Seattle Seahawks vs. The Anti-Football Narrative

kearseIt 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 Story

  • 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):

Seahawks-improbable

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.

GO HAWKS!!!

With Zuki at Lake Padden

zuki-padden

Video Fridays: The Honeymooners

honeymoonersOne of my fondest memories from growing up in New Jersey was the post-primetime lineup of reruns on Channel 11, WPIX TV from New York City.

It was epic.

Now, I wasn’t always able to watch the whole lineup every night, and I don’t think I’d have had much of a life if I had. I had a very small black & white TV in my bedroom, and despite my best efforts to keep the volume down, to sit dangerously close to the screen, and to cover myself and the TV with a blanket, I was regularly busted by the parental units, forced to shut it down and go to sleep. But, this lineup was the same for many years, and so the episodes kept cycling through, meaning I was able to see a LOT of them numerous times anyway.

There are a number of things that I loved about that lineup of shows, and I could go on and on about it, but it seems redundant, given a piece I found at ClassicFlix.com by Rick Brooks, professing his Love Affair With WPIX, and saying many of the things I would say myself.

Just a sample:

We would look forward to seeing a series not just because it was so good, but because we knew it held up to multiple viewings. Look at The Honeymooners, which ran weeknights continuously for over 30 years on the station. That staying power is staggering, particularly when you consider that, though eventually it added the “Lost Episodes” to the mix, channel 11 was running the same “Classic 39″ episodes from that one legendary season (1955-56). I will say it again: 39 episodes ran continuously for decades, and fans loved them.

It would be impossible for me to pick one of these shows as my favorite, but I’d rather honor one of them at a time with a Video Fridays installment, and since I just shared Rick Brooks’ info on The Honeymooners, let’s start there.

For me, The Honeymooners was very special. It was the only TV show of that vintage that was actually still on the air, as far as I could tell, and it served as a time capsule to a bygone era. From the clothing to the furniture, the vernacular of the day to the acting styles, I found it utterly charming.

The biggest strengths of the show were three of the main actors and the writing.

Jackie Gleason, as bus driver Ralph Kramden, could be an insufferable loudmouth, by today’s standards verbally abusive to his wife, and yet when his hairbrained schemes crashed and burned, as they always did, Gleason somehow, almost magically, induced pathos.

Audrey Meadows, as Ralph’s wife, Alice, unlike other women leads of the time and beyond, didn’t hide her struggles with sexism behind an always cheerful veneer. You could see in her expression a weariness as she went about her domestic duties, and she could go toe-to-toe with Ralph in a way you’d rarely see a wife stand up to her husband on TV.

Art Carney, as friend and upstairs neighbor, Ed Norton, well, let’s just say, with his brilliant physical comedy prowess, specifically his grand, clown-like entrances into the Kramden apartment, there would absolutely be NO Kramer from Seinfeld without Art Carney’s Ed Norton. (Interestingly, nothing I could find online gives credit to Art Carney as a direct inspiration for Kramer, and that REALLY bugs me!)

As for the writing, the episodes are masterpieces, with consistently great story arcs, a wonderful mix of comedy and the aforementioned pathos, and it was one of the most quotable shows ever made. My friends and I could nearly recite entire episodes from memory, the jokes were so good.

Like I said, I could go on and on, and I guess I did!

To wrap up and get on with this week’s video selection, I chose an episode that seemed perfect for the occasion, a TV show about watching TV, containing one of my all-time favorite lines, “Official space helmet on, Captain Video!!!”

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Headline of the Day: Strange Definition of ‘Fun’

Kicking off this new Recurring Series with a headline from our local daily newspaper, here in Bellingham, Washington:

‘I thought you would think it was fun,’ Bellingham driver told cop after trying to run him over

Bellingham Herald

Tweet of the Day: @LionsRoarOnline

suluI love George Takei!

He will always be Sulu to me (sorry John Cho), I appreciate how he leveraged his celebrity by coming out as a gay man in 2005, becoming a strong, vocal LGBT advocate, and I find his Facebook feed consistently entertaining.

That he’s also a Buddhist is news to me, and since I dabble in the teachings of the Buddha, another reason to like him.

Today’s Tweet of the Day installment is from Lion’s Roar, an online Buddhist publication, and if you follow the included link you get to read Mr. Takei telling his own, inspiring story:

Stuff We Need: Affordable Electric Vehicles, Revisited

EVBack in July 2010, I wrote about electric vehicles (EV), making the claim that EVs will have to be much more affordable and charging stations more numerous and convenient in order for the desperately needed transition away from oil-burning cars to happen at any significant level.

A year later, I added that the other key factor for widespread adoption of EVs is range — how far an EV can be driven before the battery needs to be recharged — pointing out that the range offered by the vast majority of cars at that time was grossly insufficient in order to lure folks away from their gas guzzlers. (The range of the example I linked to offered a pathetic 62 miles, not even enough to get me to Seattle, 90-miles away, a place I drive to fairly regularly.)

This post today might have qualified for my Celebrating Eco-Progress series if I wasn’t such a cheapskate.

I’ll explain.

Introducing, via TreeHugger.com, the Chevy Bolt concept car, offering a decent range of 200 miles, and a projected sticker price of, gulp, $30,000:

chevrolet-bolt

Now, in 2014, the average price of a car sold in the U.S. was $31,252, so many would argue that $30,000 IS affordable, especially since it comes with a big federal tax credit. But I’m 50-years old, I’ve never purchased a new car in my life, and I will NEVER cough up $30,000, or more accurately go $30,000 in debt, for a new car…

Oh, alright!

I admit, a $30k EV with a range of 200 miles WILL get more people out of their fossil fuel mobiles, and that alone is cause to celebrate.

Hooray!!!

I just need to wait an buy a used one.

Eyecatchers: Little Plastic Army Men, Revisited

yoga-joes-2A week ago, I wrote about Yoga Joes, the brainchild of designer, entrepreneur, and Yoga enthusiast, Dan Abramson, who put his own spin on the classic little plastic army men of yesteryear, placing them in a variety of Yoga poses, evoking a wonderful tension between images of war and peace.

I shared my own childhood experience, having been raised on war movies on television, having played with these little plastic army men, until, that is, I became a pacifist and embraced the concept of Ahimsa that is central to the Buddhism and Yoga practices I came to dabble in.

Amazing timing, then, that yesterday, when my wife and I stopped in at the Smith & Vallee Gallery in nearby Edison, Washington, we should see this piece by Pieter VanZanden, a woodworker in Smith & Vallee’s Woodworks shop, working here not with wood but with little plastic army men, riffing on Auguste Rodin‘s most famous sculpture, The Thinker, and conveying what could be interpreted as an anti-war sentiment similar to that of the Yoga Joes:

VanZanden-3 VanZanden-4

If you can’t quite tell what’s going on here, click on these images to enlarge them.

I think this is fantastic and a powerful statement. Titled Think About It, clearly the suggestion here is that, perhaps, if we would think more about the consequences of war, the horrific loss of life, symbolized by this pile of bodies, then maybe we might be less inclined to rush into military conflict.

In a related work by VanZanden, the centerpiece of his exhibit, standing a good six feet high, he uses this same material on a huge scale, recreating one of the classic little plastic army men poses:

army-man-dyptich

Here’s a closeup of the soldier’s head, which you can click on to enlarge for more fine detail:

VanZanden-2

Subversive and oh so cool!