Thursday, January 30, 2014

Seattle musings: The 12th man

I am 39 years old, and I have never lived in a city where one of the home sports teams has won a national championship. In addition to experiencing snow that I didn't purposely drive to for the first time, our Seattle move has also given me the chance of experiencing actually living in the same city as the Super Bowl-bound team that I'll be cheering for. Yes, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the Seattle Seahawks will be playing in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos this Sunday.

Let me give you a brief history of my sports fandom. I've lived most of my life in San Diego. San Diego has two major sports teams: the Padres (baseball) and Chargers (football).

The Padres have historically been anywhere from terrible to mediocre, having had various horrible owners for most of their existence (I'm looking at you, Tom Werner, John Moores, Jeff Moorad's layaway ownership, etc.). Every so often, the Padres will cobble together a half-decent team, make the playoffs, and unceremoniously get bounced in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals.

In their 45 years of history as an MLB team, the Padres have made it to the World Series exactly twice. The first time was when I was 10 years old, and the Padres beat out another "long suffering" team in the NLCS--the Chicago Cubs--to move on to the World Series. They were up against one of the better teams in baseball history--the 1984 Detroit Tigers--and only managed to win one game. As a 10-year-old living in San Diego, this was the absolutely most amazing thing to experience and cemented my fanship for many, many years.

The second time that the Padres made it to the World Series was in 1998. I had just moved from San Diego to the Bay Area for a new job, and so I wasn't actually living in town when my team was kicking ass all over the National League. I missed the debut of "Trevor Time" (Trevor Hoffman entering the field from the bullpen to AC/DC's "Hells Bells") and an awful lot of fun. My dad managed to score tickets to game 4 of the World Series, so I flew down to attend that game with him. Even though we lost that game, sealing our sweep by the Yankees (unfortunately, another historically great team that we had to face for the WS), it was still an amazing experience for me. I cried when the game was over, not just because we lost, but because I was so overwhelmed with emotion.

That's it for Padres World Series appearances. Historically, the Chargers have done much better in the standings than the Padres, but the Chargers have only made it to the Super Bowl once in their entire history. That Super Bowl appearance came after the 1994 season, when I was living in Santa Cruz to attend school at UC Santa Cruz. The Chargers faced the San Francisco 49'ers, after (you guessed it) the 49'ers had a historically great season. Santa Cruz is geographically close to San Francisco (about a two-hour drive away when the freeways aren't crippled by traffic), so I was not only not in San Diego to experience this, I was surrounded by "the enemy", since many of my fellow students were 49'er fans.

Living in Seattle while the Seahawks have gone on their Super Bowl run has been a little bit of a bittersweet experience. They are a FUN team to watch, and my husband and I have been cautiously adopting them as our "second team". The superstitious sports fan in me (made that way from years of being a San Diego sports fan) has been waiting for the other shoe to drop--I keep expecting the bottom to fall out in some way. The extremely passionate Seahawks fan base, otherwise known as the "12th man" has been relishing this experience. In fact, a 12th man flag has even been flying on top of the Space Needle for the past few weeks:

I've had a chance to observe the following around town these past few weeks:
  • 12th man flags flying everywhere, including from the windows of all of the Amazon buildings
  • Out-of-service city buses currently say "Go Hawks!" instead of the usual "Not in Service"
  • Strangers ending conversations of small talk with a "Go Hawks!"
  • Everyone everywhere wearing Seahawks and/or 12th man gear
  • A panhandler with a "Go Hawks!" on his cardboard sign (after the line about being a homeless vet needing help)
Also, my husband just alerted me to the fact that this is going on right now:

I can't say that I'm not a little jealous, although that's partially because I haven't lived here long enough to really get attached to the local team. Seattle sports, like San Diego sports, have had a long history of suckitude. The Mariners have never even made it to the World Series, even despite having won 116 regular season games in 2001. The Seahawks have only made it to the Super Bowl once, in 2006, and lost. Seattle fans absolutely deserve what they're currently experiencing now, and I will be rooting hard for the Seahawks to win it all in New York in a few days. I try not to be a pessimist, but I wonder if I'll ever be able to experience the same feeling for one of my teams in my lifetime, and I seriously doubt it. I truly think that my best hope to experience this type of emotion for myself is for the Seahawks to continue to kick ass (and with great young players, they should be able to) and wait for my loyalty to my adopted city to catch up.

This has been a long and rambling post, but I've wanted to document my feelings around what I'm seeing/experiencing here somewhere.

And Go Hawks!

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