BY MARK TYE TURNER
I’m standing in front of my seat at Super Bowl XLIX, only 150 feet away from where Jermaine Kearse made the craziest catch in Hawk history two plays earlier.
Now the Seahawks are looking at second-and-goal at the 1-yard line. A mere 36 inches away from football immortality. I’m clenching my 12th Man flag and on the verge of the greatest sporting elation a fan can have: witnessing my team scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final minute of the Super Bowl.
Seconds later the interception happens. At first, I don’t believe my eyes, but the Patriots fans in my section confirm my worst fears.
I slump into my seat. For most of those last few moments of the game I cannot move. I cannot talk.
I realize later that I think I went into some form of shock.
Sports can be cruel. Every Seahawks fan was reminded of that on Super Sunday. Elation can become devastation in a matter of seconds. To have it happen to us on the biggest stage in sports made it very public. But it’s the pain inside us all that makes it personal.
As the final whistle of Super Bowl XLIX sounded, the five stages of sports grief took over.
First, denial. No way did Russell Wilson throw a pick in the middle of the end zone on second down. This was not part of the narrative. We were going to repeat as Super Bowl champs!
While I walked out of the University of Phoenix Stadium, the second stage of sports grief — anger — was not only enveloping me but many other 12s as well. We have two of the best runners in the NFL and we throw the riskiest of passes?! The fact that many paid a lot more than their yearly Roth IRA contribution for tickets made it that much worse.
I didn’t spend any time with the next stage, bargaining, and immediately headed to Stage 4, which is the biggie: depression.
Being a lifelong fan of the Seahawks has meant bouts of depression for this 12th Man. We’ve had some horrible losses that have made me depressed until the following week’s kickoff. The heartbreaking, last-minute losses ending our season really stand out, however. One of the sad realities of having a good team is that unless you win it all, you are going out in defeat.
Until Wilson’s SB XLIX pick, the worst interception in Hawks history immediately ended our 2003 season. That would be Matt Hasselbeck’s pick-six in overtime against the Packers in the playoffs. The following year in the playoffs Bobby Engram dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone in the closing seconds that would have sent the game into overtime. In the playoffs in Atlanta two years ago, the most amazing comeback in Hawks history was thwarted with a last-second field goal.
None of those losses came close to the grief I (and thousands of the 12s) felt after this year’s Super Bowl. I haven’t been sleeping well and no food tastes good. I could have a Dick’s Deluxe burger or the best kampachi sushi and it would taste like a rotten rice cake to me.
The sad irony to this season is that the 12th Man is more depressed going into the offseason than Packer fans. Losing a Super Bowl in such shocking fashion can do that. I think most 12s would have rather had the Hawks go four-and-out on that last drive than have the tease of losing only 36 inches from paydirt.
There is nothing wrong with being sick and depressed over this loss. Quite the contrary. It shows you love the Seahawks. Sure, there are fair-weather fans that are only marginally affected by this Super Bowl. But I have a feeling a lot of bandwagon fans are actually more depressed than they expected. This is the moment they realized they crossed over and became a real fan.
The interception was easily the worst moment in Seattle sports history. Yet it’s not the worst thing to happen in Jet City sports history. That dubious distinction still belongs to the robbery of the SuperSonics by the cabal of Schultz-Bennett-McLendon-Stern. The Sonics are gone but the Hawks can come back.
That last point will lead us 12s to the final stage of sports grief: acceptance. I’ve been on a media blackout since the Super Bowl (sorry, Seattle Times) because it is too painful to read or watch anything about the game. But that will soon end.
I will accept that the Hawks helped give the world a very competitive Super Bowl while playing with a historic defense that was extremely beaten up.
What will help in the acceptance is to look back at one of the most stirring seasons in Hawks history, a season that could have been torpedoed by the Percy Harvin debacle. Instead, Pete Carroll and the entire team rallied together and went on maybe the most significant winning streak this 12th Man has ever witnessed.
Spoiling our rival 49ers’ Thanksgiving and eventually their season? Check.
Putting up more total yards in a game than any Seahawks team ever when they stomped the Cardinals on “Sunday Night Football”? Check.
Creating the most inconceivable comeback in the NFC Championship Game? Discount double-check!
If these games are still on your DVR, rewatch them. Viewing the season’s most memorable moments could be very therapeutic.
So take care of yourself, 12s. We all know the Seahawks are built for the long haul. If ever a team could rebound from such a soul-crushing loss, it’s them. Before last season, the football pundits warned it was going to be hard for the Hawks to make it back to the Super Bowl. I’m sure they will be even emphatic about it now. But one thing we know about our Birds in Blue: they like to prove the pundits wrong.
Mark Tye Turner is the author of “Notes From a 12th Man: A Truly Biased History of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Seahawks Super Season” available on Amazon. You can follow Turner on Twitter @mtthawk
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