Wherein our intrepid columnist ponders the irony of being a Homer fan while living so many miles from "home."

Homer. The term is offered up, usually by the more critical fans, as a mild (or perhaps not so mild) insult aimed at those fans who fail to join in with the continual attacks on the critics’ target du jour.

I’ve been called that a lot. And I’ve been called a lot worse.

I suppose my attitude towards the team we all love is colored somewhat by some kind of New Age superstition that excess criticism might lead to “bad vibes” or something and bring about bad outcomes. In truth, the Seahawks of the past have had little trouble finding ways to lose games. A case could be made (and it has been made by many so-called experts) that the tradition has been one of failing in the clutch, dropping the ball in key situations, and generally failing in their promise.

I’ve followed the NFL for a lot of years, including a few years before Seattle even had a team. Back then, I have to admit that I was somewhat of a bandwagoner. Since there were no Seahawks, and faint hope that Seattle would ever have a team of their own, I felt no guilt in rooting for the Dolphins during their undefeated season, or the Steelers during their dynasty. Two trends did emerge during those years. I tended to favor AFC teams, and I always hated the Raiders.

Somehow, my memory doesn’t really register the fact that the Seahawks played their first year in the NFC. Perhaps our swift transfer into the AFC West helped me forget that fact. Of course, back there in the pre-internet Dark Ages, it was difficult to find any news of the Seahawks when you lived out of the area, like I have since 1970.

During those early years, I have to admit that I rooted for two teams. The Seahawks were in there, though they had the typical slow start of expansion teams back then. In those days, the league wasn’t very interested in making expansion teams good in any great hurry. It was virtually impossible for an expansion team to win with any consistency back then. It was only later that they adjusted the system to allow a team a rapid rise to respectability.

So, for a few years in there, I tried to be a “homer” fan for the then Los Angeles Rams. Heck, I lived here, and I couldn’t root for the Raiders. Given the paucity of news concerning the Seahawks in the local papers and media, I had little choice if I wanted to feed my football Jones. I did always root for the Seahawks on those rare occurrences when they were on the local feed, and even when they played the Rams. No contest there. I even attended a Seahawk game at the Coliseum versus the Raiders. Feared for my life that day. I did. I don’t believe the Seahawks ever played the Rams in Anaheim, at least I don’t remember them doing that. Looking back, I have to think I would have gone to a game had it happened.

Life goes on. The Rams proceeded to alienate their Southern California fan base and moved to St Louis. I really started to hate them then. So it was easy, when we moved to the NFC West, to continue that hatred. No problem there.

But once the Rams moved, I was cast adrift a bit. It is difficult to be an out of area homer fan of a team that seldom makes any headlines in the national press. It took the advent of the Internet for me to really get in solid touch with the Seahawks and their fans. I look forward to moving back to Washington so I can lift a few brews with some real Seahawk fans. There are a few around here, but very few.

So I’m a homer. I’m a homer that lives out of state, but I’m a homer. I’m a certified “lookin’ through rose colored glasses” homer. Invariably, going into a season I think the Seahawks will win more games than most others, and usually I think they will win more games than most NFL experts do. So be it.

As a homer, it has always grated on me when someone criticizes my team or one of our players more than I think they deserve, particularly when that someone considers themselves a fan. With age comes wisdom, though. Teaching fellow fans the “error of their ways” is an arduous task, and will lead to failure and frustration more often than not. I reserve the right to express my own fandom in my fashion, and I’ll give others the same courtesy.

Now, as the Seahawks finish what might be called the most successful off season in team history, there seem to be more and more homers out there. There is genuine excitement about this team. Funny, but that makes this homer more nervous in some ways.

Down the years, I’ve noticed that football teams fall into different classes. There are those teams and organizations that climb to the top and hang around. There are those that climb close to the top and fall back. There are those teams that never reach any high level. For most of our history, Seattle has been in that third group. For a brief spell in the early to mid 80’s we were in the second group, making the playoffs several years running, even playing in a conference championship game, but always falling back. In the 90’s we were definitely in that third group.

2004 looks to be a watershed year. Optimism is high, as are expectations. Are the Seahawks ready to make another step forward, or will they fall back? A playoff win this season would solidify our position in the second group, at least. With the regular season to go through, overconfidence would seem to be our major concern. Sixteen games separate us from that next playoff appearance. There will be plenty of chances for the “old” Seahawks to pop up and bite us where we sit. There will also be plenty of chances to prove that the “new” Seahawks are here to stay for a while.

The homer in me wants to believe that these are new Seahawks, unaffected by old jinxes and curses. The homer in me says we’re in for a fun and exciting ride this year, with lots of wins and as close to a sure thing playoff appearance since the Chuck Knox era. The homer in me can’t help but notice that there sure seems to be a lot more homers around these days.

I guess I have to admit one thing. There have been things to criticize in the past, and I have often been guilty of trying to rationalize and minimize them. That’s pretty much what a homer does, right? But the team has been addressing problems. In particular, the team seems to have a scheme in place whereby they fix problems on a longer term basis, instead of applying an endless stream of one year patches and short term fixes. The team this year has an intriguing mix of youth and experience, seasoned with what appears to be real dedication, if player attendance in off season workouts is an indicator. Even the “realists” have been forced to admit that things appear to have gotten better. Cloud Nine seems to be not so high off the ground these days.

Yeah, I live out of state. And yeah, I’m a homer. And I’m proud of it.

Steve Utz writes a column for Seahawks.NET every Sunday. Send your feedback to Steve at wisecoyote1@cox.net.

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