Here on the left coast and just slightly south of Alaska, we've been cheering on our Seattle Seahawks all year with a quiet confidence that this would be our year. Many of us still remember the pain and crushing disappointment when we lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in SuperBowl 40. But this team had a different feel from that team in 06 and was built on a foundation of very young, hungry and mainly overlooked players.
Many of the key players were deemed too small or lacked elite speed or just didn't have the talent to be impact players in the NFL. Richard Sherman (aka the mouth that roared) was a 5th Round draft pick and is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Russell Wilson, our franchise quarterback, was deemed to short (5' 10.75") to play in a league where prototypical quarterbacks are 6' 3" or taller. For comparison, Peyton Manning from the Denver Broncos is 6' 5".
Malcolm Smith, MVP for SuperBowl 48 was a 7th Round draft pick from USC. Doug Baldwin, one of Seattle's top receivers, was an undrafted free agent - which means every team in the league passed on him 7 times in his draft year. I think that one of the reasons why this team captured the imagination of the fans in the Pacific NW was that we could all easily identify being underestimated, rejected or ignored.
There are a lot of other reasons why the fan base has fallen hard for the Seahawks. Coach Pete Carroll has infused the team with an upbeat, optimistic, happy go lucky personality. With his history of success of coaching young men at USC for a decade and winning multiple national championships, Carroll has worked hard on treating at his players as individuals with unique stories and personalities. He has been forgiving when players have made mistakes but he has also used these mistakes as teachable moments. Carroll has been part coach, part teacher and part father figure. His players love his style of coaching and it is evident by how hard they play for him game after game, year after year. Teams do have off games but we have never faulted the players for lack of effort.
Another reason why we've fallen hard for the Seahawks is the simple fact that this team is very close. In this business where the average career for a professional football player is 3.3 years and players move in and out of the league quickly, it's hard to build bonds with other players on the team. But it's evident that these players really care for each and hold each other accountable for their performances. While it's clear that they are all playing for a lucrative long term contract with guaranteed money, they also have the feeling of a team that is tightly knit and care for each other on a personal and human level.
The players and coaches also know that it's important to give back to the community and to help those less fortunate than themselves. Carroll has created two non-profit organizations - A Better L.A. and A Better Seattle - in order to help reduce youth and gang violence. Richard Sherman, who grew in a tougher neighborhood in L.A. and eventually graduated from Stanford, has started Blanket Coverage - a charity established to help underserved children have access to proper school supplies and adequate clothing. Russell Wilson is lauded for his regular visits to Children's Hospital.
It's clear that the region has fallen hard for the Seahawks and this is evident with all the banners, posters, signs, and flags that celebrate the team and the fanbase - affectionately known as the 12s. When I visit my daughter's elementary school, the majority of kids and teachers have been wearing Seahawks outfits. The kids talk about who their favorite players are or shout "Go Hawks" in the hallways. You end up having conversations with complete strangers in almost any setting about the team's success and likelihood of winning a SuperBow for the very first time. This team has been phenomenal for helping to build a spirit of community in the Pacific NW and we're grateful for this time to have a moment where can share something in common across social, economic, racial and political divides.
Well - we did it!!!. SuperBowl Champions for the first time. We're having a parade on Wednesday and I'm taking my daughter and she couldn't be more excited.
Thanks to the coaches, staff, and players for an outstanding season. #GoHawks.