It’s the most devastating moment of my eight-year-old life. I’m sitting cross-legged and crying in front of my tiny TV in the living room. My mom tells me it’s bedtime, but I don’t want to believe. Game five of the 2001 American League Championship Series and we’re down 6-0 in the third inning. The Seattle Mariners are invincible. They’ve never lost. They can’t lose, they’ll never lose. But they did. They were knocked out of the playoffs and nothing made sense for the first time.
I was eight years old when those 116-win Mariners — the winningest team in regular-season history — lost to those damn Yankees. As a Seattle sports fan, it’s been heartbreak and disappointment every year since then. A couple of lowlights — the 2006 Super Bowl, when the refs jobbed the ’Hawks, and the Sonics, who were stolen by some lying businessmen and a money-hungry league. I’m so young, but there have been moments when I’ve questioned the worth of continuing to hope for a championship in spite of its improbability. Especially with these historically awful, awful Seattle teams.
On Sunday night, one of those teams finally broke the streak of awfulness. The Seattle Seahawks walloped the Broncos, 43-8, in the Super Bowl. The Seattle Seahawks are world champions.
So this is the part where I tell you it’s all been worth it. Truth be told, I was a bit worried it wouldn’t be. These last two weeks, I’ve had somewhat of a crisis of fandom. I’ve asked myself if that elusive championship will just feel empty, and then what? What’s the point of devoting hours and hours of reading, research and thought to some random group of people if the endpoint just makes me realize there’s nothing in it for me?
Seattle sports have defined me since the Mariners dropped that final ALCS game to the Yankees in 2001. Kids at school knew me as the sports geek, able to tell you Bret Boone’s batting average within a percentage point. Surely you know someone like that. It’s my identity, and it always will be.
Back then, it took no thought. Back then, sports were everything. Now I am a little older, and life has crept up a bit. The Seahawks and the Mariners are still so important to me, but now I have other, more pressing concerns — finding a girlfriend, finding a job, finding my place in the world.
I overintellectualize everything now, even my fandom. And that led me to question, in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, whether my intense devotion made sense anymore. Maybe I was just grasping for some moment of my life that no longer existed. I don’t look at the Seahawks or the Mariners as I once did, as some group of invincible superheroes with a singular goal of winning for their city. I am well aware of their flaws — their DUI arrests, their obnoxious arrogance, their prioritization of a big contract over anything else, including winning.
None of that mattered Sunday. I wasn’t thinking about internships or dates or flawed players when I watched Pete Carroll lift that giant silver football over his head; I was only feeling this weird feeling I can only describe as overwhelming joy. My whole body feels happy. I’m writing this at 1 a.m. and I’ve been grinning ear to ear since the final seconds of the game. It’s really awesome to watch your team win a championship.