Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Watching Commandments

Many of us are going to be watching this weekend’s final NFL game of the season. For two regions, and their fans this is the big one, the summit of Mt. Everest, the Super Bowl. It is the goal of all 32 NFL teams, it is the desire of every football fan and the stuff dreams are made of. I am one such blessed individual to be able to say that my team is in the Super Bowl. With that proclamation, my dear football sister-newbies, I have some final suggestions, or guidelines, for watching this game with other football fans.

Most of the people I know or have talked to are going to be watching this game with others. A lot of them will have more experience, more enthusiasm, more knowledge and more emotional vested interest into the game than a new follower might have. For those of us who have a team playing this Sunday, the rules change. The game means more, the plays are more crucial and the viewing is more focused. The Super Bowl parties are meant to be for one thing, to watch the game. It is not a place for socializing. For 164 days out of the year, our relationships with others mean more than anything, but for about 4 hours on Sunday afternoon, all relational rules must be shelved for the good of the game. So here are some things that you can do to ensure that come Monday morning, all relationships are back to ideal:

1. No talking prior to the snap. The tension is building as the teams break their huddle and line up. For the Seahawk and/or Bronco fan sitting next to you, their heart rate is increasing at an alarming rate, they are taking shallow breaths, and their eyes are darting back and forth as they desperately try to see all the match-ups right before they happen.

2. No talking during the snap. This is where the action starts on the field. It is not the time to point out that linemen should not wear white football pants. It is not the time to ask why Peyton Manning says “Omaha” a lot, or if Michael Bennett’s sack dance can be censored. The fan next to you is watching the play unfold as they try not to swallow their tongue.

3. No talking after the play ends. This is where you use observation tools to gauge the reaction of those sitting next to you. If there is visible relief, then the play that just occurred was good. If there is anxiety in any verbal or non-verbal form (this could be from cursing to actual tears), then the play was bad. Try to refrain from immediately asking, “What happened?” there will usually be a re-play on TV.

4. Avoid remarking about the reactions of those around you. Once, I had a relative tell me how I sounded while I was in labor, it was not appreciated. Nor is it appreciated when someone remarks about behavior at a game. Both labor and football viewing are very intense, painful, at times agonizing and yet both can produce the sweetest of joy at the end. Let’s just leave it at that.

5. Seahawk/Bronco fans will NOT be watching the Super Bowl for the commercials. Commercials are for the rest of the world’s viewing audience that has no vested interest in the game. Commercial breaks for those fans will be used for rapid bathroom trips or wiping away tears or undivided intercession or shots of oxygen. You can determine if you like this year’s Doritos commercial better than last year’s but give the fan next to you until Monday to think of anything else.

6. The half time show will do nothing to calm the mind of the fan next to you. They will be trying to predict the adjustments that each team will make. They might be filled with anxiety over weaknesses they saw in their team in the first half or they will be filled with anxiety over strengths they saw. Why anxiety over strengths? Because what if the other team adjusts to that strength the second half? Can you see how the mind of a fan can work against itself? Don’t ask how much they like Bruno Mars, just make sure the DVR is on, they’ll want to watch him later. And by later, it could mean a year later.

7. At the end of the game, rejoice with those rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping. The rejoicing part is easy. But the weeping part is a bit trickier. Try to avoid the cliché statements like “there’s always next year” or “they played a good game” or “it’s just a game” or “are you going to finish those chicken wings?” Just cry with them, and if you have to speak, use soft soothing tones.

8. Know that Monday always comes. Win or lose, the fan next to you will go back to the guy or girl you know and love. Monday will be a time to look back and recap but also a time to look ahead. Monday starts the time where football becomes about business. Terms like salary-cap, free agents, mock drafts and OTA’s will take precedent in football lingo. And everyone’s eyes will turn to the future. Because the first week of September 2014, everyone is 0-0 again.

Have a great Super Bowl and…GO Hawks!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Father's Daughter

Imagine the scene: six women in a hotel room, screaming their hearts out. I am not sure if this was unusual on a Sunday afternoon anywhere else but in Portland Oregon, there were six misplaced Seattle Seahawks fans that were not able to be home. We were doing what everyone else up north in Seattle was doing; watching the NCF Championship game. Of the six women three were teenage soccer players who just got done playing their own game before racing back to the hotel room to watch the opening kickoff between the Seahawks and the 49ers. The other three were their moms (I am one of those). After 60 minutes that I swear took another year off my life, the announcer said “And the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl”, I felt tears. Everyone was screaming and hugging but I stayed to myself feeling a little foolish. This is a game right? Whether the Seahawks won or lost wasn’t going to change my everyday life, my marriage, my family or any other relationship so why was I this emotional? Why wasn’t I able to feel the exuberance of the moment?

