Diagnosing My Seattle Sports Paranoia

Oct 30, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez raises the Seattle Seahawks 12th man flag before the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

I know I am not alone. It doesn’t get talked about much but it is there nonetheless; Seattle Sports Paranoia (SSP). I’ve written this post in four or five different ways over the last week, never really sure how to best go about it. I’ve even seen tangential brushes with SSP being covered elsewhere, such as by Dayna over at NFLfemale.com.

After last season ended, I was crushed. The roller coaster ride in Atlanta took me to ridiculous highs and ended with devastation. Eventually, though, I made peace with it and enjoyed the incredible ride the season was.

Now, with a brand new season about to start, I can think back and remember the feeling after giving San Francisco the beat-down of a life time. Of winning at Washington in the playoffs. I want to feel that again. I want Sundays to continue to be celebratory holidays where Seattle’s warriors go out and beat the representatives from another city. This isn’t “Southern Alaska,” Jimmy Asshat Johnson. THIS IS SEATTLE!! (Said, of course, in the voice of Leonidas, while kicking Jim Harbaugh down into pit of misery.) (I really need to learn how to make GIFs because this one would be great.)

There it was, though. That Seattle Sports Paranoia. We’ve been letdown as a fan base so many times that talking about it with friends is like showing old battle scars. As excited as I get, I can’t push the thought out of my head that a trap door is about to open up underneath us when we are most vulnerable. This isn’t to say that I don’t have complete faith and trust in Pete Carroll, John Schneider, and Russell Wilson. I just feel like entropic forces are stronger in Seattle for some reason.

SSP definitely diminishes when I talk about the team with other fans and listen to podcasts or radio shows that talk about the Seahawks. As soon as they’re over, though, it starts to creep back. It’s like a terminal case of self-doubt. The difference is that Seattleites internalize it, while other cities, namely ridiculously overpriced foggy ones, project this out onto others as a massive inferiority complex. Seattle wants to be great, athletically and otherwise, to the point that we don’t have to tell you how great our teams are, you just know.

It takes effort and some level of will power to tamp down what could easily be wild expectations. Seattle didn’t make one bad move in the off season. They were proactive and signed several players to fill obvious needs. It would be hard to imagine a season in which the Seahawks regress at all. But, the unimaginable has happened before and my Seattle Sports Paranoia reminds of it. The Super Bowl. The 1993 Western Conference Finals. The perpetual awfulness of the Mariners that feels like domestic abuse at this point. (And I’m not even a Mariners fan!)

For some, SSP hardens them. They become jaded and cynical. They’re fans, for sure, but always slightly aloof as a form of protection. Some are more empathetic and take big defeats and letdowns right on the chin and are temporarily a wreck. This is me. I consider people like this to be the true optimists because they felt to their core what could have been and are therefore more sad when it doesn’t happen.

Luckily, my fear and doubt have absolutely zero effect on the outcome. I know there will be a bunch of people that think I’m a Debbie downer, have no idea what I’m talking about, or think I should stay optimistic and upbeat no matter what, but that just isn’t me. It’s not how I am with areas unrelated to sports, and it sure isn’t in my nature as a Seattle sports fan. That doesn’t diminish my dedication and loyalty as a fan. Blind faith is not a measure of fandom. I was recently derided for stating that I’m now completely on the Russell Wilson bandwagon. Apparently that is virtually meaningless since I wasn’t on it from day one, like this other guy, and required some proof. To me, that’s ridiculous.

It’s okay to critically think about your team. Ultimately, we all want our team(s) to win. In doing so, you want the best players to play. I originally thought Matt Flynn was the best option. I was wrong. That makes me human, not a bad fan.

Anyway, I’m off to silence those tiny doubting voices once again. I will say, though, that when you have low expectations (not that I really do) or inklings of doubt, it make the joys of victory that much greater, and Seattle fans are in need of continued victory. It never feels better to be oh so wrong.

Topics: John Schneider, Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson, Seahawks, Seattle, Seattle Sports Paranoia

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  • Derek

    I completely agree, however optimistic I am, I have been let down many times.. I keep reminding myself though, why not us, why not this year??

  • Hawk_Eye

    Don’t worry. “The separation is in the preparation.”

  • bobk333

    I understand and I’m sympathetic to those with SSP, but honestly, it is counterproductive. Anyone who is pessimistic because of SSP or anything else just needs to zip it.

    The worst that can happen with high expectations is a little bit of disappointment — big deal, if you are positive you will get over it quickly. Those with SSP are sensitive to disappointment, but there is so much upside to the positive thinking that comes from high expectations, that if they can’t be positive, they need to keep quiet. I include those people who are predicting that the Seahawks will have the same record (11 wins) or just one win more (12 wins) than last year. This year’s team is so much better that predicting 11 or 12 wins is ridiculous and those people need to shut-up (and open their frigging eyes) as well.

