It’d be easy for me to write an article harping on our inconsistent Seahawks of Seattle.
I could easily write a piece questioning the play calling of head coach Mike Holmgren. The ease of which 49er offensive coordinator Norv Turner emasculated Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall. “Shooting fish in a barrel” would be the best way to describe how effortless Frank “I invented the internet” Gore gashed the Seahawks interior and linebackers. Questioning the failed move of Babineaux to Safety, over Boulware, would be enough to fill two articles.
But, given the time of year I cant force myself to knowingly question the team and sport that’s been by my side, my best friend, my only positive during the most difficult times of my life. Ever since I was 4 years old, the Seahawks and football itself have been a passion for me.
The first non-children’s book I ever read was titled “Pro Quarterbacks” at the age of four. In the book, the author covered the great QBs of that time, like Phil Simms, Danny White, Terry Bradshaw, Brian Sipe, Richard Todd, etc. The first book I read to the point of pages literally falling out was a Pro Football Almanac, which only listed the alma maters and draft status of players, game scores, and basic press information. Hours upon hours of my life, under the age of eight, were spent organizing, alphabetizing, and re-collating the 1983 Topps box of football cards I received one Christmas morning.
Later in my youth, I was forced to defend the Seahawks at Elementary, Junior High, and High School against my many classmates that had long ditched the perennial losers. While those around me latched on to whatever team was winning or flashy, I remained true to the team that was by my side as a child, the Seahawks.
I furthered my fanaticism on my 18th birthday (June 19th, 1994), by getting a tattoo of the Seahawks logo on my right bicep. Even that display of unwavering support lead to criticism by the ink-laden man who fulfilled the task. He questioned my desire to have the Seahawks permanently blazoning my skin, all while he himself displayed the Grim Reaper riding a Harley around his neck. While he chuckled and called the other artists over to comment on my foolish tattoo, I remained idly silent motioning him to fulfill the job he was hired to do.
All of the above passion, loyalty, and anecdotes pale in comparison to how the Seahawks remained my only outlet to the real world during the most tumultuous time of my life.
Sometime in late 1995, an aunt of mine had introduced me to a new way of ingesting a hobby, cocaine. This aunt, straight out of the Charlize Theron film Monster, instructed my then girlfriend and I on the benefits of smoking cocaine over snorting it. With the standard lock-stepped gullibility of a 20 year-old, my trusting of the only flawed, addicted family I had ever known, and the forever shrugging attitude towards narcotics it wasn’t long before my life began spiraling out of control. Within three months of that first hit, my girlfriend and I had lost 80 pounds between our already sleek frames. There were jobs lost, eviction notices given, and sleep that I’m still yet to make up for.
Eventually, my girlfriend and I became zombies and slaves to the drug. The routine was one of sickening redundancy. Every day my girlfriend and our dealer/roommate would leave me a rock of crack the size of a golf ball, while they attended to their errands. I’d spend all my days and nights alone, smoking and fidgeting over a pipe and a “chunk”, not bothering to correspond with the co-workers, bosses, brothers, or parents that were perpetually reaching out to try and save me. Meals, sleep, clean clothes, and human interaction became meager bi-weekly events. To this day, there are very few items that I clearly recall from that troubling stretch of my life.
One of the most vivid memories from that period was Christmas morning 1996. At that point, my girlfriend, dealer/roommate, nor I had eaten or slept for three days. The girls had come home from an especially long couple days of errands, hustling, and “re-upping”. It wasn’t Christmas that had stopped their hustle and bustle, it was the fact it was Christmas for everyone else that had.
Once they arrived home, each of them collapsed fully clothed onto the bed reminiscent of a wounded, atrophied, or emaciated wild animal settling in for their final resting spot. Neither one of them were cognoscente of the fact it was Christmas, what that meant, or that I was also in the house.
Not knowing what exactly to do, being it was my first Christmas without any family or human interaction, I did the best I could. At that time, our house reeked of a once posh abode to one of third-world scarcity. We had no money, just drugs. No food, just pipes. There were zero presents under the non-existent Christmas tree, just utter squalor. I did the only thing I could do, I rounded up every quarter, dime, nickel, and penny in the house to try and provide some semblance of familiar holiday.
With all the embarrassment of an adolescent attending school in a burlap sack, I was able to plop enough change on the convenient store counter to purchase something resembling a Christmas breakfast. But that uncharacteristically thoughtful action isn’t why the memory is fresh in mind. It’s the vision of the girls eating the breakfast that left a scar on my psyche.
Each bite taken by them was done without any utensils and shoved three-knuckles deep within their own mouths. With every mouthful, a groaning sound of relief and nourishment echoed from deep inside their bodies. That morning was, if for only a few moments, a peek into my own reality as to how far we had all fallen. The other glimpses into my own soul during that stretch came every Sunday, with the play of the Seahawks.
What friends or family couldn’t do, the Seahawks were able to. Every Sunday I would remain sober and coherent to either watch or listen to the Seahawks. Those Sundays became weekly reminders of who I really was, who I could become, and where my life should be heading. In simpler terms, it enabled me to remember what it was like to have emotions, passion, and anger…i.e., what it was like to be human.
Six days a week my mind, body, and soul remained floating just above reality. The days and nights were spent fighting my own self-loathing over succumbing to the drug, the bouts of paranoia that embattle sleep deprived, and the perpetual awaiting of the girls to provide me with more of what now consumed me. But, on the seventh day my world returned, grounded in reality.
I remember as if it were yesterday sitting alone in my apartment as the Seahawks blocked a Houston Oilers’ last second field goal…returning it for a touchdown to secure a win. I remember the wave of exuberance that overtook my being as I watched the play on the radio. I also remember that my celebration differed from my usual psychotic outbursts. I had to remain somber due to the landlords living downstairs and our rent being more than a month behind.
I witnessed the heroic, as John Friesz played the first half, of his first game as a starter, against the Lions, on a broken leg. I remember the heartbreak and the “only the Seahawks” irony of seeing another savior wearing #17 slip through the cracks.
I recall the embarrassment of seeing the Kingdome become an extension of Lambeau Field, when Mike Holmgren and the suddenly fashionable Green Bay Packers arrived in town. Watching it on the radio, you would’ve sworn the game was being played in Wisconsin.
Unbridled joy and ecstasy are the only terms I can use to describe what took me as I watched the Seahawks defeat the Raiders in a meaningless season closing game. It left the taste of hope in everyone’s mouth for the next season.
Rick Mirer’s confused scrambles. Brian Blades’ toughness catching a ball over the middle. Joey Galloway’s unearthly speed. Rick Tuten’s booming punts. Lamar Smith unheralded emergence. Chris Warren’s lazy jaunts through and around opposing defenses. Mack Strong’s blocking. Ricky Proehl’s perseverance. Carlester Crumpler’s name. Cortez Kennedy’s dominance. Michael Sinclair’s demoralizing sacks. Etc, etc., etc. All of those players, plays, games, and moments are all that I really have from that year or so of my life.
Eventually I snapped out of the rut of paranoia and confusion from which crack had placed me. It wasn’t due anything heroic or worthy of a James Fry novel. No, it was due to nothing more than losing everything. But, while those losing Seahawks didn’t save my life – they kept me alive and reminded me of life. If it weren’t for those Sunday’s spent rooting on my first love, all sense of reality would’ve surely been lost.
And for that, I give thanks.
Ryan Davis writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. He can be reached here.