Genuinely Happy… Behind Enemy Lines
I’m a huge 49er fan living in Seattle Seahawks territory. On top of this, I’m a pastor at a Seahawks-crazed church. When I moved to Washington in 2005, my team’s record was 2-14 and was the worst team in the NFL. This was also the same year the Hawks went to their first Super Bowl. I was asked many times, “When are you going to become a Seahawks fan?” My response was the same each time, “Never. I have always been a Niner fan. Do you want a pastor with integrity or not?” I have a firm belief that a genuine fan stays true to their team through great years and horrible years. Each team has fair weather fans. They just drive me crazy and receive no respect from me.
Things have changed a great deal since 2005. The 49ers and Seahawks went from being just divisional opponents to becoming fierce arch rivals. As a result, the heat, intensity, and emotions increased dramatically. Three weeks ago, the 49ers season ended on the final play against the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game. On Sunday night, the Seahawks finished their season by lifting their first Lombardi trophy in team history.
Seeing the Seahawks fan base reaction to their Super Bowl victory has been awesome. There have been tears, never-ending smiles, non-stop celebration, hugs and high fives from complete strangers, and fans replaying the game over and over again. Today, freezing temperatures didn’t dismay a million fans showing up for the celebration rally in downtown in Seattle. Schools were canceled and many people skipped work to attend while tens of thousands stayed home glued to their TV to watch everything involving the Seahawks. All of this is understandable and has brought back fond memories for me. Let me explain.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a little boy in the early 1970’s, I belonged to the Junior 49er Club. I cut out 49er logos on milk cartons to earn enough points to meet the starting center, Forrest Blue, in person. I was really upset when John Brodie was replaced with Steve Spurrier at quarterback. I cried when the 49ers cut Gene Washington, my favorite wide receiver at the time. In junior high and early high school, my 49ers were the laughingstock in the league. Most of my friends laughed at me for being a 49er fan while their allegiance stood firmly behind the other NFL team in the Bay Area – the Oakland Raiders, who were one of the best teams in football.
Then everything changed in 1981. We started winning. And winning. And winning some more. After beating the dreaded Dallas Cowboys in dramatic fashion in the NFC Championship game, I found my team in their first Super Bowl. I screamed my lungs out during the game and even wore gloves so I wouldn’t bite my fingernails. When we won the big game, I was delusional. After years of defeat, ridicule, and mocking, I kept pinching myself and asking, “Is this really true? Did we just win the Super Bowl? Holy Cow, I can’t believe it!”
After the Super Bowl, schools and businesses were closed, about a million people flooded the streets in celebration, complete strangers hugged and high-fived each other, and old men cried because they didn’t believe they would ever see this day come to pass in their lifetime. It all looks and sounds very similar to what is happening here in the Northwest. And justifiably so.
So, while I wanted my 49ers to defeat the Seahawks in each game this year, I can honestly say that I am genuinely happy for my friends who are Seahawks fans. Especially the long-time fans! I am glad they get to experience the eradication of decades filled tough defeats, missed opportunities, and the mantra of, “Maybe next year!” They now get to revel in the fact that they did it. They are the only team at the top. They are the world’s best this year. So, soak it up and enjoy every ounce of it because you never know when another year like this will come around again.
Because of this intense rivalry, things have been tough around here for me this football season. There have been people in my church that I didn’t really like at times and I’m sure there were some who didn’t really like their pastor at times either. But the air is clear and we will all be fine. (But if my team had won three weeks ago, I might have been asked to find another church though!) So, behind enemy lines, I can honestly say that I am genuinely happy for my Seahawks friends!
One Last Thought
I do have to get one last thing off my chest though. Before their SB victory, many Hawk fans were downright angry whenever any 49er fan mentioned that the Seahawks didn’t have any Super Bowl trophies. The reaction was often angry rebuttals such as, “That’s not relevant! It’s old news! That was years ago!!”
Now that you have lifted the Lombardi trophy and have removed yourselves from the list of NFL franchises without one, you might understand what I am about to say now. Given the passion, excitement, and memories of this season, your Super Bowl Trophy will always be relevant to you no matter how many years have passed. For example, say in 10 years, when a team without a Lombardi is talking about how great they are, you might be tempted to think or say, “Show me your Lombardi trophy first. You haven’t done anything yet!” Just saying…
In 7 months, the football will be rolled out again to see who the best team will be in 2014. My 49ers will be waiting. 🙂