In America losing can mean winning. Gore gets the popular vote; Bush gets the White House. “Avatar” earns a billion and a bunch of award nominations; “The Hurt Locker” earns chump change and the Oscar.
The latest paradox, of course, is the Seattle Seahawks, 7-9 and playoff bound while a pair of 10-6 teams, another at 9-7 and two more at 8-8 stay home. Online arbiters during the 16-6 spanking of the St. Louis Rams Sunday night started off with a chorus of posts about how bogus it was that anybody would even use “Seahawks” in the same sentence as “playoffs.”
But the home club, playing in front of what must have been a highly skeptical national TV audience, never trailed during the game, never made a major mistake and, gradually, seemed to convince the fan base (and perhaps others) that maybe there’s something, well, American about a borderline lousy football team hosting a post-season game. Maybe the Seahawks will emerge from the ignominy of midseason defeat to become the latest incarnation of “America’s team.”
Seattle faces a rematch Saturday (Jan. 8) at Qwest at 1:30 p.m. against reigning National Football League champ New Orleans. No point spread had been posted as this was written but what difference does it make? The Rams came in a three-point fave and didn’t even put up a touchdown.
It’s a little presumptuous to suggest that the Saints can be had by Seattle, especially after the Hawks’ 34-19 loss in New Orleans Nov. 21. But the Saints may have sustained significant injuries during their timid home-field finale Sunday, a 23-13 loss to Tampa Bay.
Looking ahead, it’s well worth noting that the stats put up Sunday by Hawk starter Charlie Whitehurst were eerily similar to those of the Saints’ Drew Brees, last year’s Super Bowl most-valuable player. Whitehurst completed 22 or 36 for 197 yards; Brees was 22 for 38 for 196. A critical difference: Whitehurst, presumably the starter again next Saturday, ran for 30 yards, showing mobility that hadn’t been apparent during his previous performance.
Seattle’s defense was as tenacious as it’s been for some time, routinely swatting down passes from Ram wunderkind Sam Bradford and holding the usually hellacious running back Steven Jackson to just 45 yards. Seattle gained nearly 100 more yards on the ground than the opponent.
Pete Carroll, who can be ebullient under the worst of circumstances, looked as though he’d just won the Super Bowl as game announcers struggled to find the larger meaning of the small miracle of a 7-9 “champ.” Al Michaels noted, though, that Saturday’s playoff is, after all, just another game: “It’s the N.F.L. Anything can happen.”
Okay, maybe not quite “anything.” Given the obstacles, it’s difficult to project Seattle beyond the first round. With a win they’d wind up on the road against better competition.
The Super Bowl? Hey, if they won the Big One they’d actually be 11-9 for the season: losers no more. If that happened presumably a national poll the next day would identify George W. Bush as America’s greatest president and “The Hurt Locker” the greatest film.