I am a Seattle Seahawks fan. I came by that title recently, but don’t mistake me for some fair-weather fan or sore winner who should just shut up and let the Broncos fans mourn their fallen. I’ve never really been all that into sports. My road to fandom has been a long one, but last night I think I finally reached my destination.
In high school I went to every single football game as part of my marching band. Through 4 years and over 120 quarters I never once could figure out what the hell I was watching. I didn’t know what a “down” was and couldn’t understand why the refs kept blowing their whistles and stopping the game every few seconds. Honestly I thought we were just a terrible team. (In reality we ended most seasons around 5-5, so… meh.)
In college marching band I was forced to learn how the game was played. We played the same short fanfare immediately after every first down. Since it took several seconds to climb into my cumbersome sousaphone, I had to learn how to watch the game and anticipate what was happening so I could be ready to play on the first note. It was a slow process, but by the end of the first year I had a decent grasp of the basics.
At the time my Arkansas Razorbacks were a pretty good team – never amazing, but not at all bad. We made it to a mid-level bowl game every year. Pretty quickly I learned to root for my team and actually began to get very emotionally invested in their games. By the end of my 5 years I was a certified Razorback fan. I even got excited about watching other college games when their outcomes might influence my own teams rankings.
But while I understood collegiate sports, I still hated the professional arena: it’s easy to have passion when you have your own school to root for, but I’ve never had a reason to care about any pro team. At that point I had only ever lived in Oklahoma and Arkansas; neither state has a team. Pro sports in general always just seemed like synthetic fandom generated by marketing teams for the sole purpose of separating idiots from their money.
About 6 years ago I moved to St Louis, but the Rams don’t exactly make it easy for fans. (I did start getting into the Cardinals, but baseball is too inherently boring to get really jazzed about.) Then 3 years ago I fell in love with a crazy Pats fan. She recently agreed to marry me, which may call her decision-making skills into question, but the heart wants what it wants. My heart wants her, and her heart wants Tom Brady, so there we go. She’s from Michigan and went to Brady’s Alma Mater. She would be a Lions fan too, if they weren’t so hard to root for. But Red Wings are sacred.
So I started watching pro games with her. I took her side, rooted for her teams, and enjoyed myself. I even got really excited about the games. When we didn’t care about either team, I just rooted for the underdog. Everybody loves underdogs. But I never felt any real ownership for my newly inherited teams the way I did with Arkansas. Why should I care about the lives and careers of one particular group of people over another, just by virtue of where I happen to live or where the woman I love happened to get her Bachelor’s degree years before I met her.
So I took things into my own hands. This past August, as the season began, I made the conscious decision to choose an NFL team at random to root for throughout this season. OK, it might not have been completely random: I’ve always loved the Pacific Northwest, and I like the cool Inuit-style logo design and the fun neon green accents in their uniforms. Not great reasons, to be sure, but no more arbitrary than any other I have at my disposal. But at least the choice was finally mine own. I made the decision: the Seattle Seahawks are my team.
There’s no way I could’ve known back then how their season would turn out. I had kind of pegged them for a middling team that nobody gave much thought to, and honestly, that was part of the appeal. Their games never made regional network TV in St Louis, so I figured they were just one of “those other teams.” No one I knew was either rooting for or against them. They were a clean slate, which meant they could be my team easily without any baggage.
As the season went on I discovered real tangible reasons to root for them. How could I have guessed they would go on to have the #1 defense in the league or the best regular-season record? I became a fan of Marshawn Lynch, the only running back I have ever enjoyed watching. Admit it, passing is usually much more exciting than running, right? But I could actually see his incredible talent for falling forward and gaining a crazy amount of yards after being tackled. I enjoyed watching interviews with Russell Wilson, who I am convinced will be an extremely popular TV commentator someday. I learned terms like “The 12th Man” and “Legion of Boom”. I learned about their battle to hold the record for loudest stadium noise and discovered I wasn’t alone in my fandom.
Then came last night’s Super Bowl. Under most circumstances I would’ve considered that a boring game. I think most people did. A complete blowout, with absolutely zero competition from the Broncos. But the winning team was my team! Not to mention, everyone seemed to be predicting a victory, even if a narrow one, for Denver. We were the underdogs. I love rooting for underdogs! And then not only did we win, we utterly dominated the field in every single possible aspect. I had a blast watching it!
And that sealed the deal. When I made this choice 6 months ago, I had planned on it being a silly little one-year thing. I would pick a team to root for this year, and a completely different random one next year, and the next, and so on. But that’s not going happen now. I found my team. I am a certified Seahawks fan. No scratch that. I’m am part of the 12th Man. I am a Seahawk. BOOM!