And since that point, there has been lots of irrelevance, and just enough heartbreak to make sure I was still paying attention. "We want the ball and we're going to score" (which I loved) and the ensuing pick-6 (which I didn't). The colossal letdown that was the 2004 season, where the team collapsed under weighty expectations. The crazy finish in Atlanta last year (coming back from 20 points down to take the lead with ~30 seconds to play only to cough it up at the end). All of these games left their marks on my sports fan soul.
But the highest point in my Seahawks fandom was 2005. That year Seattle made the Super Bowl as a #1 seed against #6 seed Pittsburgh. The two weeks leading up to that game were uncharted territory. Finally, my team was a true part of the national NFL narrative. Everywhere I turned, here was another story about the Seahawks, or another national "expert" discussing their chances. To call that time exciting would be doing it an injustice.
Then the game started. And Seattle, who had gone 15-3 up to that point thanks to relentless offensive execution...all of a sudden wasn't executing. Dropped passes, a DEFCON-1 level problem in 2003-2004 that seemingly had been fixed through 18 games of 2005, showed up that day to torment us fans. Penalties, which hadn't been an issue all season-long, wiped away big play after big play. All-in-all, it was a C- performance at best, and that's what stung so badly. Yes the officiating was suspect (at best), but the worst part of that game was seeing Seattle get to the big stage and then not recognize the team wearing Seahawks jerseys for the entirety of that game. And then the window slammed shut. Sure Seattle made the playoffs the next two seasons thanks to a terrible NFC West division, but they weren't true contenders for the throne. So then this idea creeps into my head.
Was that their shot? Was that their chance at glory and they threw it away?
Here's where I blame my environment. While I'm a die-hard Seahawks fan, I grew up in New England, surrounded by Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, and most importantly: Red Sox fans. And for my formative years, there was one prevailing thought in the mind of every diehard Red Sox fan:
Am I going to die without seeing my team win a championship?
And that colored every part of their fandom. And while I didn't take up the Red Sox as my team, my mannerisms as a fan were absorbed from what I saw around me. So yes, I get (very) into the games. And I would wait for the signs that things were falling apart, and I would lash out at the TV and bemoan the fact that the team was blowing that particular shot. It mattered (maybe...probably too much). The big losses were agonizing, but the payoff was supposed to be the eventual wins. But almost 30 years later, I would worry whether the payoff was ever going to come. Was it rational? Of course not, but that's what would run through my head.
Now everything has changed. My team has reached the summit. I've seen it. It happened. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl, and better yet, did it in such a way that confirms their status as the best team in the NFL for the 2013 season. It was a glorious evening. A four-hour party absent even a minute amount of the stress that was present for the entire NFC Championship game. Now that singular thought, which has colored much of my fandom for decades, is gone. Replaced by another thought.
And honestly, I don't know. How could I? I'm barely 48 hours into an entirely new paradigm. Up is down. Black is white. Blue (and green) is gold. But I have been thinking on this, quite a bit, and I've come up with two ideas:
1) it just won't matter anymore. This is the worst case scenario. While it might be more mature of me, I don't want sports to simply not matter anymore. Because if they don't matter, then while the lows won't be as low, the highs won't be as high either. You have to care about something to take joy in the successes. And if you open yourself up to caring that much, the failures will hurt. It's unavoidable.
2) The pressure will be gone. This is the best case scenario. I'll still watch, and I'll still care, but I'll be able to sit back and enjoy the ride. I will still cheer, but if Seattle is upset in the divisional championships next season, I'll be disappointed, but I won't be in agony. Sure there will still be times where defeat will sting, even hurt. But it won't hurt because I'm worried that I may have missed my best shot too see them win. It will be one game, one year at a time.
I won't need to switch jerseys mid game to try and change the flow of the game. I'll probably still do it, but it won't be a compulsion. I won't have to buy a particular brand of ice cream because it was good luck 8 years ago and I failed to find any before the biggest game of that year and I feel guilty for that.
I will be able to embrace what I love about sports, football, and the Seahwks, and minimize the damage they can cause. I can share my love and fandom for the Seahawks with my son, and not worry that I am sentencing him to years of sports fan torture.
And I can buy altogether too many reminders of my first title as a fan. And I will.
You know what, that sounds like a pretty good deal.