Everyone who has lived has lost. As self-evident as that statement might appear it leads to the next part of the equation; what we do with losses, how do we respond, and what does that response say about who we are. Some losses are personal. The failed job interview, the low score on a test we thought we were prepared to take, or the loss that we thought (perhaps fueled by hubris) we assumed would be a win.
And then there are team losses. Most of us have been a part of a team, the level matters little when discussing this because team losses can stay with us, make us question, make us relive. But unable to change the outcome after the fact, most people, over time, let things go. In the immediate aftermath of a loss, “nice try” is a bad consolation prize.
As fans of the Seattle Seahawks we have experienced our share of losses. That is a fact but that is not what this article is about. There are plenty of columns (even books) that detail the more painful chapters of this teams’ history. Personally, I have a tough time with my team losing. I am a passionate fan, and I care a great deal about this team. But I’m also a pragmatist and I realize that in the end, this is a game. I would like to believe–and convince you too–that I handle Seattle losses well. But I don’t, at least not until a few days have passed.
Over the years the Seahawks have lost some tough games. The year following our loss in Seattle’s first ever Super Bowl appearance, hopes were high. But that next season was not to go our way. The reasons vary but after losses I employ a few rules. Chief among them is this: Don’t reach for worthless excuses. It is not always easy to practice but frustrated as I have been, I don’t reach.
Sadly, the same cannot be said of two 49ers fans after losing to the Seahawks this past Sunday in Seattle. The game was not close. After a week one offensive clinic against the Green Bay Packers many picked the 49ers to win in Seattle. The Seahawks read from a different script. Throughout the game Seattle disrupted San Francisco’s offense, creating turnovers, limiting their scoring to just three points, and dominating them in every meaningful statistic. It was a great game. It was a battle, even if the war still lies ahead. As always, Seattle’s 12th Man was there to offer their full-throated support. Everything about the game was big. The rivalry (which extends well beyond the two head coaches) the divisional aspect, and the fact that these two teams generally don’t much care for each other all made for a frenzied environment. It was loud! In fact, we set a world record. It started loud and it stayed loud. That is what we do here in Seattle. That is what this team’s fans do. And that is what they’ve always done.
This is not new. The 12th Man has always been loud and even before the record for crowd noise in a stadium environment was broken this past Sunday, Seattle has always been considered a very difficult place for teams to play. After the game, I was relieved. I knew that it was only week two, but I also knew how important it was to hold serve at home. We needed this win! Following the game, Twitter and other social media outlets were crowded with stats, stories, and some very happy fans. Bay area social media participants were understandably not as thrilled. As I went to bed late Sunday night, I knew there would be some bitterness in San Francisco. If Seattle had lost, I know I would have felt the same way. But then a story emerged; a letter to the Editor at SFGate.com. Sunday night had given way to desperation Monday.
From the letter:
“Was anyone else appalled by the unsportsmanlike conduct of the Seattle Seahawks and their fans, juiced on noise, which surely creates as big an advantage over an opponent as any performance enhancing drug and which, to their shame, NFL officials turn the same blind eye they have to concussions and drugs.”
First, it is incredibly disingenuous to question the conduct of Seattle’s players in this game. Seattle was on the receiving end of more than one 15-yard personal foul penalty committed by the 49ers. But it gets worse. The loss was not a result of poor play on the part of their team. Nope, it was the juiced on noise fans, the result of which was so detrimental to the 49ers that the noise was akin to a performance enhancing drug. The Adderall issue again; never too tired to be framed as a shot, regardless of how weak the analogy. Then there is the shame and duplicity of the NFL officials who, much to the annoyance of the authors, turned a blind eye to a rule (crowd noise) that is no longer enforced, just as they have similarly done with concussions and drugs. Bad arguments are everywhere in print and in voice. But this argument isn’t just bad, it’s desperate. It groans under the strain of its own inability to lucidly connect any of the dots. Allow me to help.
