The Magic Number

While just about every Seahawk fan is happy to see Jerry Rice in the uniform, some are still wondering: Why Steve Largent's #80?

Our newest Seahawk has managed to pull the #80 out of the glass-enclosed display and plans on wearing it on the field this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Shame on you Paul Allen for letting this happen. Shame on you Bob Whitsitt, Bob Ferguson, Tod Leiweke, and Mike Holmgren. Shame on you Nolan Cromwell. Shame on the equipment guy who has the gall to sew any name on a Seahawk uniform over #80 besides “Largent.”

Of course they went through the etiquette of contacting Largent to receive his blessing. I understand why Largent would be O.K. with it, but shame on you Steve Largent for being the one man who could ultimately stop this and letting it happen anyway.

Tony Perez decided in 1998 to keep his #24 retired when Ken Griffey wanted the Cincinnati slugger’s uniform. Largent should have done the same. Barry Bonds, not exactly the first name that comes to mind when modesty and humility are mentioned, chose #25 when he became a San Francisco Giant instead of the #24 he wore in Pittsburgh. Why? Because he felt that he could honor the Giant who wore that number – his godfather Willie Mays – more by choosing a different one.

If you’re one of those for whom symbols have no meaning, then I won’t bother to try to convince you of anything. Our society has become very literal, and many of you can just brush this aside by saying “it’s only a number”.

But most of you know better.

#80 is retired because Steve Largent is the greatest player in team history. He retired with just about every league receiving record to his name. The fact that others went on to surpass those records is totally irrelevant to the meaning he has to the greater Seattle community. #80 represents more than just a player, it represents an era of Seattle sports unlike no other.

Largent came to Seattle in 1976, the same year pro football did. He spanned the expansion years, the first winning seasons, and the team’s brush with near greatness. He’s the foundation of professional football in this community. He taught us how to truly love a team, not just because he was great on the field, but because he was person you most wanted to root for. He represented all the best values of professional sports. Class, humility, competitiveness and excellence. He embodied those things to such a high degree that when his career ended it was a foregone conclusion that no player would wear #80 again.

And so how did this happen?

I guess the argument that neophytes can make is “He’s Jerry Rice”. He’s the greatest ever. He owns all the records now.

He says he’s wearing #80 to “Honor” Steve Largent. How about honoring him by NOT wearing it. Watching Jerry Rice run around wearing #89 would do Steve Largent a much greater honor than taking what doesn’t belong to you.

You have all the records. You have the rings. You have the longevity. You’re the greatest ever.

But you’re not Steve Largent. Steve Largent is a state of mind. Steve Largent embodies a time in Seattle history when our love for the Seahawks was unblemished.

You can have all the accolades, the championships. You can keep all the yards, the touchdowns, the glamour and the glory.

Just give us our #80 back, because it isn’t yours.

"The Hawkstorian" writes about Seahawks history, the salary cap, and many other things for Seahawks.NET on an alarmingly regular basis. You can reach him at hawkstorian@yahoo.com.


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