It should be noted that I am no ordinary sports fan, by which I mean that most ordinary sports fans would say that I’m no fan at all.
I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I’m a fan of hanging out with friends, drinking beer, and occasionally watching games together, and yet you could easily replace a game with a movie or a concert and I’d be happy.
It should also be noted that I’m deeply conflicted about football in particular, for reasons best summed up in this Huffington Post review of a book by Steve Almond titled “Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto”, which asks:
Is it immoral to consume violent entertainment that can result in dire, even deadly consequences for its participants? Is it immoral to cheer for a dazzling show knowing it could cause its stars to develop dementia or memory loss or depression?
That is to say, is it immoral to watch football?
That’s a powerful indictment, to be sure.
And yet, is it possible that the Seattle Seahawks, in their mind-boggling comeback victory in the NFC Championship game against the Green Packers this past Sunday, in any way transcended the debate over the morality of football? Can a team that had been counted out of the running when they were 3-3 and 6-4, despite having won the Super Bowl the previous year in an utterly dominating performance and a final score of 43-8, serve up valuable lessons in grit, perseverance, team chemistry and loyalty that offer some redeeming value?
- The Seahawks, having been dominated by the Packers for the vast majority of the game, played so badly that they were lucky the score was only 16-0 at halftime.
- Midway through the third quarter, the Seahawks showed signs of life. With their quarterback, Russell Wilson, having thrown more complete passes (three) to the Packers, than to his own receivers, Head Coach Pete Carroll, out of no small degree of desperation, but based on research he’d done on the Packers field goal defense, called a fake field goal play, punter Jon Ryan took the snap, and instead of setting the ball up for the field goal by Steven Hauschka, he took the ball, scrambled left and lobbed it to rookie tackle Garry Gilliam in the end zone for a touchdown, bringing the score to 16-7.
- Alas, hopes seemed dashed once again, when the Packers began the fourth quarter with a drive and a 48-yard field goal, bringing the score to 19-7, and then, with 5:14 left, Russell Wilson threw his fourth interception of the game.
- With about four minutes left, Russell Wilson threw 26 yards to Marshawn Lynch, who took it in for a touchdown, only to have the touchdown reversed, when a review of the replay determined Lynch had stepped out of bounds before the end zone. That would be the last of the Seahawks bad luck.
- Russell Wilson, not having much luck throwing the football, ran the ball in from the one yard line for a touchdown, and with the extra point, the score was now 19-14 with 2:13 remaining.
- With so little time left, the Seahawks had no option but to try an onside kick, a play that is only successful 26% of the time, the play WAS successful.
- In the ensuing possession, Russell Wilson handed off to Marshawn Lynch who ran for 24 yards and a touchdown, incredibly taking the lead 20-19, and then, having decidedly recovered his passing mojo, Russell tossed to Luke Willson for the 2-point conversion, bringing the score to 22-19.
- The Packers, showing their own grit and determination, took the ball from the kickoff and with admirable economy managed to tie up the game with a field goal with only 0:19 remaining, resulting in overtime.
- After winning the coin toss and electing to receive, Russell Wilson showed off more of his newly reclaimed passing mojo, throwing for two consecutive 35-yard gains, first to Doug Baldwin, who had fumbled on a key kickoff return in the first half that could have helped halt the Packers momentum, and the second to Jermaine Kearse, who had been Wilson’s target for all four of his interceptions, but who this time miraculously pulled the ball out of the air at the goal line, with a defender who was all over him (see photo above), game over, Seahawks win 28-22.
Thanks to the number crunchers and graphic artists at USA Today, we can see a visual representation of this historic comeback in an infographic that concludes the Seahawks had only a 1% chance of winning the game at the point when there was 3:19 left to play (click on image to enlarge):
Now, there are thousands of articles all over the interwebs recounting the highlights of the game, and so you might ask why I bothered.
Well, somehow I think I needed to, because a part of me still can’t accept that it actually happened, and I think I felt I somehow owed it to the Seahawks, who had fought so hard for this improbable victory, for my entertainment.
And, man was the fight hard! Two members of the Seahawks’ famed Legion of Boom secondary squad, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, suffered painful injuries, a dislocated shoulder and a hyperextended elbow respectively, both refused to stop playing, and both have said since the game ended that NOTHING will keep them from playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks.
So, I suppose this brings us back to the question of morality, of whether or not humans should find a sport entertaining that can be so brutal to its participants, a sport that perpetuates outdated and even dangerous (e.g. high-profile domestic abuse) models of masculinity, a sport that gobbles up billions of dollars that could otherwise be spent on arguably more important things.
All I can say right now is that I’m listening, that I don’t have concrete answers, that I’m tempted to say that increasing consolidation of wealth amongst the 1%, perpetual war, and global climate change seem to be more pressing matters, but I AM listening.
For now, I think I’ll hang on to the positives I was able to glean, and I look forward to rejoining my friends for the Super Bowl, to cheer on our Seattle Seahawks.