Why Is Winning A Championship So Important?

I’ve been a Seahawks fan, more or less, since I want to say 1986 or 1987.  Somewhere in there, I was five or six years old.  At my dad’s work, they had a weekly pick ’em contest where you picked the winners of all the games, with the combined total points of the Monday Night game as the tiebreaker.  It was a $5 weekly entry and the winner got $100 every week, with a larger pot for the first, second, and third place finishers at season’s end.  I think I started doing that around age 8 or 9 (and coming out of it with significant winnings to boot).

On a side note, my best year was 1991 when I finished in a tie for second place and ended up walking away with around $300.  At ten years old, I had bested somewhere around 50 people who were at least three times my age.  In fact, I was in first place going into the final week, but the guy who ran the contest magically ended up with 15 of 16 games correct in the last week to take the top prize.  Shadier than an umbrella convention, that’s for damn sure.

Anyway, I’ve been a sports fan for most of my life.  That’s the point I’m getting at.  Football was my first love, and it remains my biggest love.  Of the big three (Seahawks, Mariners, Sonics – if and when they ever return), I’d take a Super Bowl championship hands down over anything else.  Yet, in all my years – I’ll be 33 in March – I’ve never had a chance to experience the peak in sports fandom.  So, I don’t know what it feels like to root on a winner.

I’ve rooted on an endless string of losers!  Enough losers to seriously lead me to wonder why I watch sports and am a fan to begin with (which is a whole other bag of worms I’ll get into another time).  I know what it’s like to see my favorite team’s season end prematurely.  It’s the same devastation over and over; only the severity of the damage depends on how far your team makes it in that particular season.

Rooting for these recent Mariners teams comes with it a pretty low level of devastation, because we kind of go into the season knowing they won’t be a contender.  Inevitably, frustration levels vary, as the Mariners hang in there for a few weeks or even a month.  But, once you feel the season slipping through your team’s grasp, the angst washes away and you’re left with the numb resolution of running out the string of games and hoping next year is better.

This is different, though.  From Day 1 – really, since last season ended in Atlanta – I have had these Seahawks as my front-runner.  There’s never really been a moment all season where my confidence wavered all that much.  The 2013 Seattle Seahawks are going to be NFL Champions.  It’s almost been a given.  I’ve appreciated the tough schedule, and haven’t taken a thing for granted per se, but it’s just felt like our destiny.  Our time.  Our TURN.

And, now that we’re just one game away, it’s gotten me thinking:  how will I feel when we win it all?

As I said before, I know how I’ve felt when we’ve lost.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s maddening.  Part of me wants to cry and part of me wants to tear apart everything I own.  There’s a reason why Seahawks Death Week has been a prominent feature on my website whenever their season ends.  It takes at least a full week for me to fully get over the impact of our season being over.

Yet, when I dig deeper and think about it, what am I really mourning?  Is it the fact that the Seahawks reached the playoffs, but failed to go all the way?  Or, is it more due to the fact that the season is over?

When you think about it, when you root for a football team, you’re rooting for that team’s season to continue as long as it possibly can.  In the case of the NFL, that means rooting for that team to make it to the Super Bowl.  In essence, the Seahawks have achieved what should be every fan’s goal:  our season has gone on longer than every other team’s but one.  Regardless of whether we win or lose this game, the season is finished after Sunday.  One would think – if we mourn a season that ends in defeat, because that season is over for our team – there would be a sense of loss even in WINNING the Super Bowl.  Because, there’s no more football.

So, if the Seahawks win, will it be the ultimate rush?  In the moment, yeah, it will be.  That night will be like none other I’ve ever experienced.  I’ll be smiling ear to ear, I’ll probably have a few phone calls to make, and my Twitter feed will be blowing up as I read through everyone’s ecstatic responses to the ultimate glory.  And, there will still be enough buzz the next day, as I read through all the articles congratulating our team in its achievement.  But, eventually it’ll fade.  Like all memories fade.  I’ll buy some awesome memorabilia and hang it around my apartment and cubicle at work.  I’ll always be able to look back on 2013 and know that – at least for one year – I was a small part of something great. 

