Sports is a little bit like Sisyphus’ fate. No matter how high you push that stone one season, next year you’re back at the bottom of that hill, with a boulder that must be pushed up, and the higher you push it, the easier it can roll back down.
So here we are. Opening Day. Everybody is on an equal footing with no wins and no losses (except for the four teams involved in the early games, but you knew that). Thirty two teams, thirty two Sisyphuses lined up, pushing boulders up a hill we call the NFL Season.
The ultimate goal is to be the last one still pushing. The goal is to be the one team still going when all the other 31 are done and have had their boulder roll down the hill, to wait for next year when they can start again.
It’s frustrating, year after year, to be one of the 31. It hurts to have that rock roll down that hill, and to look up and see others still striving, still pushing, still climbing. That is where the Seahawks have been for 28 long and frustrating years. Each year we start out at the bottom of that hill, hoping and dreaming that we might be the last one standing on top of that hill. So far, not so good.
In truth, even the Super Bowl champion has to start over. There is no “bonus win” because they won the previous year. On the contrary, the other 31 typically steel themselves for their chance to play last year’s champ. Most teams can get up for a game against last year’s winner, which is one reason it is so difficult to repeat as champion. It’s like having a bull’s eye on your jersey every week.
But the frustration of not succeeding year after year accumulates. It becomes a stress all of its own. In many cases, players and fans become inured to the repeated failures and come to expect nothing more.
Seattle fans have been there. For many years, they have cheered their team, while secretly hiding that knowledge in the back of their minds. The knowledge that they just won’t make it this year, just like last year, and the year before, ad infinitum.
Such thinking can be habit forming. Fans can think that way; so can players. It’s one reason that the roster turnover was so nearly complete under Mike Holmgren. One of his tasks was to get rid of anybody who had become “used” to losing, anybody who didn’t think we should and could win every game we play.
Now, as we start our next push up that hill, there is a different feeling around the Seahawks. There is a confidence that we will keep pushing, that we can be the last team standing. We can get that rock up that hill higher than any of the other 31 teams.
For the first time in many years, there seems to be a lot of people that think we can do it, too. In truth, most of them don’t think we’ll be the last team standing. But many do think we could be one of the final 2, 3 or 4 teams. It’s an odd sort of a feeling, that sports writers from back east would even know that the Seahawks exist.
The push is just beginning. There is much work to be done, and one of the worst thing anyone can do is look up that hill too far. It is a very high hill, and steep. Some areas appear steeper than others, but that can be deceiving. No one knows how difficult any portion of that hill will be when we actually get there.
Better to look no farther than what is directly in front of us.
In front of us, of course, is a road game in New Orleans. There was significant evidence that the Seahawks were playing some decent football on the road at the end of last season. In truth, there were numerous reasons why we lost those six games on the road last year. Generally speaking, those reasons were concrete ones, having to do with mistakes made, and opportunities lost, and not ephemeral ones like “bad luck” or “curses.”
That’s a good thing, because those things can be corrected. Hopefully, errors lead to lessons learned.
If you believe in curses, you are doomed to be affected by them. Curses can’t be fixed, but football mistakes can be. Players can be taught to play better, no matter the location.
Here we are. Thirty two Sisyphusian teams pushing rocks up a hill.
Twenty teams will be done after 16 games. Twelve will go on after that. Only one team will make it to the top.
It is way too early to worry about something so far away. All we can hope for today is to beat the Saints and be higher than 16 teams when today’s game is done.
Come on, everybody, Push!
Steve Utz writes a column for Seahawks.NET every Sunday. Send your feedback to Steve at email@example.com.