    Do not be afraid to believe. Unless it becomes unjustified cockiness or results in a belief that we don’t have to work to achieve success — both of which are unlikely for the Seahawks this year — confidence and high expectations are a good thing.

    Just about every great team in history — New England and Alabama in recent years, USC 10 years ago, Colts with Peyton Manning, Niners with Walsh, Cowboys with Landry, Steelers with Bradshaw, Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, Boston Celtics with Larry Bird, Lakers with Magic — has believed in themselves and believed they could do great things.

    High expectations are a good thing.

    If all of those great teams were allowed to have great expectations and were successful, why shouldn’t the Seahawks and their fans also believe in themselves?

    High expectations are a good thing.

    We need to be positive, the more positive the better. The more people who are positive the better. An energized fan base can be magic. We can carry a team on to greater things. The 12th Man at Century Link is a good example. We can lift a runner, carry him into the end-zone and cause an earthquake if we all believe together.

    The Sonics surprised everyone in 1978 by making it to 7th game of the NBA championship before being defeated by the Washington Bullets, but everyone *knew* the next year would be different. Everyone in the entire state not only believed we were going to win, they *knew* we were going to win the NBA championship. We felt it with our entire beings. The entire city was consumed by the Sonics. In just about any bar on any night, someone would, out of the blue, yell out, “SOOOONICS!,” and the entire bar would pick up the chant, “Sonics! Sonics! Sonics! Sonics!…” Everyone was so confident that there was no fear of disappointment. And when it finally happened, the city exploded. That was by far the best year not only for Seattle sports, but for Seattle, period.

    This Seahawks team is the closest thing we’ve seen to the 1979 Sonics. Everyone needs to jump on the bandwagon and believe. There is no reason why this team has to lose *any* games. There is no reason why we can’t be one of the best football teams in history. There is no harm in believing. It is justified. This team is that good.

    Instead of refusing to believe that this team is that good, we shouldl, like we all did in 1979, believe with all our hearts that the Seattle Seahawks will win the Superbowl and be the champions of the 2013 season. There is no harm to it, but on the flip side, unbelievable things, that we will all remember vividly for the rest of our lives, can happen if we all have the courage and conviction to believe.

    .

    • skeletony

      I think you are misunderstanding our SSP. We all believe, as you, that Seattle should go to and win the Super Bowl and there is no rational reason they cannot go undefeated the entire season on their way there.

      Just as we believed the Mariners were going to win the World Series back in 2001. Just as we believed the Seahawks would win Super Bowl XL and the Tacoma Stars would win the indoor soccer league championship, etc.
      We ARE positive but being positive does not entail ignoring the past or not acknowledging the many bad things that can happen and lead to disappointment.

      Also the power of ‘believing’ is way more limited than you seem to realize. We did not drive Marshawn Lynch into the end zone against the Saints. HE did that and likely did not hear any cheers from us until after the play was over. Believing things cannot change reality itself or influence probabilities. Leave that crap to fans of “The Secret” and other new age nonsense. 6 billion people all believing Japan would never suffer a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami would not have stopped the earthquake and tsunami from happening.

      • Fan Since 76

        @skeleton Agreed. Well said.

    • Hanley H. Bonynge

      That seems like a lot of words just to basically tell someone to shut up and that hope and belief will somehow effect the outcome of a game or a season. As I said, my SSP is meaningless to events, just as someone’s hope is. Seattle will play as well as they can and the fans will support them. I think the onset of SSP is largely due to the high expectations you go on about. I never said we couldn’t even have those expectations. Just that there is a sense of doubt which I think, quite honestly, is just part of being human. Nothing scares me more than blind faith or absolute belief in future events.

      • skeletony

        *Applause*

        I also like that you referred to ‘critical thinking’ in your article ;). We need more of that.

  • skeletony

    I completely sympathize with this article. I am sure that other cities (Cleveland comes to mind) have had their own ‘WTF just happened?! Everything was going so well…’ moments in sports but for me it all comes back to everything that happened to the Sonics since 1978 (including losing our team then being spit upon by the NBA when we tried to legally acquire another team), the Mariners being on their way to obliterate the single season win record on their way to the World Series only to end up tying said record and not making it past the Yankees and the Seahawks’ entire existence up until now (most relevant to this being the Super Bowl loss to an inferior team due to bad officiating, but really if we had a dollar for every letter of apology from the NFL officials we would all be Warren Buffet or Bill Gates).

    Then this year, all too predictably Percy Harvin goes down. Then it seems Clemmons may not be back anytime soon. It just seems inevitable at times that even if we had the #1 players at every position somehow our team would lose in the second round of the playoffs or something.

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