The cab driver asks me why the Seahawks are on a roll fans haven’t seen from a Seattle sports team since the 2001 Mariners won 116 games.
“The gods,” I say.
“Really? You think Paul McQuistan and J.R. Sweezy are that important?”
McQuistan, a journeyman on his fourth NFL stop, has been a pleasant surprise – almost as pleasant a surprise as Sweezy, a former North Carolina State defensive tackle taken as the 225th selection of the 2012 draft. They’ve helped provide stability for an offensive line once seen as a liability.
“I’m impressed by the guards,” I say. “But I’m impressed, even more, by the gods.”
“The gods? What gods?”
“The football gods,” I continue. “They help arrange fate from upstairs. I’m not sure if they work in conjunction with the big boss, and I’m not sure they don’t. All I know is they love the Seahawks.”
“Whatever football gods are up there, you’d think they’d support the Saints.”
Ah, the Saints.
The New Orleans Saints on Thursday became my primary reason for believing the gods favor the Seahawks. It was the Saints, you’ll recall, whose bounty scandal found NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issuing fines and suspensions as the judge of what was perceived to be a kangaroo court.
Goodell invited his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, to preside over the appeals, and Tagliabue, while noting the penalties were justified, overturned them.
What does this have to do with the Seahawks? Only everything. Star cornerback Richard Sherman was facing a four-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in September. Sherman based his appeal of the suspension on a critical chain-of-custody error during testing.
Had the NFL followed through on a Sherman suspension determined by Goodell’s latest version of a kangaroo court, the league almost certainly would have been looking at fighting a lawsuit concurrent with the defamation-lawsuit case of Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
So Sherman, defying odds generally (and generously) placed at 45-1, was told on Thursday he’s free to resume a season distinguished by a celestial consistency: He’s always in the right place, at the right time, in position to pick up a bouncing oblong ball on the right bounce.
Sherman’s 90-yard touchdown return of a blocked field goal last Sunday against the 49ers was his second score in the Seahawks’ past two home games. And while only Richard Sherman is certain whether he violated NFL rules, it’s obvious he has got a charmed relationship with the football gods.
These are the same football gods who enabled Golden Tate to make a last-second, game-winning reception in the end zone against the Green Packers on Sept. 24. Sports Illustrated ranks the controversial catch as the most momentous play of the year – in any sport – because it hastened the return of veteran officials, who had been locked out during a contract stalemate.
That unforgettable pass to Tate was thrown by rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, available in the third round of last spring’s draft as the No. 75 selection. If the Wisconsin product is slightly taller, he’s a first-rounder. The Colts still take Andrew Luck, and the Redskins still take Robert Griffin III. But maybe Wilson goes to the Dolphins (who drafted Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill) or the Browns (who drafted Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden).
But Wilson was born to be 5-feet-11, which is how he fell to a Seahawks team that wasn’t exactly desperate for a quarterback: Veteran free agent Matt Flynn had been signed and sealed to a two-year contract.
Wilson, obtained to thicken the plot, ended up as the lead character in what’s shaping up as the greatest Seahawks story ever told.
The Colts might boast all the Luck, but the Seahawks are riding a force more powerful than that. They’re riding something else, something goofy, something arbitrary, something that can only be explained by a bouncing ball that ends up in the hands of Richard Sherman.
“So it’s all about the football gods?” asks the cab driver. “Really?”
In the rearview mirror, I see a glance that’s skeptical.
“Really,” I say. “Somebody up there likes them. It’s like a 12th-man advantage, in addition to the usual 12th-man advantage.”
Which makes for a 13th-man advantage at CenturyLink Field. No wonder the Seahawks figure to be on the road through the playoffs.
The football gods might have their favorites, but they’ve got to assure that it’s a fair firstname.lastname@example.org