep dive to get up to speed on the history and tenets of the Faith. It’s the same with football. In earnest since 2012 (when I discovered NFL Network), I’ve been schooling myself.
Lately, I’ve also been digging into Seahawks history (I highly recommend this group of excellent videos). If I wondered whether the team’s tendency to start slow and end strong, to win, most of the time, with heart-stopping, last-second heroics, to be scruffy and scrappy and tough, was a recent thing — I wonder no more. At least in the era of coach Pete Carroll, it isn’t.
Players come and go, other coaches come and go, but there’s something in Seahawk DNA that ensures that they’ll usually win ugly and lose ugly. It’ll never be pretty or easy or assured. But, boy, is it exciting. And more often than the odds would show, the Hawks prevail.
With many players from the 2104 Super Bowl-win glory days retired, traded or quit, this was supposed to be a rebuilding year. It sure started off like one, but hey, it’s Dec. 31, and we’re in the playoffs. After struggling into the Wild Card slot, we’re playing for our lives again this Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys. It’s been a rough ride, as always, with two recent games decided by field goals in the last four seconds.
Oh, man, my blood pressure!
Why should the character of a team stay the same through so much turbulence? Is it something about Pete, about Seattle, about late owner Paul Allen, about Wilson? Or are teams, like cities, like nations, like even Churches, really organisms with their own lives and characters? All the individuals flow through them like blood — life-sustaining and energizing, adding to, but not overwhelming, the whole.
Every team, all fans, have a story much like mine. But what stays constant is devotion. No matter the team, the company, the city, the country, the Church, if the people turn their backs and walk away, the organism suffers and withers. But death isn’t always inevitable.
Hey, even the Cleveland Browns, adding one rookie QB and subtracting a coach, have managed to turn from national joke to up-and-comer.
It’s a New Year, and it’s always a new game. Win or lose, all you have to do is show up and play your heart out.
Image: Airman 1st Class Michael Andrews (left), 10th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, stands next to Douglas McNeil, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, before he announces this year’s draft pick May 2, 2015, during the Seattle Seahawks draft day event at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. During the event, the Seahawks selected a service member from each military branch to announce their picks for this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Keoni Chavarria)