Tuesday, November 24, 2009
So my Seattle Football Seahawks lost yesterday. Again. Badly. They let Brett Favre, the oldest starting quarterback in the league, throw the ball to whoever he wanted to. They gained four yards rushing, which is pretty hard to do. They were beaten in nearly every way you can be beaten and still legitimately call yourself a football team. Once again, I find myself rooting for a team doomed to fail again and again over the course of a season—I imagine this is how Republicans felt last November.
The pain of rooting for a loser is something that non-sports fans (and Yankee fans) rarely experience, or understand. It's not that they keep losing. Losing can be endearing, like in the movie The Mighty Ducks or when a cat can't figure out how to get out of a cage. We can relate to failure, most of us. Our teams work hard, they try their best, but they hardly ever win, because they aren't fast enough or talented enough or they simply can't catch a break. Losing is painful, but it makes the victories sweeter. When our once-mocked team wins, they've triumphed over an indifferent and cruel universe that stood in their way—just as we, the toiling, unsuccessful fans, hope to do one day.
The problem with seeing my beloved Seattle sports franchises this way is, it's not true.
The Mariners, Seahawks, and Sonics (before they finally left the city like a girlfriend fed up with the stink of failure) are unlucky, sure, but they were/are also incompetent, and not just on the field. The Mariners didn't draft Washington native and future two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum because he was short. The Sonics drafted Mouhamed Sene, an African who could barely play basketball, because he was really tall. And as I was reminded by this interview transcript with former coach Mike Holmgren, many of the Seahawks' current problems stem from letting All-Universe Guard Steve Hutchinson leave.
Hutchinson's job, for the non-sports fans still with us, is to push very big men out of the way so slightly smaller men could move the football into the end zone. He was good at this, so good that the Seahawks were considering “franchinsing” him, or paying him a lot of money and not letting him leave. They did not do this, partly because, as Holmgren said, “a left tackle is worth like a quarterback, you pay him whatever you have to pay him, but a guard, you can get a guard.” This turned out not to be true, as the Seahawks haven't found a replacement for him yet and as a result, the very big men are not pushed out of the way—that's why we only had 4 yards rushing yesterday.
So we lost Hutchinson to the Minnesota Vikings because of a contract that made it impossible for Seattle to match Minnesota's offer. That was bad, but then we signed the Vikings' Nate Burleson to a similarly structured contract that the Vikings couldn't match, basically out of spite. Now, Burleson is a receiver. At the time, we didn't need a receiver. We still have too many receivers and not enough linemen, and what Holmgren said about being able to get a guard for cheap is actually true for non-premium wide receivers like Burleson. So the Seahawks failed to keep a good player when they could have, and then overpaid a mediocre player to get back at the team who outsmarted them.
That team who took Hutchinson, by the way, was the team that just beat us 35-10. The Vikings are on their way to a playoff bye and a chance to listen to The Who, while the Seahawks are on their way to spending the next few years spending time with their families when the good teams are playing for the Super Bowl.
That's bad, but the worst part is the Seahawks, like the Lions and the Rams and the Bills and especially the Browns, are bad because they are a poorly run football franchise. Rooting for them is like rooting for your unemployed friend who huffs glue in the parking lot behind the 7-11 and lives with his parents. You hope he gets it together, but you're pretty sure all of his problems are his own fault. Unlike teams that are “lovable losers,” it's hard to identify with the Seahawks. No one wants to admit that failure is their own fault, and we don't want to admit that our sports teams lose because of fundamental managerial incompetence. Unfortunately, my sports teams do. Good luck in the draft guys. You'll need it.