Super Bowl XL: The 5 Stages of Grief

The events surrounding the way Super Bowl XL was officiated has left many in Seahawks Nation in a bit of an emotional tailspin. SBXL created a complex series of emotions that NET's Todd Breda thinks can be categorized through a familiar set of stages that perhaps through awareness comes healing towards the road of recovery.

I would like to begin by making something perfectly clear. There is nothing on earth that compares to the death of a loved one. Nothing touches each one of us more prodigiously than death. In no way is this article meant to undermine or demean death's profound nature, how it effects our lives, nor the 5 very real stages of grief that were outlined by the late Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her ground-breaking book, "On Death and Dying".

It's been 55 days, 20 hours, 19 minutes and 32 seconds since Super Bowl XL.

Not that I'm counting or anything.

After waiting 30 years (that's 167 in sports years) for the Seahawks to make it to the Super Bowl, the once improbable destination has been reached. Unfortunately for Seahawks fans, the destination itself has left us all with varying degrees of broken-heartedness.

The dynamics of the game, and how poorly it was officiated has been the talk of the NFL and national media since that cold February day in Detroit. Any one with any sense of objectivity at all knows we got hosed. Even the usually contemptuous ESPN admitted the Seahawks were victims of the biggest snow job in Super Bowl history.

So what was meant to be the most magical memory for all Seahawks fans, has been darkened forever by controversy and the league's arrogance to admit no wrong nor any accountability for the officials who clearly favored one outcome from the start.

Indeed, the results of Super Bowl XL are merely a symptom of a much deeper, fundamental problem with the world's most successful professional sport.

A problem that doesn't appear to have any solution any time soon.

Still, we Seahawks fans are left wallowing in our own post-traumatic stress disorder of sorts. Having the opportunity to take the temperature of Seahawks Nation on a daily basis through the microcosm of our community forum has made it clear to me that we are all experiencing the various stages of grief.

Allow me to guide you through these stages in the hope that we can identify each and move on. Like Don Henley once sang in The Heart of The Matter

"…You better put it all behind you baby; life goes on…
You keep carryin' that anger; it'll eat you up inside…"


The first stage of grief is denial. Most of us are well past this stage. As one of the fortunate (or is that unfortunate? Hmmm…) Seahawks die-hards to actually have the opportunity to go to Super Bowl XL, I can recall sitting in my chair in absolute disbelief. I had left literally no option in my mind for anything less than a Seahawks Super Bowl victory. I knew we were a better team than the Steelers and all of the media hype the week leading up to the Super Bowl was just that. Hype.

That night, sitting in my hotel room, many hours removed from the game, I still could not comprehend the outcome. Forget the officiating - that lovely bonus would enter into the equation soon enough - I was in shock. A complete and profound state of denial.

This lasted about two days until I got back home and absorbed the collective energy of the Pacific Northwest and Seahawks Nation community. Like a bomb exploding in my head I found myself fully immersed within the second stage of grief.


The second stage of grief is anger, and it is this stage I believe most Seahawks fans are still experiencing. The feeling is justified through the perceived and actual injustices of the biggest game in sports history - and certainly Seahawks history - manifested from the biased and botched officiating and lack of accountability in the heat of the after math.

It's understandable to be filled with anger when the biggest game of your team's life was poisoned with controversy and such biased officiating it's nearly laughable. Yet for many of us, laughter is a long, long ways away. The problem with anger however - Like Mr., Henley sang, it can eat you up inside.

There comes a point - and it will come in its own time - when we move on and no longer hold so much venom in our hearts for something we can't change.

Releasing anger can often times result in hoping for a different scenario or outcome.


The third stage of grief is bargaining. A clear example of this came one day when I was reading a thread in our forum community from fans who thought Super Bowl XL should have an asterisk next to it forever etched in the annals of NFL history. The idea here is that if there's even some acknowledgement by the NFL regarding XL's controversial officiating, it would somewhat lessen the pain.

Some even suggested the NFL playing the game over again.

Of course, these things would never happen but it's a clear example of the psychology of the third stage and its importance as we work through the various stages of grief.


The fourth stage of grief is also a popular one where some Seahawks fans reside today even nearly two months removed. Like anger, depression is a powerful and serious emotion that takes time to work through.

When we invest so much passion and commitment to a team, cheer them on to victory and literally watch them become champions before our eyes, there is a major emotional investment and pride that comes with that kind of loyalty. When such convictions are made, the potential for the dream shattering increases the risk of depression.

Watching the Seahawks come home and having Seattle host a parade where the Lombardy Trophy is hoisted for the hundreds of thousands of supporters and fans was the dream taken away from all of us. The nature of the loss compounds the problem and makes this the most difficult stage to navigate through.

Yet, navigate you will or already have. The human spirit in each of us has no limitation.

And thank God for that. After all, we still live in the same world that perpetuated the events of Super Bowl XL.


Finally, our journey ends with acceptance. Do not confuse acceptance with complacency. You do not have to like the injustices of the world but you can learn to accept the events that cannot be reversed. Nothing we do or say or feel can ever change the outcome of Super Bowl XL. There comes a time when you finally let go and say, "okay, this is not what I wanted, but it is what it is."

The beauty of life and even the NFL is that there is always a new season. A time for new beginnings and a chance for better outcomes. Hope springs eternal as sure as the dry heat under the sky of Cheney Washington each Summer when the Seahawks begin a new campaign for greatness.

Players and coaches come and go but we never do. We get up, dust ourselves off and live to fight another day. It's that human spirit again.

In September, we start this ride all over again.

What a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Todd Breda is the Owner and Creative Director of Seahawks.Net. If you would like to e-mail Todd, send it to:

The Heart of the Matter (© 1989 Mike Campbell/Don Henley/J.D. Souther)

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