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February 5, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Super Bowl champion Seahawks: A 12th Man’s epiphany

By Paul Lindberg

Paul Lindberg, 40, is a former sportswriter who grew up a Seattle sports fan and recently relocated to Kennewick, where he lives with his wife, two kids and a dog. He telecommutes to his job at Microsoft and rarely misses a Seahawks game on TV.

Watching the Seattle Seahawks become World Champions on Sunday was in a word “vindicating” for me as a life-long sports fan and faithful follower of Seattle’s major professional sports teams since I was playing Little League and tossing Nerf footballs at recess.

Sure, the Mariners came close a few times. Who could ever forget the magical 1995 season before Cleveland eliminated Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. and company in the American League Championship Series? Remember the Chicago Bulls sweeping the Sonics 4-0 in the NBA Finals? And then the Sonics skipped town. And of course, there was the Seahawks-Steelers Super Bowl debacle eight years ago in Detroit. (Ugh, forget I brought that up.) What an awful postseason taste we Seahawks fans had in our mouths, except for the Beast Quake two years ago.

I was forced to endure so many cellar-dwelling seasons and a handful of near misses with the Mariners and Seahawks having grown up in the Pacific Northwest. Now I have a son, who just turned 9, and is even more caught up in the Seahawks than I was at his age. His passion for this team and for the NFL is electric. If this was going to end up being another disappointing season … well, it was a feeling I knew all too well.

I began to wonder, like I’m sure many of my 12th Man brethren did, if I’d ever have a championship to call my own.

That all changed Sunday night.

For two weeks, I had enjoyed reading all of the articles, player profiles, and analyses leading up to kickoff at MetLife Stadium. One Seattle sports writer wrote after the Seahawks held off the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, “Enjoy the next two weeks, Seattle. You’ve earned it.”

I took that to heart.

I soaked it all up and felt almost as prepared as Pete Carroll to face the Broncos because of all the stories written about their historic, record-setting season. As the game drew near Sunday afternoon, my family and I all donned our Seahawks garb, and my 11-year-old daughter even painted her face. We made signs to put on the front windows and had driven around weeks with homemade signs in the car. Plates of munchies were prepared to feast on while we watched – we hoped – to see if the Lombardi Trophy would be headed to Seattle.

When we all wrote down our predictions for the Super Bowl, I penned Seattle, 29-28. I figured it would be another hard-fought game like the rest of the NFC playoffs had been, with the Seahawks finding a way to finally bring a coveted major professional sports title home. I failed to believe all the people who told me Manning would dice up the Seahawks like he did all season against unworthy opponents. Fifty-five touchdowns? In 16 games? More than 600 points?

Nope, I believed. Defense wins championships, right?

When the snap flew over Peyton Manning’s head, I screamed and pointed at the TV. I crashed into a wall celebrating Malcom Smith’s pick six. We were ahead 22-0 at halftime, and I walked around on the deck to cool off. I took a deep breath, praying this wouldn’t be the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history.

I nearly lost my mind when Percy Harvin rocketed end to end to score on the second-half kickoff return. Could this be really happening? If it was a dream, I told my wife not to pinch me. I didn’t want to wake up.

My throat became raw. I kept jumping up and down and waving my arms. I even hugged the dog once or twice en route to the 43-8 win. I didn’t sit down until sometime in the fourth quarter – waiting to see how Richard Sherman’s injury would play out.

When it was all over – the kids were in bed, the food was put away, and the dog felt OK to finally approach me again – I sat and just reminisced. I’d always wondered what it would feel like to have a championship that was mine. I literally didn’t miss a snap all year – with the exception of having to listen on during the loss to the Colts when I was out of the country on business. In the quiet aftermath of Manning’s postgame news conference, as Wilson remarked for the millionth time about his dad asking, “Why not you, Russell?”, I finally relaxed. I soaked up the pictures of Carroll and Smith hoisting the trophy and I swore to myself that I’d never forget this moment.

I remembered back to last spring when we took the kids to a Seahawks kids’ camp where my son had his picture taken with Russell Okung and Max Unger. That photo hangs in his room. I remember when I had finally ponied up and paid the extra fees for the NFL Network and NFL Mobile app.

As the season had worn on, the more I began to believe.

And now I had my championship and no one could ever take it away from me.

Having lived in this area so long and only hearing about how the Sonics had won it all when I was 6 years old made this moment eternally sweet. Those hundreds of box scores I kept in a notebook while listening to Dave Neihaus and Rick Rizzs call the Mariners games, pretending to be Curt Warner and Steve Largent and Dave Krieg at recess finally paid off.

I know the chances of making back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in this age of NFL salary caps and parity is extremely small. But I still believe. Is there a more dangerous team than the Seahawks heading into the next season with about 90 percent of the team still under contract?

The question is really whether the players and Carroll are still hungry enough to put in the time and effort they did this year to survive all those dog fights in the NFC. The 49ers and Panthers will for sure be back. Don’t count out Drew Brees’ Saints, either.

But the young Seahawks – whose average age of 26.4 years made it the second youngest in Super Bowl history, according to Pro Football Reference and Football Perspective – have  a fighting chance of clawing back to the top of the NFC and the Super Bowl. I hesitate to use the D word (dynasty), so I’ll leave you with this instead: You all realize that Percy Harvin has like five years remaining on his contract, right?

Now I – and all of Seahawk Nation – can sit back, grin, and slyly ask: “How many days until training camp?”

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