On Sunday evening, a few minutes after Percy Harvin broke away from the entirety of the Broncos' kickoff coverage team, I sat holding my 10-month-old son. He was wearing a 12th Man shirt for reasons he won't understand for several years and gnawing on an empty Skittles bag, the contents of which had been tossed around after a Marshawn Lynch touchdown an hour earlier.
He didn't choose to become a Seahawks fan (and a fan of all other Seattle teams), and neither did I. My dad had me on his lap in front of the television back in the mid-1980s, too. And he took me to the Kingdome, where I learned to pee in a trough and catch roasted peanuts from a guy named Rick who was more famous in the city than most of the players on the field. I learned "The Wave" and that "Louie Louie" is always played after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." But it also was where I learned about disappointment and manageable expectations and that this is all just a game. I also learned how to lose.
But now I was watching the Seattle Seahawks win a Super Bowl. I was almost jealous — it took me 31 years to see a championship, but my little guy got it on his first try. Things were going to be different for him. Maybe it wouldn't be as agonizing. Maybe the defeatist ethos I and thousands of others have carried for a lifetime like a masochistic badge of honor wouldn't be passed down to the next generation.
Things haven't been great for Seattle teams since professional sports arrived, despite a few glimpses of what could be. The Hawks have had a few winning years. The Mariners have been atrocious except for those few magical years that culminated in disappointment, and the Sonics, hell, the powers that be straight took them away from us and put them in the most anti-Seattle place you can think of. And then they got really good. The WNBA's Seattle Storm won titles in 2004 and 2010, but I had to remind you, so that didn't do much for us, it seems.
But now we have that championship. It feels good, but it's also foreign. It's like a new shirt you know looks amazing but is just itchy enough to remind you that it's not something you typically wear. When you're a Seattle sports fan from birth, you watch World Series games and Super Bowls and when the confetti rains down, you wonder what it would be like if that was your team. But you don't let yourself wonder for too long, because it seems irrational in the same way that it's irrational to look at a private jet and say, "I bet I'll have one of those some day."
I've heard some people say that Seattle is a city of losers, and that's not quite right. It's not, however, a city of winners: Other than a 1979 NBA championship, Seattle teams haven't won much. They've teased us a few times, just enough to let those "this could be the year" daydreams seep into the minds of fans who ultimately would be disappointed. (See: 2001 Seattle Mariners.) We're not losers as much as we are reluctant believers. Perhaps this is because we're isolated out here in this corner of the country, making us, by and large, a hardy bunch. We can take it, but not without forming a massive chip on our collective shoulder; we remain convinced that the rest of the nation either doesn't care about our sports teams or is part of a vast conspiracy to make us lose. For years, our highlights didn't make SportsCenter and our players were slighted by All-Star Games and Pro Bowls.
Still, over all these years, I've never thought about jumping on a bandwagon of a winning team from some other city, even when I've lived in other cities with better teams. I never defected, and neither did so many other fans who have worn their Seattle colors proudly during the worst of times. And damn it if wasn't all worth it on Sunday night.
The first time I put a Seahawks shirt on my son at the beginning of the season, I did so with a deep sigh, knowing I was bestowing upon him a lineage of sports fandom that had given me a life of grief. I'm no longer worried — he's starting off on a good note. I just hope he sees more wins than losses, because that's all you can really hope for your kids. ♦