Ladies and gentlemen, it’s nearly Super Bowl time. Hell yes. I thought about putting together some predictions for this game, but everyone and their dog has already predicted the game to death this week, so I won’t add to the pile. Besides, I’m pretty sure you guys can guess who I’m picking to win the game, just like I’m pretty sure I can guess who most of you are picking to win it (by the way feel free to totally ignore my wet-blanket attitude and post your own predictions for the game in the comments below). The only prediction I’m willing to make at this time is that the pork shoulder I’m throwing in the oven tonight will be utterly delicious by kickoff tomorrow1.
Instead, below you’ll find some words I’ve strung together regarding a couple of Seahawks-related topics. But before I get to that, I have one more thing I’d like to say:
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I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m getting awfully tired of sportswriters throwing hissy fits in article form regarding Marshawn Lynch’s refusal to answer their questions. I spent a little time working as a freelancer covering a few college and high school sports, so I understand their annoyance to some degree; a reporter’s job is to fill column inches, and a couple of decent quotes can make that job a hell of a lot easier. But while quotes are useful, they are by no means indispensable, and any reporter who can’t manage to throw together an article without them needs to find themselves a different line of work, the sooner the better.
Here’s the thing, sportswriters: Marshawn Lynch is not your bitch. He does not exist to supply you with pithy sound bites to pad out your word count. The one and only thing he owes you is the same thing he owes to his coaches, his teammates, and his fans: his best possible effort every time he steps onto the field of play. Let’s be realistic here, aside from a couple of notable exceptions like Michael Bennett and Steve Smith, the answers given by most NFL players boil down to a handful of memorized clichés they regurgitate on command. At least Lynch has the decency to be up front about saying nothing to you.
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Speaking of Lynch, the biggest difference between his semi-disappointing stint in Buffalo and the walking highlight reel he’s become in Seattle has to be the way Pete Carroll treats his players. He’s given Lynch the trust and the space to be himself, and to Carroll’s credit he’s stuck with that approach even when it rubs the media the wrong way.
I’m reminded here of Duane Thomas. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Thomas was a spectacularly talented running back drafted by the Cowboys in 1970, where he had several clashes with management (their GM Tex Schramm was a notoriously cheap bastard). He retaliated by taking a vow of silence in ’71 and stopped talking to reporters and teammates alike. That didn’t keep him from being one of the main reasons Dallas won its first Lombardi trophy that year, but after that season he retreated even further, and by ’75 he was out of the league entirely. Because no one knew how to deal with him (or simply didn’t care to try), Thomas went from being a potential Hall of Famer to a mere flash-in-the-pan historical footnote. Had Lynch not been traded to Seattle in 2010, I wonder if he would even still be in the league today.
Carroll’s handling Lynch also throws Percy Harvin’s value as a player into serious doubt. Yes, the man is a bona fide athletic freak of nature, but if Carroll couldn’t find a way to make him work without destroying the team’s chemistry, then who can? Seriously, if he was dividing Seattle’s locker room by smearing a clutch performer like Russell Wilson, imagine the mess he’s making behind the scenes in New York with Geno Smith as ammunition.
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This entire article originally started out as just a quick reaction piece after the NFC Championship game, but I decided to can it because after giving it an editorial run-through I realized that the whole thing boiled down to nothing more than “holy shit did you see that game, that was so goddamn awesome,” which didn’t seem substantial enough to justify inflicting it on you guys (I’m pretty sure most of you already know that game was awesome). That said, here’s a little something that I salvaged from the first draft of this article because holy shit, did you see that game?
When I’m watching games and the clock begins to wind down in the fourth quarter, sometimes I entertain myself by working out how rapidly the trailing team needs to score touchdowns in order to win the game – a TD every five minutes, a TD every three minutes, and so on. At some point (usually when things start hovering around two TDs per minute with a multiple-score deficit), there’s a look that comes over most QB’s faces when the futility of the moment begins to dawn on them, and after that they begin to play not to win but to get the loss over and done with as soon as possible.
The thing is, I have yet to see that look on Russell Wilson’s face. No matter the score, no matter how hopeless the situation appears, his belief that he can dig his team out from underneath any impending loss never seems to go away. Doak Walker once said of his Lions teammate (and fellow Hall of Famer) Bobby Layne that he never lost a game, the clock just ran out on him2, and the same could be said for Wilson.
However, that quote could probably be applied to most of the current Seahawks’ roster. At one of the bleaker points in the game, the broadcast feed cut to a sideline camera trained on Lynch, who was just absently dancing by himself near the benches, and I remember starting to feel just a little better about Seattle’s slim chances of winning the game. Hell, if umpteen turnovers and a two-score deficit with just minutes to go isn’t enough to make them panic, what will?
The Seahawks’ resilience versus the Packers becomes even more remarkable when you compare that game to the AFC Championship game that started immediately after it. In the second half, after the Patriots scored on a Gronkowsi reception to increase their lead to four scores, you could visibly see the life drain out of the Colts. The only thing is, that touchdown didn’t happen with the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, it came with about three minutes to go in the third.
Yes, the game was not going Indianapolis’ way, and a come from behind win didn’t look likely (according to Pro Football Reference, their win probability hovered at about 0.10%), but watching them give up with nearly a third of the game still to be played had to be a damned hard thing for Colts fans to swallow. It almost makes me want to invent time travel just so I can travel back to the 2009 season and beat the “Suck for Luck” crowd to death with the 2013 Hawks’ Lombardi trophy. Screw Luck, I’ll take Wilson any day of the week.
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1 Seriously, it is a sight to behold. When that shoulder comes out of the oven tomorrow after a full night of low & slow it will quiver like a giant mound of meat jell-o and collapse into a pile of pulled pork awesomeness with a stern glance. Add in some homemade barbecue sauce (mine is a nice Carolina-style mustard & vinegar concoction) and you’re in for a damned fine afternoon of football.
2 I want to say I first ran across that quote in Paper Lion by George Plimpton, but it isn’t a hard one to find. Walker’s words have been repeated and paraphrased in a lot of books and articles over the years.