The Lesser of Two Evils

This would have been perfect timing for a Super Bowl column, if I was writing about a Super Bowl team. Sadly, the Seattle Seahawks ended the 1999 season just three postseason wins shy of earning a Super Bowl berth.

After backing into the playoffs despite a loss in the final week of the regular season, the Hawks kept it in reverse and stepped on the gas till they fell 20-17 to the Miami Dolphins in an AFC wild-card game. The excuses offered afterward by some of the Seahawks were the only source of entertainment the whole afternoon.

That "no shame in losing to a very good Miami team" excuse kind of fell apart the next week when the Dolphins lost by 103 points to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the first triple-digit loss in NFL history. It's true that Miami used to be a very good football team. Then again, Miami Vice used to be the hippest show on TV. And the Miami Sound Machine reinvigorated and reinvented popular music for three weeks in the '80s.

The Seahawk defense didn't hang around for the postgame press conference. Or the second half, for that matter. With the Hawks leading 10-3 at halftime, the defense declared victory and caught the final helicopter lifting off from the Kingdome roof. They were last seen boarding a charter bound for Mazatlan. Unhampered by a defense, Dan Marino led the Dolphins to a come-from-behind victory with two long touchdown drives and another drive to a field goal.

Seattle's offense stuck around for the whole game, though it's unclear why they bothered. They mustered three net rushing yards and 32 total offensive yards in the second half. For the game, Miami had nine tackles for loss on running plays and six sacks. By comparison, against Jacksonville Miami's defense suffered second-degree windburns from so many Jaguars hurtling past on their way to the goal line.

It tells you something when a team's only worthwhile play in the entire second half of a game was a fumbled kickoff return. The Dolphins were hypnotized by the bouncing ball just long enough for Charlie "Kreskin" Rogers to run past the sleepwalkers for an 85-yard TD return, the Seahawks' final scoring play of the season.

The Seahawks' first playoff game in 11 years had the entire Northwest spellbound. The level of media hype reached on game day has been equalled only during a state of emergency or on those historic occasions when wind gusts exceed 20 mph (at which point all local TV stations cancel regular programming to devote three hours of prime time to special coverage of WindStorm 2000!—including live reports on the lentils uprooted at the Fremont P-Patch and how that community is dealing with its grief).

The fallout in Miami, which at least advanced one game into the playoffs, was far worse than in Seattle. Coach Jimmy Johnson took so much pride in rallying to beat the Seahawks on the road that he retired from football the day after the Jacksonville loss. Paleontologists are debating whether to paste Marino's fossilized remains back together again for one final season.

As they say in baseball, there's always next millennium. One of the most intriguing rumors for the 2000 season has future Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young reuniting with Holmgren for one final title run while tutoring young Jon Kitna. Young would like to record the final concussions of his long and illustrious career in Seattle, which has the finest emergency medical service delivery system in the entire country.

There's good news for the Montlake whiners (the ones who move within a few blocks of Husky Stadium and then complain bitterly about thousands of football fans invading their neighborhood every other Saturday in the fall). The Seahawks, who will be temporarily housed at Husky Stadium during the construction of the new football stadium, won't be repeating as division champs. That means you poor, poor folks will only have to put up with 10 more games down the street from you this fall.

Of course the Seahawks won't fail to repeat out of a desire to be neighborly. The competition will take care of that. Denver will be back at full strength, Kansas City will remain strong, and the Seahawk schedule becomes dramatically more difficult. Nondivision foes will include Buffalo, Indianapolis, and St. Louis at home and Jacksonville, Miami, and Carolina on the road. That's four losses right there. Throw in another three losses against divisional rivals and you're right back at 9-7. Sound familiar?

The only thing sadder than seeing the Seahawks' season come to an end is knowing that this column won't be around to transport you away from your humdrum lives every two weeks. Oh well, you can always hope that the wind picks up a little.

 
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