In The Bunker

"In this topsy-turvy season of great hopes and expectations seasoned with cold splashes of grim reality, the Seahawks find themselves in a bit of an unfamiliar position, leading the division with a chance to win it within their grasp."

It’s that time of year. The playoffs are near, you can tell by the Saturday games and the heightened sense of urgency among players and fans. In this topsy-turvy season of great hopes and expectations seasoned with cold splashes of grim reality, the Seahawks find themselves in a bit of an unfamiliar position, leading the division with a chance to win it within their grasp.

The word everyone likes to use is destiny.

It’s a funny word, destiny. One way to look at it is that destiny is fixed. It is what it is and whatever one does, one will face their destiny and there isn’t anything one can do about it.

The other way to view it is that choices made and actions taken will determine what that destiny is.

Free will versus predestination. It’s an argument as old as mankind itself.

After nearly three decades of frustration, including seasons of total futility interspersed with a very few near misses, it is easy to think that God hates the Seahawks.

In the grand scheme of things, that might not be such a bad way to think about it.

This time of year we all get reminded that there just might be things more important than football, and a personal tragedy can really hammer that point home.

It’s easy to throw out superlatives in something so trivial as a game played by adults for the entertainment of others, but Darrell Jackson’s efforts over the past couple of weeks have bordered on the heroic. Now, I don’t want to cheapen the efforts of our men and women overseas serving in harm’s way, or those of the emergency responders here at home, or even of those parents and teachers who sacrifice daily for our youth. Those are true heroes. But I have a personal affinity for what Darrell Jackson is going through.

Many years ago, before there even was a Seattle Seahawks, I was stationed in Memphis, Tennessee for training. Late in the year, I was called home, once when my father went into the hospital, and once again for his funeral. In over 30 years since that time, I still have difficulty finding the joy in the Christmas season. No one can fully know the depths of personal grief that another feels, but I have been in a similar situation. My heart goes out to Darrell.

Meanwhile, the team must go through the trivialities of preparing to play another game.

Pundits like to make comments about a team’s “character” and “mental toughness.” Darrell Jackson has displayed his version of those concepts for all to see.

When it comes to discussion of such intangibles, though, you have to be careful. Things are seldom as simple as they seem.

The Seahawks have suffered their fair share of adversity this season. There have been the requisite apportionment of injuries, and perhaps more than their fair share of bad referee calls and bad bounces and low percentage plays the were somehow successful against them. Certainly, there is no shortage of excuses to be doled out like a liniment on a bruised extremity.

Therein lies the difference between winners and losers.

Last week’s last second win over the Vikings is emblematic of what the Seahawks need to realize and overcome.

Is God against us? Is there some curse, some evil magic that will forever prevent our Seahawks from reaching the brass ring? Yes and no.

The no part is easier. I don’t think God really cares who wins football games.

The yes part is a bit more complex. One way to look at curses is that anyone who believes in a curse has just submitted to its power.

While we like to think that the officials are impartial and not against us, they are certainly not for us. Sure, we’ve had some calls go against us, but does anyone really know if we’ve lost more calls than we’ve won? The answer to that question doesn’t really matter.

Other teams are not going to just roll over when we play them. Looking around the league every weekend, other teams have their own agendas, and it is foolish to think they will alter their game plans in order to help us.

In short, we’re on our own.

A couple of years ago, Trent Dilfer was quoted as saying we needed more of a “bunker” mentality. Here we are.

I can’t remember feeling as disheartened after a Seahawks game as I did after the loss to the Cowboys. It seemed that so much promise had been squandered, so much hope wasted.

Suddenly, after a gutsy win in Minnesota, the discussion has reverted from off-season firings and acquisitions back to playoff seedings. Such is the nature of Seahawks football this season.

One hopes that a lesson has been learned. It’s a lesson that winning teams learn sooner or later. The lesson is that basically, nobody is on their side. They are alone. If they don’t do it, nobody else will. If they don’t do it, it won’t get done.

If you want to win, you have to play better, harder, and longer than the other team. Things are going to go wrong and you’ll have to deal with it. There is a whole universe of opponents, bad luck, ill will, and uncaring officials out there and yes, if you want to reach your goal you will have to overcome them all.

That’s not to say that there will be no good breaks, no lucky bounces or referee’s calls that help. Sure, some of that is bound to happen. But there is a cosmic truth buried here, and that is that the less you count on good luck, the more you will probably get.

This is the time when the team has to look around, look each other in the eyes and decide if they really want to get this thing done. Plus, they have to realize that there isn’t anyone out there that will willingly help them. They are on their own.

Suddenly, in the midst of a season of radical emotional swings, in the middle of a year when it looks like everything has gone wrong, a teammate suffers a serious personal loss. It seems unfair, like the universe is piling on, doing its best to ensure the Seahawks will not realize their goals. There’s nothing new there.

Can this be the rallying point the team needs? Does watching Darrell Jackson play with fire and determination during this most difficult of times provide the motivation for the team to rally around him?

Events like the death of a family member transcend wins and losses. It is enough if they dedicate themselves to play better, harder, longer in honor of Darrell’s father. Win or lose, the team has to decide that they will play for Darrell and ultimately for each other.

All they have is each other, after all. The officials don’t care if they win. The Jets are going to do their best to see that they lose. Even we diehard fans will boo them when they “disappoint” us.

The only thing they can do about all of that is to play their hearts out and make sure they do everything in their power to make sure that when they walk off of that field they can look Darrell Jackson in the eye and honestly say, “I did my best.”

If they do that, good things will happen.

Steve Utz writes a column for Seahawks.NET every Sunday. Send your feedback to Steve at Top Stories