But, eventually, it’ll just be another notch in the history book.  Eventually, we’ll move on to the 2014 Seahawks and what they need to do to get back to the Super Bowl.

Will I appreciate it enough?  My first championship as a fan?  Will I be able to enjoy it long enough, before the vultures start picking at the carcass of the 2013 incarnation of my team?

Moreover, what does it mean to be a fan in the first place?  You root for a team whose ultimate goal is to win a championship.  Even though you’re not specifically a member of that team, you want that championship for them just as much as they do.  So, you read all the articles and you watch all the games.  You stay informed about the players and the goings on of the team.  You live and die with each pass, each run, each fumble, each tackle.  It consumes a very significant portion of your life if you allow it to.  You plan your weekends around it.  Your fleeting weekends at the end of an oppressive work week.  Ultimately, you feel like you should get something out of it when all is said and done, aside from the valid claims that Sports are just Entertainment.  A way to pass the time.

But, it is and it isn’t.  You don’t feel about movies the same way you do about your favorite team.  You can be a fan of a director or an actor, but you don’t sit around – when they’re off making a new film – obsessing over what it might be about.  You wait around, when they put out a movie, you watch it, and when it’s over you form your opinion and that’s it.  Then, you wait around for the next movie.  Or TV show, or whatever.  They have endings!  Sports go on forever, as long as your team stays in one city (or region).

With simple entertainment (TV, movies, books, whathaveyou), you can pick it up and put it down at your leisure.  Maybe you devour it all in one sitting, or maybe you savor it over many weeks or months (not movies, that would be stupid, but you get the idea).  Like sports, entertainment requires a time and monetary investment, but for a real sports fan, the time and money spent on their favorite team absolutely dwarfs that of regular entertainment.  It’s like comparing a galaxy to a planet.

That’s why it’s so condescending when people say, “Sports are just entertainment.”  When you’re that passionate about something, it’s offensive to reduce it to something so trivial.  Unless you’re some obsessive personality, you’re not going to re-watch the same movie thousands upon thousands of times.  Yet, sports fans will watch the same team week-in and week-out for their entire lives.  Granted, the players change.  So, you could try to compare following a team to following a specific director’s entire catalogue of movies.  Except, the difference is, there’s a finite number of titles.  And, if you don’t like one, then you just don’t watch it.  Sports fans don’t have that luxury, though.  We’re COMPELLED to watch our team, whether it’s great or lousy.  I can’t tell you how many shitty Mariners games I’ve seen over the last decade.  And yet, I know I’ll be there in a few months, watching some meaningless contest as we dwell double-digit games below first place.

I won’t go so far as to say Sports Are A Way Of Life, because we’re not talking about a cult here.  I’m not spending 24 hours a day living and breathing the Seahawks.  But, it’s also not something you can just pick up and put down whenever you get the inkling.  Once you’re in – once you’re dedicated to being a hardcore fan – then you’re stuck for life.  It’s just the way it goes.

So, what do I get when I win?  I get to call the Seahawks “world champions”.  I get a few more knick knacks for my home.  I get to boast to my friends who aren’t Seahawks fans (even though every single one of them already knows what it’s like for their teams to win it all in their lifetimes).  And, I get to wait around for next year.

Why is it so important for my team to win a championship?  Well, getting the first one out of the way will be nice.  So, when I die, I can at least look back on this team with the fondest of memories.  But, ultimately, it’s important because I’ll finally get to know what it feels like.  And, I’ll be right back on here next week, telling you exactly how it feels.  I look forward to that more than anything else.  The rush of endorphins, the glee on the faces of my brother and father as we jump around for joy, and the satisfaction going forward that MY team is the best.

If you thought Seattle fans were smug assholes before, just wait until you start giving us Super Bowl victories.

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