I am now 48 hours removed from the emotional scene of the Seahawks win. And I can now say that my tears were a very appropriate response to this amazing season. My tears represented not only happiness, and elation of the moment but of a bittersweet wistfulness of years gone by. I am a representative of the first generation of kids who grew up with a professional football team in Seattle. I was born in Seattle and grew up an hour north. I was raised in a very devout catholic home where collegiately, I was a Husky fan first but a Notre Dame fan closely on the heels. To this day, I get a warm and fuzzy when I see the shiny gold helmets of the Fighting Irish. In 1976, when Seattle got an NFL expansion team, I was a young girl. I remember the contest to name the new Seattle team. I remember wondering what a seahawk was (a fish-eating bird of prey). But the most impactful thing that happened to me was what football did to my relationship with my dad. Once he realized that I was very interested in football, he began to teach me. He explained the formation of and the purpose of the National Football League. He bought me a magnetic plaque with all the NFL helmets so I could keep tabs on all the standings throughout the league. He subscribed to the NFL Digest where he gave me the magazine once he was done and would tell me which articles to read. He taught me the West Coast offense, the “I” formation, and the shotgun formation. He quizzed me on the first roster of the Seahawks; Jack Patera, Jim Zorn, Steve Largent and Sherman Smith were household names.

Every Sunday, I went to church and then came home to watch football with my family. Usually over the course of the afternoon our viewing audience would dwindle to two, my dad and I. We would discuss play calling, come up with scenarios, opine about which players we liked or disliked. When I graduated high school, our conversations consisted of concern over the Nordstrom family selling the franchise to an out of state owner named Ken Behring. When I was going through my rebellious season of life, when I became the main reason my father was bald, the only thing (and I stress “only”) that we were able to talk about without serious eruptions was Ground Chuck (Knox), Curt Warner and if The Boz was for real. When I got engaged, I wanted a winter wedding, the concern my dad had was the football schedule. Instead of being offended, I was decidedly concerned as well. And so our wedding date was scheduled so that Dad could all be home to watch the Seahawks/Raiders game. At this time, my viewing partner changed from my dad to my husband but it didn’t stop Dad and me from commiserating before or during a game by phone. The following year, my first son was born and he had the foresight to come the day before the Seahawks played the Raiders again, much to my father’s sincere gratitude. Between the joyous event of having a child, and my father having a grandson, was the concern over our quarterback position. Our choices of QB that year were Gelbaugh, Stauffer, and McGwire. We both agreed, we needed to draft a QB. When my second son was born, we had all our hopes on QB Rick Mirer, and when my daughter was born we were relishing the fact that our former Husky QB Warren Moon was behind center for our Seahawks. News came to us that my mother was diagnosed with cancer around the same time that the Kingdome was demolished. The Seahawks played two seasons in Husky Stadium and the interest in the team throughout the community plummeted. It was the only time in history where the local games were blacked out because of ticket sales. So we did what every Seahawks fan does during blackouts, we listened to the game on AM radio while watching another game on TV. Dad and I would call each other to talk football and check up on Mom. We waited to see what new owner Paul Allen was going to do and to see if the coming savior Mike Holmgren was going to bring new life to our beloved Seahawks.

I remember the last game that I shared with my father. It was September 14th, 2003. My mother fought cancer longer than any doctor thought she could but she had passed away in April of 2003. My father who was such a faithful Seahawks fan was an even more loving and faithful husband. The grief of losing his wife took a toll on him and he suffered a severe stroke in August. We had to put him on hospice a few weeks later. That Sunday afternoon in the nursing home, I watched the Seahawks roll over the Cardinals 37 - 0 as Dad lay in bed. He had lost the ability to speak so I talked. It was the first time we talked about something besides football during the football game. I figured the Seahawks had it well in hand and didn’t need my total attention, so I used that time to say the things to Dad I knew I would never have the chance to say again. He died 5 days later.

We moved to Atlanta right after that. We spent two wonderful years there. It took me a little while before I caught on to the fact that no one in Georgia knew much about the West Coast sports and even less about the Seahawks. They thought I was cute when I put my Seahawks flag out in my yard and they blessed my heart a lot. We moved back to Seattle toward the end of the 2005 season. We got back in time for the playoffs and the first time that Seattle won a berth to the Super Bowl. We watched the Super Bowl at our brother-in-law’s house and the tears were on my cheeks as the Seahawks were announced while they took the field. I tried to hide them, once again, feeling foolish about crying over a football game.

Now 10 years after my father passed, I think I am beginning to come to my senses. Our Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl once again. I wish I could spend another game with my father, although I can imagine how he would be reacting. He would love Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll, possibly petitioning the Vatican for the first two non-Catholic, living saints to be canonized. He would be so frustrated with Richard Sherman’s off-field antics all the while acting just like him, but with the language of a drunken sailor. He would be giggling like a school girl every time Marshawn Lynch breaks a tackle. He would never remember the name “The Legion of Boom”. He would have butchered their name by calling them “The Boom Legion” or “The Legion of Doom” or “The Region that Booms Happen”. But I can also imagine him sitting in his favorite chair with his glasses halfway down his nose, talking about the matchup between Peyton Manning and our secondary. And anyone within a hundred yards would see the gleam in his eyes.

This week, I will be taking time to do something I don’t do as often as I should, I will be visiting the place where my mom and dad are laid to rest and I will make sure he has a very big 12th Man flag. This Super Bowl, I will be letting the tears flow without shame. And then I will celebrate what was and what is. Now instead of celebrating with my father, I celebrate with my husband, my family and the entire 12th Man nation. And I will be grateful that this game, that is “just a game”, has been an essential part of my life.