You’ve probably noticed by now that a number of the writers on 12th Man Rising are awesome with stats… seriously awesome.
Alas, I am not one of them. For me, football is simply a lifelong passion for which I blame my dad. Many years ago in Alaska, football film from the lower 48 had to be shipped north, often taking weeks. By the time I sat next to my dad with my Batman slippers, animal crackers and juice, the outcome was probably known by everyone else in Alaska. I, however, continued to be amazed that my dad always knew who would win. Fascinated, I was sure there must be something more to this game…
Throughout my youth, I devoured books on Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Vince Lombardi, Jim Thorpe, Bronco Nagurski and Ray Nitschke. I became sure that football was less about the game, the universal x’s and o’s, and more about the players that played… and the coaches that coached, like Lombardi, who I was sure could develop greatness in one of my crackers.
By the time we moved to Seattle and the Seahawks became an expansion team, I was prepared to be amazed once again. Instead, I was witness to the heartbreaking realization that expansion teams struggle for years. Still, I soaked up the heart of players like Jim Zorn, Dave Kreig (from the now defunct Milton College), Steve Largent and Dr. Dan Doornink. Coach Patera’s trick plays and Knox’s Ground Chuck became part of my football lore.
Even though I followed the team through the 90’s, my passion for the team and the game wasn’t fully realized until The Big Show came to town. Although Holmgren brought with him plenty of ego, he also brought leadership and vision and I began to see the parallels to Lombardi’s pull-no-punches management of team and personnel.
Becoming a season ticket holder under Holmgren provided me a front row seat to player development, game management and bench theatrics. Barring the painful one year reign of He Who Shall Not Be Mentioned, that view to a team is even better today under Coach Carroll. Under Carroll’s culture of Always Compete, the team seems more of a cohesive unit than ever.
During a game, I can recognize a nickel package and an I-formation as far away as I can see them. But honestly, it’s a bit of a distraction at times. That last minute communication between players before the ball is snapped, the shifts in the line, the hand signals, the stillness… this is what captures my attention. The play clock ticks down, the ball snaps, and the play unfolds. From the stands, you can see the play that was called, the coach’s intent, and the strategy. Then everything changes and it’s down to the players running it, defending it, executing it… Their ability to push, throw, catch, chase… vs the other team’s ability to oppose or out guess them… Gosh, it’s exciting! Sometimes the play goes as called, but often times the execution boils down to each team’s communication in those last few seconds before the ball was snapped. And that’s magical to me.
Sorry fellow writers, (you know who you are). I’ll never be a stat girl. For me, the “fabulousness” of football is always going to boil down to the grittiness, brilliance and heart of the game… and those that play it and orchestrate it.