You know that feeling after something really bad happens, when your brain refuses to accept what has clearly transpired before your eyes and instead rushes to far-fetched alternatives?
Something like this: You didn't just back into that car. That couldn't have happened. You just hit a bump and there's got to be three or so feet between bumpers.
Or maybe it's the second-and-a-half between stubbing your toe and the pain making its way to your head. Oh, it's not that bad. I'm gonna be OK. I just nicked it. It won't hurt too... oh shit, the pain is ruthless. There's a lot of blood. I'm dying, and I never even went to Canada.
That's how I felt on the first day of February after what I only will call The Interception. I refused to accept what I'd seen, because why would they run it? They have Marshawn Lynch, a man who God put on this earth exclusively to eat Skittles and move the ball forward, so there's no reason why they actually threw the ball, right?
I won't go any further because you remember this, and you, like me, remember staring at the floor before trying fruitlessly to drink away the pain once it finally arrived. The ache felt physical, and when I woke up in the morning, realizing I unfortunately hadn't dreamt the end of that game, the discomfort lingered.
That pain was doubled with the sense of guilt for feeling so deeply about something that does not matter. Sports are not the real world, and no one died because Malcolm Butler made an interception that NASA physicists still can't explain.
But as we head into another season, you have to ask yourself why you'd set yourself up for this kind of disappointment. The Seahawks will not win the Super Bowl every year, and given the team's recent success, you would be forgiven for finding anything short of a ring a disappointment. That's a problem.
The players and coaches who were involved in the play were likely exponentially more devastated than us couch warriors. Here's what Ricardo Lockette, the wide receiver at whom that pass was aimed, wrote on The Players' Tribune this summer about people who try to comfort him by saying that Butler just made a perfect play and he shouldn't beat himself up.
"That's ridiculous. That's like saying someone shot your brother, but it was a really good shot. It doesn't make it hurt any less. Nothing can take the pain away except getting back there and winning another Super Bowl. I'm lucky to have a tight circle around me, but this offseason was really, really tough. I had nights where I just stared at my bedroom ceiling," Lockette says.
Lockette says he got through things after a discussion with quarterback Russell Wilson, who somehow comforted his target by saying that the Seahawks are going to get back to the Super Bowl, and if there's a goal-line play at the end of the game, he's still throwing to Lockette. This is in no way comforting to Seahawks fans, because if they are on the goddamn goal line with half a minute left in the game, you're giving it to Marshawn.
It's also not necessarily surprising that Wilson hasn't worried too much about that play, considering he spent the offseason securing an enormous contract, dating (just dating and nothing more) a singer/supermodel, appearing in that awful Entourage movie, claiming that miracle water prevents head injuries and generally trying to become more annoying than Tim Tebow.
Still, these guys have moved on. Coach Pete Carroll took the blame and worked with psychologists and inspirational speakers to get his guys' minds right after last February, and said he isn't thinking about the play. In his zen-master style, he feels he moved past what will go down as the worst call in football history until Jim Harbaugh goes full bonkers at Michigan and starts punting on first down.
It's entirely possible that you, dear football fan, are more emotionally scarred than Pete Carroll. That's not good for you, and it's not good for the grand ideal of football, which already has more dysfunction than it can handle. But if you're watching the Hawks kick off on Sunday morning, your heart is already mostly healed because you came back. You do, however, need to remember one thing: Your devastation at however any non-championship season ends will be proportionate to the amount of energy and blind belief you put into the game.
You'll immediately realize that Sundays are a hell of a lot more fun if you can constantly remind yourself that this is all make-believe, and no one is going to die. ♦