Written by Drew Bales
Why do I sometimes yell at the TV when the Seahawks are playing? To clarify, it’s not always a yell. Sometimes it’s a heavy sigh. Other times, it’s a jaw dropping, “What the hell was that?” Back in the day, when the Seahawks were playing in the AFC West and would travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas City Chiefs and the great Derrick Thomas, it was just a groan; a combination of terror and panic; just hoping that Dave Krieg would survive the day. But even during those games, I would yell. Once, in a fit of mind numbing boredom (and intellectual vapidity) I tried to label my yelling at the ‘Hawks as the supportive act of a vocal critic. Turns out my attempts were not only pretty lame, but at times resulted in making me look like an idiot. The vocal critic is reasonable and proper. Vocal critics watch golf. Football on the other hand has fans—fanatics; and we yell, cheer, clap, complain, whine, hope, nurse hangovers, get up early, watch pre-game, and feel duty bound to observe the truest of game day rituals.
I love the Seahawks. I have been a fan since 1979. I don’t have a second favorite professional football team. I root against anything that hurts the Seahawks and for anything outcome that favors them. I’ve only one NFL loyalty; the Seattle Seahawks. So how do I square my love for the team, with my yelling at them during games? Well, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t. I’m no better (or worse) a fan for it, but I don’t need to rationalize my “rooting for” and “yelling at” the ‘Hawks. I don’t because both are honest emotions. Yelling at them is cathartic and it keeps me from strangling the cat when something goes wrong between 1:00 PM and 4:30 PM on a Sunday afternoon. And much can (and does) go wrong. And sometimes what goes wrong is paid for with games and even seasons. So when does it all go south? When is frustration taken too far, and when is complaining not only unproductive but also wrong? Is there a line? In a word, yes. But as you can already tell (from my own admission to yelling at the ‘Hawks) that line is often skated.
The reasons are fairly common and the justifications pretty worn. Still, they range from the absurd to the rational (depending on how they are deployed) and go something like this:
1. “I have a constitutional right to complain about the Seahawks because the Bill of Rights offers me first amendment protection.” Response: If you are honestly using the Bill of Rights as a justification for complaining about or yelling at the Seahawks then my most sincere hope in life is that I don’t wind up stuck next to you on even the shortest of flights. If the constitution is really the source of your justification for complaining loudly about a NFL team then please seek help immediately because you my friend have de-railed. Most don’t reach that far because no one has to. Since birth we’ve complained based first on our ability to hurl spoons of baby food at things that angered us, and later by simply stringing together a few words/sentences. But that doesn’t mean your complaints and/or fits of yelling are correct. Having a right and being right are two very different things.
2. “I have a right to yell at them when they do something “stupid” because they get paid millions of dollars to play a game!” Response: Professional athletes do make a lot of money. Some make an incredible amount. I understand the argument that ends with money being the prescription for fan frustration. In fact, to some extent I agree with it. Most of us go to work and making far less and are expected to deliver, or risk losing our jobs. I am however a little confused as to why some don’t feel that it works the same way in the NFL? Ask the guys who are about to be cut if they have to show up and perform? And when they get to work, performing “well” just doesn’t cut it. They have to perform at a world class level. Most of us are expected to be competent and good at what we do but how many can honestly say that they have to be one of the best in the world at what they do each day?
3.“I have a right to yell at them when a player does something that costs us a game.” Response: I think that argument is the epitome of going after low hanging fruit. We all drop the ball on occasion but generally not in front of tens of thousands of people hoping you’ll catch it. And when a player (any player) drops or overthrows the winning touchdown do you really believe that he doesn’t already feel like hell? Is there anyone out there who really believes that this will serve to inspire and promote? When a player blows a game the player knows he’s blown the game. Adding to the fun he’ll get to go sit in film study the following day and watch it—again, and again, and again. Kicking a man when he’s down takes no talent and no skill.
4. “I pay their salaries when I buy tickets to their games and the multiple jerseys hanging in my closet.” Response: Well, actually, no you don’t. But even if you alone did, I’ve never purchased a jersey with a mail-in-rebate good for yelling at the Seahawks for failure to perform. Some will vehemently disagree with me on this point, but before you do so, please finish reading.
5. “I yell at them because any idiot could have seen that safety standing there; hell, I could have (insert NFL skill here) better than (insert starting NFL player name here). Response: If you really believe that, then shouldn’t I see your name on the back of a Seahawks jersey turning the game on its head and making all the big easy plays? If you could, you would. If you could throw a football in the NFL better than worst starting NFL QB then you’d be an NFL QB. If you think you can do what they do then I’d encourage you to give it a go.