The 49ers lost because they played a bad game and Seattle played a better one. It happens. Seattle has played bad games (I still have road game nightmares that date back decades) but so does every fan base of every team in the NFL. They played a bad game. In interviews prior to the game 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick made it clear that last year’s loss in Seattle (a worse loss point-wise than this past Sunday by the way) was not due to the crowd noise. He dismissed it. The authors of the article picked it up, dusted it off, and employed it. They employed an argument their own team had dismissed. Yes, and as I have covered, the crowd was loud–very loud–but no one from the stands was given a shot at playing starting running back that night. No one from the club seats had a ticket that along with admission allowed them to call a play or take a turn at quarterback after Russell Wilson was tagged a few times. The players played the game while the fans played a vital supporting role.
It’s worth pointing out too that typically a home crowd is loud when their defense is on the field. This being the case, no explanation is offered by the authors about the other half of the equation. If the crowd noise is to blame for San Francisco’s confused offense, how do the authors explain their defense? In the past two games against the 49ers in Seattle the Seahawks have outscored the 49ers 71-16. Their letter does not even attempt to justify or explain this. Instead the letter attacks the NFL for ignoring the news while comparing the issue to the very serious and often times tragic issue of concussed players. That’s right, crowd noise is right up there with the terrible deaths of players like Dave Duerson and Junior Saeu, whose deaths were likely at least partially related to a career of being blasted in the head and body. The memories of those players (and all players who have suffered from concussion related health issues) deserve better than the rip current of this article.
The authors then spend a paragraph of cyber real-estate arguing that the solution is simple. Crowds (comprised of individuals who spend thousands of dollars to watch their team play live) will be regulated by the noise police. If they fail to keep things quiet enough, they forfeit home field play, including playoff games! It’s another terrible argument and not worth hyper-analyzing. The NFL is–before everything–a well crafted business. Business suicide could be realized by the NFL PIO announcing that moving forward, fans will only be allowed to make a certain amount of noise. Perhaps the announcement could include the following: “Folks, we know that your money is what sustains this business, but please, go with a movie theater approach–just keep it down. “Project Shhhhhh” is now in effect. Rome would fall.
Their letter closes with:
“At a time when the world seems sour, sports give us a place of joy, community and hope, and to have it spoiled is a bigger loss than it seems on the surface.”
The “world” is sour? Really? And then the final dart that misses wide the point; sports is about joy and community, and hope and those awful people in Seattle just ruined it. Not just ruined it, but created a loss bigger than it seems on the surface. Again, I’d like to help.
NFL football is an amazing sport and product. There is joy and community found in the NFL and in particular, at home games played before a national audience. And that joy and community is realized by giving all a fan can give to support his/her team. We buy the jerseys (and then buy them again when that players is traded or cut) and we buy the tickets, sometimes at a mind-numbing cost. We take our sons and daughters to their first games, and we introduce a friend or family member to amazing time found in attending a NFL game. We buy the beer, and food, and pay for parking. We lose sleep and voice and we know that each time we head out, nothing is promised. Sometimes we’ll win, and sometimes we’ll lose. But there we sit (and in many places, stand) giving our team our very best. And part of that best is found in the advantage of volume. Eight times per year (at the minimum) we get that chance. The rest of the time we cheer from home and hope that our team can make it work out on the road. And here is perhaps the biggest issue I have with the letter: Every team’s fans have the same opportunity and chance that we have in Seattle. Not happy with how loud it is in Seattle, be louder in San Francisco. Not happy with crowd noise in general, score some points and work to silence them. This option is a lot more productive than sending in an angry letter that lacks a certain volume of its own.
The authors of the letter have a right to write in to the editor and the editor obviously has a right to print opinions that vary in stance. In no way am I advocating limiting that. I am also not at all in favor of those who wrote the article being harassed beyond anything that is good natured and free of threats.
The point of their letter escapes me except to say that we all lose, and how we handle losing matters. That is why this article is not directed at a fan base but specifically at those who authored the letter. Their way of dealing with loss is to blame people who did not actually play in the game. I find that to be silly and wrongheaded but it’s their stance and their voice. They are allowed that. But it won’t change the fact that each time a visiting team arrives in Seattle, a great team, and loyal following will be waiting. We won’t be quiet and we don’t expect anyone will be quiet for us. That is how it works. It’s just too bad that the authors of the letter entirely miss the point.
Be loud Seattle and Go ‘Hawks!