Let’s face it–Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was more than a little depressing. It was one of those games that seems over long before the end of the fourth quarter, but at the same time seems to take a very long time to actually end. As fans we were torn between watching (in hopes of something–anything that looks and feels like the momentum required to formulate a comeback) and doing something equally productive; like being swept up in a crowd of knee-jerk game experts who cannot see their hubris through their hyperbole. As the final seconds expired this last Sunday, I felt unsettled. I wasn’t exactly surprised that we lost. My surprise was reserved for the reality of just how underwhelming our performance was; especially as it related to our offense. Against the same Steelers’ defense that a week earlier was picked apart by the Baltimore Ravens, Seattle looked positively inept. To recap: Seattle managed only eight first downs and only one of the eight was picked up on a running play. For an “establish the run first” team, that simply won’t do. But it gets worse. For the day Seattle was able to gain only thirty-one yards rushing. Our 3rd-Down conversions Seattle went 2-12. The rest of the statistics are easy enough to find but it is unlikely that any of them will make you feel much better. Defensively Seattle did some things that gave fans cause for hope including some strong play from our front four and some aggressive play from the safety position.
From the moment the 2011 schedule was posted, the Pittsburgh game was one that stood out. The schedule made it fairly clear that in order to stay competitive early in the season we’d need to take the opener in San Francisco, and then pick our shots where we could. Those pre-season thoughts weren’t offered to suggest that we should count ourselves out of any game, or accept as fait accompli games not yet played.
But even in the most optimistic of spirits and moods there is a certain level of reality that is beginning to set in. That there is a threshold to how well-intentioned slogans play against the backdrop of a scoreboard that shows that we’ve come up short is not going negative. Positive thoughts about the season are needed most when the reality is not as encouraging. We need the lift provided by passionate appeals to come together as a team and work hard. Victories tend to follow hard work, dedication, and commitment. What is hard to accept is that often times, before the victories begin to stack one on top of another, there are losses. Sometimes those losses are close; the result of a hard game against a good team. But not always. Some of the losses will sting. Right now, being a fan of the Seahawks stings a bit. Logically we understand that a team as new and as young as the Seahawks–now in their second year with Pete Carroll–is going to be part experiment and part success. We can wrap our minds around that when we read articles that deal in the reality of such a young team. But the calm and logical mind is quickly chased off by the loud and impatient spirit of wanting a team to win. No one, no fan base in the entire NFL understands this point more than the 12th man!
As we begin to prepare for our first home game of this still young season, we would do well to remember that pulling back a little bit to see the larger picture is important. We would do well to remember that this year is going to have its fair share of disappointments. But it is in learning from and walking through those disappointments that will not only allow all of us to take the next step towards greatness, but also to appreciate the road traveled to get there. When players talk about being “All In” I get the feeling that if it ended at talk, they’d likely be about half-way out. Pete Carroll demands a great deal from his players. Sometimes in the middle of a couple of losses it is easy to forget that, or to forget that he demands a great deal of himself as well.
I understand the frustration that many Seahawks fans are experiencing right now. I feel the same frustration. But when I step back I gather a new perspective. I see a little more of what does matter and a little less of what does not. The goals that matter most sharpen as I focus and the blur of those things we cannot change but can hope to learn from keep me thankful for every win.
If the road is going to be a long one, I’m thankful that I have so many 12s to hang out with along the way. I hope that no matter what happens as the season progresses that we’ll remember the bigger picture. When focused on long enough, all that matters will eventually come into perfect focus.