I wanted to be a wide receiver. The dream died in junior high — even at that age, I had a reasonable grasp of the obvious.
Football shouldn’t matter, but it does. My first team, discovered in elementary school, was the 1972 Miami Dolphins, still the only team to run through the regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl with a perfect record. Paul Warfield, a graceful receiver, was my first football hero. He ran like a dream of running.
I still owe my dad seven car washes for Super Bowl XVI in 1982. He conned me into picking Cincinnati, even though I was a San Francisco 49er fan that year.
His favorite quarterbacks are thinkers — Johnny Unitas in the old days, Peyton Manning now. He liked Jim Brown and Jim Taylor, bruising running backs. I liked Chuck Muncie, who fumbled too much, and Earl Campbell, who didn’t.
Our household rooted against the Dallas Cowboys in the ’70s, against the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos later on, when the Seahawks were their doormats.
We followed the Seattle team from its inception. They were more fun than good early on, but we loved Steve Largent, the undersized receiver with sticky hands who outwitted a generation of defensive backs.
The Hawks stole my heart for good in 1983, when coach Chuck Knox and running back Curt Warner arrived, and the team took off. Knox was a run-first coach, perfectly paired with Warner, a sneaky-fast back with more moves than a jukebox.
Kenny Easley, already a fixture but still young, was a safety from hell, the first Seattle player I can recall who scared other teams, the godfather of the Legion of Boom. Imagine a blend of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, dipped in cobra venom. That was Easley.
We watched the team get close, so close in ’83 and ’84. The rest of the decade was a slow decline, marked by occasional moments of glee: Fredd Young demolishing Dokie Williams … Largent, in his last year, gaining perfect payback against Broncos safety Mike Harden.
Apart from that, we spent most of our fan time hate-watching John Elway, the Broncos quarterback who always seemed to find a way to beat us. I hated him enough to root for flameout linebacker Brian Bosworth, but that didn’t last long. Soon, Easley was gone, and Warner too. Largent retired, and I became a father.
My loyalty didn’t waver; in those days I wrote occasional embarrassing columns for a Seahawks fanzine, marked by feeble attempts at snark. The team didn’t count for much in the ’90s. They snagged a string of no-name quarterbacks, and one great player: Cortez Kennedy, the relentless defensive tackle.
I met Largent in the early ’90s, shortly after he started his political career. I worked in a small newsroom in Federal Way, with a small front desk. The guy just walked in wearing a perfect suit. I’d watched him on TV, never seen him in person. I flinched and gaped like a goldfish.
An inch taller than me, but he seemed bigger. He smiled, shook my hand and crushed it, which made sense; that same crushing hand tore footballs away from prowling cornerbacks.
As the century closed, the Hawks landed Mike Holmgren, a coach with a Super Bowl pedigree. Hope rose anew. My son was 8 when the team made the big game and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was a great Hawk unit, but they gave us palpitations. Victories always felt like escapes.
My son’s first favorite team, oddly enough, was the 2007 Patriots led by Tom Brady and enigmatic receiver Randy Moss. They matched the perfect regular season of my old Dolphins, only to falter in the Super Bowl.
The boy was disappointed; secretly, I toasted my old Miami heroes. Meanwhile, my dad taunted me about unfinished car washes.
In 2010, our household fell in love all over again when running back Marshawn Lynch set off local seismographs. My bride embraced the Beast. We never looked back; the 49ers and their coach, Jim Harbaugh, united us in hatred of a new enemy.
My son discovered Richard Sherman’s bravado, and Russell Wilson’s cool. We gloried in last year’s Super Bowl run, his last year of high school. We bought matching Lynch jerseys. As this season began, he headed to college. We hoped for a repeat, ran the numbers and texted each other with trivia.
Two weeks ago, my bride and I watched the game against the Green Bay Packers that sent the Hawks to the Super Bowl for the second straight year. By the fourth quarter, we reached the beery acceptance stage. The Hawks were down, the offense humbled. Wilson was playing the worst game of his career. Loss looked inevitable.
Still, the defense refused to die. There was Sherman, snarling like a velociraptor with a wounded claw, countering the drama of Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his shredded calf muscle.
Sherman had a sprained elbow, inadvertently inflicted on a gang tackle by his teammate, Chancellor. Watching, I couldn’t imagine how much it hurt; I’ve sprained my elbow opening a jar of pickles. Sherman was still tackling.
Wilson threw his fourth interception with five minutes left. My bride grabbed a hunk of cheese from the refrigerator and kicked it over the back yard fence in a gesture of anti-Packer defiance.
Our son texted us from his dorm: “I’m dying.”
So were we — but the Packers went three and out, and the Hawks scored. We ran out of beer and hung on like grim death. Another frazzled text from our son: “This is too much.”
The Hawks needed to recover an onside kick. Impossible, surely — and then they recovered it. We started jumping up and down.
They scored again and took the lead 36 seconds later on a skittering run by Lynch. We jumped and howled. They picked up an impossible two-point conversion. We turned into a two-person mosh pit.
A tying field goal from the Packers — hold on, hold on. Then overtime, and the Hawks won the coin toss, and six plays later, Wilson sailed a rainbow to Jermaine Kearse. Game over.
Now the neighborhood howled. Fireworks blasted. Horns honked.
On TV, a reporter corralled Wilson, whose perfect façade dissolved as he croaked through slobby tears.
It was just football, just a game. It didn’t matter — but it did. To my surprise, my eyes blurred.
My phone rang: my son. His husky voice cracked. We spoke in broken sentences.
I said I knew he’d be coming home for a visit in a couple of Sundays. He said that was right.
Another text came moments later, from my dad.
“Best 10 minutes I ever saw,” he said.
I texted back: “Wilson made me cry.”