I've often wondered what it is about the NFL that arouses such passion in its fans, what it is that has allowed it to become the dominant sport in America over the past decade.
Personally, I think it's the festival-type atmosphere that surrounds every game. After all, unlike the NBA or Major League Baseball, a football game is special, a once-a-week occurrence. There are six days of build up, six days of hype ... six days of guys like me trying to figure out just what's going to happen on Sunday.
And while this is what makes football so special, it's also why it is so darn difficult for fans to maintain perspective after just one poor game: Six days of questioning, six days of trying to figure out just what went wrong and how the team will fix it.
As you know, one of my favorite sites on the Internet is Mike Sando's Seahawks Insider blog. If you needed evidence as to just how reactionary fans can be in the face of a colossal meltdown, here is just a sampling of some of the comments left in the wake of the loss ot the Vikings:
- "Kiss the home field advantage goodbye."
- "Season over. "
- "This season is probably over. Seattle is, in effect, playing with a second team offense. Matt at best will probably be out 2-3 weeks. Based on the depth of NFC east and NFC South (and with the Rams and Saints playing well) - it'll likely be enough to keep Seattle out of a wildcard. Hope Branch was worth what is now looking like a top 15 pick."
- "I have ABSOLUTELY had it with Holmgren's inability to flex within a game. For goodness sake, why does he insist on sticking with 'the game plan' when NOTHING in the real life game is as it was when he planned the stupid game? Other coaches in the league make significant adjustments...as should Holmgren, when things change on you dramatically. ... I think Holmgren is the one holding this team back today....this one he needs to step up and take credit for."
- "I think it is time we all come to the realization that this is just not going to be the Hawks year. You can just tell when things aren't going to go your way. "
Conversely, here's what was being said the week before after the comback win against the Rams:
- "What an incredible win. Maybe a season-saver."
- "OK, I'm impressed! We finally looked like last year's Seahawks! We overcame injuries, the dreaded 10am road game, the post bye week sindrome, and even the down too far too early trap. Thanks coach for not giving up on the running game. This was a statement game! This could begin a long winning streak just like last year's game. What a game!!!"
Now, I'll be the first to tell you the Seahawks stunk, and that there are problems. But a season does not go from back on track to go to the Super Bowl to the toilet in one week, with or without your Pro Bowl quarterback.
But that's the nature of the beast when there are a full six days' hype in building up to a game. When it lives up to your expectations, it's the greatest feeling in the world. When it doesn't, nothing makes you feel quite as low. That's where Seahawks fans find themselves today.
It doesn't help that in today's snap-decision, instant information media climate, everyone wants everything right now -- including some sort of meaningful analysis from some talking head who has 60 seconds to fill on SportsCenter. As I'm writing this, the teaser for the show's next segment is, "With Matt Hasselbeck out and Shaun Alexander still on the sidelines, has the Seahawks' run as NFC champs come to an end?" It's enough to make me want to find the nearest garbage can and vomit.
Unfortunately, it's simply not "controversial" enough for Mark Schlereth or Sean Salisbury, in their role as quasi-journalists, to says, "Hey, it's one game. Let's see how it plays out." Apparently, ESPN thinks their viewers want analysts to either confirm their greatest dreams or worst nightmares on a weekly basis with no room for moderation, which, it appears, doesn't sell advertising.
While there is clearly cause for concern, let's put this in perspecive. Bad loss? Sure. But the team still is in first place, still holds the tiebreaker against the Rams, and has one of the weakest schedules in the NFL coming up. Matt Hasselbeck did not rip up his knee (a la Carson Palmer) -- he'll be back in a few weeks, and Shaun Alexander will be back before then.
In other words, if this team can figure out a way to survive the next month, going at least 2-2 against Kansas City, Oakland, San Francisco and Green Bay, Seattle should be able to get healthy and cohesive enough to make a push to just get into the playoffs, where clearly anything can happen.
And while not having home field advantage won't help this team get to the Super Bowl -- let's face it, earning the best record in the NFC looks like a grim proposition at this point -- there's a team in Pittsburgh that won a championship last year without the benefit of even one home game in the playoffs.
Remember, the Steelers lost three consecutive games last season without Ben Roethlisberger to slip to 7-5, and, if memory serves, most every "expert" wrote the Steelers off at that point. He came back, Pittsburgh won four consecutive games to finish out the regular season, and the rest, as they say, was history.
The kind of history the Seahawks clearly still have the opportunity to make.