This story originally aired on December 16, 2017.
Sound Effect producer Kevin Kniestedt shared this essay.
My earliest memory of watching the Seahawks goes back to when I was probably three or four. I remember sitting in the basement with my dad, with the game on TV, and hearing the announcer saying “there is a penalty flag down.” Since I had no understanding of the game, I imagined that somewhere in that stadium, there was a person standing by a flag pole, lowering and raising a flag that said “penalty” on it every time a player did something bad.
Once I learned to read, I would open the sports section in the Seattle Times every week to the team roster, and memorize the jersey numbers of all the players.
Through the 80’s, I watched Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway pick our team apart, and the 90’s for the Hawks can really only be described as dismal.
But I never missed a game.
In February of 2006, I returned to my father’s basement to watch the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl. I felt that with all the terrible games we watched together when I was a kid, this was a moment we needed to celebrate together.
The officiating in the game was terrible, as later admitted by the officiating committee, and the Seahawks lost as a result of it.
As a die-hard, broken-hearted fan, I could have written off football then and there forever.
But as the next season, and the season after that, and the season after that came and went, I still never missed a game.
'The Separation is the preparation'
When Russell Wilson was drafted by the Seahawks in 2012, all of the quote “experts” were saying was he was too short to be a professional quarterback. But like anyone who wants to prove the pundits wrong Wilson worked hard. His catchphrase became “the separation is in the preparation."
By 2013, Russell Wilson was the leader of an incredibly talented team, and in February of 2014 he found himself the quarterback of the Seahawks that won their first ever Super Bowl. I was all in on Russell Wilson.
When the next season rolled around, The Seahawks looked every bit as good as they did the previous year, and made it back to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year. The game was close, exciting … and in a moment that makes every Seahawks fan curl up and start rocking back and forth in the fetal position ...
The Goal-line Interception
Russell Wilson threw an interception at the goal line of what would have been back-to-back Super Bowl wins. I remember standing in a bar, shoulder to shoulder with a hundred fans, ready to lose our minds. Instead, the entire place fell immediately silent.
So, yeah … I was upset. Sure. But no reason to get carried away and abandon my team. Hawks fan for life, right? But it was what I started hearing in the days, weeks, and months to come that started to create separation between me fellow Seahawks fans.
Everyone I heard -- friends , sports radio hosts, you name it -- blamed everyone EXCEPT Russell Wilson.
I would say in conversation: “But Wilson is the one who threw the ball right?”
“Yeah, but they never should have called that play.”
“But HE threw the ball right?”
“Yeah, but Lockett should have done more to catch the ball.”
“BUT HE THREW THE BALL, RIGHT?”
In fact the only person who actually said that it was Russell Wilson’s fault, was Russell Wilson.
'It Was the Water'
From that point on, I started to see this sort of protectiveness of Russell Wilson intensify, and at least to me, become wildly irrational.
Later in 2015, Wilson was profiled in Rolling Stone magazine, where he talked about how a bottled water company that he invested in was responsible for miracle cures, including a concussion he received.
"I banged my head during the Packers game in the playoffs, and the next day I was fine," says Wilson. "It was the water."
I would bring this up to friends, who would respond with “well, maybe it WAS the water.”
“Do you really think there is a magic water that cures concussions in 24 hours?” I’d ask.
“No, but if Russell said it works, who’s to say it didn’t?"
As time went on, the defensiveness of fans ramped up even further. If Russell did his job, it was the most breathtaking thing ever to my friends, and they’d say “see Kevin, he’s amazing!” If he didn’t do his job, and if I was caught rolling my eyes or shaking my head, it would be “<Expletive> you, Kevin.”
There was no in between.
A List of Statistical Failures
Several things then started to happen. I started to make a point of everything Wilson did wrong, because I wanted the die-hard Wilson fans to look at him the same way I did: as a human being capable of messing up, and sometimes, messing up big time. And as a result, those die-hard fans dug in their heels ever deeper, insistent that he is capable of no flaw.
The other thing that happened is this season, for the first time in my life, I started watching less and less of the Seahawks. If I was out watching the game, I’d often go home at halftime. If I was home watching it, I’d often take a nap in the second half. I’d have a list of statistical failures of Wilson written down on a piece of paper in my wallet to pull out anytime I needed to backup one of my criticisms.
The worst part is I hate myself for it. I have always supported my team no matter what. And to be honest, as a person, Russ is about as much of a professional football-playing Boy Scout as it gets. Weekly trips to visit sick kids at Children’s Hospital, tweeting out bible verses ... But even Edgar Martinez, Seattle’s favorite sports darling of all time, and one hell of a nice guy, took his share of flack, and you know what? That was OK. Seattle sports fans suffered for decades and needed that star athlete to lead them to the sports promised land, I get it. But I would argue that even Moses had flaws, and so does Russell Wilson.
Still, I feel like the villain.
The sad thing is when something starts spiraling out of control, becomes a pattern and a mindset, it is very difficult to change. I want to change. I want to fix it.
I read somewhere once that it takes seven days for something to become a habit, and can take at least seven days to break a habit. The Seahawks play every seven days. Maybe that’s just what I need here. Between this week’s game and the next, I’ll work every day to remember some of the great Russell Wilson moments, and show up to the game at the end of the week and cheer him on like I once did. And maybe with each week, it will get easier. And maybe, just maybe, one fan will see the change in me, and be able to break their own trend, and treat Wilson like someone who isn’t that different from us: imperfect, mistake-making humans.
Sometimes when things are going well, we forget to remind ourselves of a long stretch of time when they weren’t. But maybe if we all think back to when we were kids, sitting in our parents basement watching our team getting pummeled week after week, we can embrace each other for any mixed feelings, knowing we all want the same thing in the end: to absolutely annihilate every other team in the league, without any mercy whatsoever.