So, by now you know at least two things about me as a fan. First, that I’m generally not impressed by the lazy and wrongheaded reasons people give for yelling at their team. And second, that I’m absolutely guilty of having used all but the first of the reasons I listed. I included the first one because I’ve heard it used. No, I’m not kidding. I can honestly say that today I don’t resort to four of the five reasons I just listed. But there was a time when I used to believe that I had a right bordering on a duty to yell at the TV.
As I admitted at the start of this article, I still yell and I still get frustrated. But today, the yell is different. It’s calmer, and it’s a more informed frustration. You see, I know today what I did not know back then. I know today that many times, I simply don’t know. Professional football is beyond complex. The X’s and O’s are terrifying, and that’s before you involve that guy from New England who wears a gray hood over his head. Vince Lombardi once lectured for eight hours on one play. Eight hours. One play. Think about that for a moment. How many of us could intelligently discuss a single play for an hour without embarrassing ourselves? How many of us could sit in a film room with Manning or Montana and recognize defenses as accurately as those two greats? How many of us really understand the game beyond the obvious?
I’m not suggesting that we are all inadequate because we are not NFL coaches. I don’t think you need to understand the game like Don Shula or Bill Walsh did to be a fan. But I do think that fans need to recognize that sometimes a deep ball completed over the head of Kelly Jennings might have more to do with the safety failing to provide over the top coverage than with Jennings getting burned!
The Seattle Seahawks have the best fans in the NFL. At times we’ve had to endure some pretty long roads. This year might not be much of an exception. There will be moments of complete frustration. I know I’ll feel them, and I imagine that many of you will too. And there will be the temptation to turn to a Blog, Twitter, Facebook etc…, and rant. Being frustrated with the team or even a specific player for a bad game is natural; all of us are capable of thoughts of frustration. Lending voice to those thoughts however is a choice.
Professional analysis is one thing. I enjoy reading good articles about the Seahawks even when the article is critical as long as the article does not attack a man personally. Attacking or going after a player on a personal level is an act that quite simply belongs to fans of a lesser class. Sadly, I witnessed some of that yesterday after Kelly Jennings was traded. I’ve never been a huge fan of Jennings as a CB, but I don’t know him as a man. And because I don’t, I have no right to run to Twitter to say about a man what I’m unwilling to say to a man.
The truth is, I yell today for the same reason I cheer; because I’m a loyal fan who cares. I yell and get frustrated and sigh, and ring my hands because I love my team and I hate it when they are losing. I rant when they are struggling because I love to win. I rant after a huge loss because I need my anger to mask my hurt. Being a Seahawks fan is not a hobby for me, nor is it for many of you. We do pay a lot of money to support our team, and we do expect highly paid players to perform, and we do relate. We relate because whether we want to admit it or not, we often live through that which we admire. We try to imagine what it felt like to break all of those tackles, score the winning touchdown, and set off a small earthquake that sent the world champion Saints on a long flight home. We jump up and down and scream, and high-five people we’ve never met because of our shared love of our team. And when they lose, when they don’t perform well, and when they look flat—we sometimes lash out. We know that it’s a game, and we know that in the order of things it is not the most pressing issue facing mankind. And that’s part of why we love it so purely. We love it because it is an escape from all of the things that do have real consequence, which do truly play a role in altering our lives. We love it because while we have some banners up now, we have room for more. We love it because no matter what anyone else thinks, we believe the Lombardi Trophy would look damn good in Seattle for a while. We want to experience what it feels like to win a Super Bowl. And not just for ourselves alone.
We want it for the players who sacrifice so much chasing greatness. We want it for the team, for what they go through just to get to a Super Bowl, and for Seattle. And we want it for every 12th man and woman outside of Seattle, because they represent our team in enemy territory. We want it for every 12th man and woman out there sick of the jokes, insults, and cracks about the team we support so passionately. We want to rub it in a little. We want to own the world of sports for just a moment. We want to feel that chill, and that emotion that comes with that huge win no one saw coming. We feel a part of the team. We feel part of something. We are part of something shared; something special.
When it comes to football, the vocal critic is a myth. We are football fans, and when things don’t fall our way we get upset. We want what is best, and we dream of what is possible. Let’s just make sure we stick together when things are tough so that we can celebrate our best moments having yelled some, but cheered a whole lot more.