12s revel in current success because ... it wasn't always like this
SEATTLE -- Soak it up, Seattle.
Wallow in it, Washington.
Roll around in it and talk about it and love every minute of it, because ...
Because it wasn't always like this. There didn't used to be parades and primetime games. There weren't always people camped out waiting for tickets and kids by the thousands wearing blue and green jerseys to school.
That cocky swagger that the 12th Man is sporting these days is a gloriously, intoxicatingly new thing. The road to greatness for the Seahawks franchise is strewn with lost seasons, empty seats and broken Bozworth's.
For many years, Seattle saw itself as a beautiful secret, a little emerald mood ring tucked away in the corner of the National Football League. It HOPED for a championship one day. It really did. But deep down in places we didn't talk about at parties, in the black pit of the city's psyche, did anybody really BELIEVE it would happen?
That belief would ultimately be earned the hard way ... but not before a beleaguered fan base had disappointment burned into their souls like a regrettable tattoo.
The '80s were fun. The Seahawks played in the '83 AFC Championship game. They had Steve Largent and Dave Krieg and Curt Warner. The league had to make a noise rule that year because Seahawk fans were so loud.
But the '90s came along and it was one long stretch of bad road.
Let's go back in time to 1992. The Kingdome, ugly and bleak was still standing. And that was the GOOD news. Stan Gelbaugh was the quarterback. So was Kelly Stouffer. So was Dan McGwire. The thought of that 3-headed monster trotting onto the field brings shivers still.
The Seahawks allowed 172 more points than they scored. They were 2-14. You can look at it this way: they were as BAD then as they are GOOD now. So they got the 2nd pick in the NFL draft. Hot damn! They were gonna get somebody great and make everybody forget that they chose The Boz in '87.
The Patriots took Drew Bledsoe with the first pick. So, the Seahawks took ... Rick Mirer. Oh, the humanity.
For those of you who are under 30, or who just rolled into town a few years ago to work for Amazon, all of this may sound like ancient history. And in a way, it is. But for those of us who were there, either in the stands, or watching from the press box, it was a bleak time that just wouldn't end.
CenturyLink Field didn't exist. Pete Carroll was kicking around the league, with the Jets and the 49ers. Russell Wilson was a 5-year old kid in Virginia. One day, moving trucks pulled up to the Hawks headquarters to steal the team away to California.
Legion of Boom? More like Region of Gloom.
One of the only bright spots was Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy. We'd talk to him after games, and you could see the yearning in his eyes. "Man," he said one time, "I just want to get to the playoffs! One time! I want to know what it feels like."
Eventually it happened for him. One time.
They did get better. And that was a part of the problem. For two straight seasons, they were 6-10. And those seasons were followed by sheer, mind-numbing mediocrity. They were 8-8 in '95. 7-9 in '96. Then 8-8 again in '97. And AGAIN in '98.
They weren't terrible enough to get high draft picks. They weren't good enough to make the playoffs. The Seahawks were stuck in a savage swirling cycle of so-so-ness. The only thing they were great at was being mediocre.
And it's almost hard to believe now, but they couldn't sell enough tickets to fill the Kingdome. Before every home game the question wasn't "Will the Hawks win?" It was, "Will the Hawks be blacked out?" The front office, on a regular basis, would buy hundreds, even thousands of tickets themselves, just so they could call it a sellout and get the game on TV.
Imagine the conversations in the Kirkland offices, with legendary Vice President Gary Wright holding court: "We need to build the fan base by having people watch our product. But they can't watch our product because the game's not sold out. And it's not sold out because they can't watch our product!"
So why dredge up all these dark memories now? Simple. Because to truly enjoy and understand what is happening now, a little perspective is a good thing. The first real dent in our collective inferiority complex came when Mike Holmgren left the Packers late in the 90's to sign an 8-year deal with Seattle.
Seahawk fans were partying like it was 1999. Because it was. Mike made his players believe, and then the rest of us too. He guided the Hawks to a Super Bowl, and when the guys in stripes all but handed the trophy to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a bone-chilling night in Detroit, it almost felt like that was the way it would always be: the sporting gods would always favor somebody else. This was, after all, Seattle, but man we had a good ride didn't we?
Maybe that's why Seahawk fans are so utterly and completely head over heels in love with the current incarnation of the Seattle Seahawks. Maybe that explains the childlike wonder that has swept over our region like a blue-hot fever. A bunch of castoffs and free agents and leftovers, led by an undersized quarterback, a loudmouth cornerback, a monosyllabic running back and a gum chomping 63-year old kid of a coach have demanded that we understand one thing: It's not fate. It's not written in the stars. There ARE no football gods. It can happen to us. Heck, it DID happen to us!
And you know what? There's a darned good chance it will happen to us again. How good does that feel?
Think about love. Think about Santa. There is no believing like first time believing.
So, soak it up, Seattle.
Wallow in it, Washington.
Roll around in it and talk about it and love every minute of it, because ... it wasn't always like this.