BY Art Thiel 09:22AM 01/07/2011

Seahawks: Fun-derdogs!

These guys may never play a more pressure-free big game than this

Pete Carroll, Charlie Whitehurst

Why is this man smiling? He's playing with house money (Drew McKenzie/Sportspress Northwest)

For Seattle fans and players, this week of the Seahawks-Saints matchup is a rare experience, and not simply because playoff games are seen in these parts as often as paisley unicorns.

It’s rare because, even though it’s a home game, there is absolutely no pressure on the local gents.

The sports world believes the Seahawks don’t belong.

Deep down, the Seahawks know they don’t belong.

This game is outcast, outlaw and outhouse. No one beyond the 206/253/360 who is operating on more than a brain stem gives them a chance.

At 10 points, the Saints are the largest road-team favorite in the history of the NFL playoffs. They know the expectations. They feel the pressure.

They know they’re going a long way on short notice to a loud joint in crap weather.

For the Saints, bad things lurk.

For the Seahawks, it’s all vuvuzelas, birthday cake and Christmas, part deux.

Read how starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck explains it.

“It’s a big game, but they’re all big and we’re just excited for the opportunity,” he said after practice Thursday. “We’re really, really pumped up, fired up, excited, jacked to play this game. We are. We think it’s very cool.

“I don’t know how (the Saints) feel. Maybe they’re bummed that they don’t have a bye and they got to fly seven hours to southern Alaska.”

Exactly.

Seattle Seahawks: Fun-derdogs!

For them, football cannot exist in a more enjoyable circumstance.

Playoff games in any sport normally are tense affairs between relatively well-matched, successful teams. That is, after all, the point of the post-season exercise, yes?

But we have an aberration here that bends light waves. As well as assumptions.

What’s the worst thing that could happen to the Seahawks? Lose 50-0?

So?

That would be an embarrassment of degree, not kind.

The Seahawks were held to two or fewer touchdown 12 times and surrendered 31 or more points in eight of their nine losses. Bad doesn’t get much worse than that.

Unless of course, you are the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams or Arizona Cardinals, who providently were worse than the Seahawks while sharing the same lame division.

So a complete and utter flop Saturday would produce, at worst, a shrug among the fans, and even among players, half of whom probably won’t be here next year anyway. Trailing 43-0 after three, the Seahawks’ revolving-door roster, already at warp speed, probably will throw five guys into the street before the end of the game.

So what we’re talking about here is very nearly an idiot-proof circumstance.

Especially in the paramilitary world of the NFL, can you imagine what that kind of freedom must feel like?

There’s little reason to fear error because error is expected, so the tension that frequently causes error vanishes. The willingness to take risks increases because the consequences of failure are not serious. Apprehension over a formidable adversary evaporates with the realization that he can’t make you deader than dead.

Hell, this could be Hasselbeck’s last game in Seattle, or anywhere. What’s he got to lose? Is he worried fans might boo him because of more turnovers? Scared that Charlie Whitehurst might steal his job? Fearful the Saints might undercut his free-agent market value when everyone knows the Seahawks’ offense sucked because the line was so compromised?

Don’t think so.

Hasselbeck enters this game with such an incredible lightness of being, he may not even be subject to the laws of gravity.

“That’s one thing coaches going back to my freshman football coach would say all the time,” he said.  ‘Play every play like it’s your last.’

“You never know when it’s going to be your last.”

Cliché, yes, because it’s true. For Hasselbeck and many of his teammates, it may never be more apt, nor more powerful, than Saturday.

In their athletic lives, the Seahawks may never experience another moment of liberation like this – a nationally televised forum free of pressure, expectation and tension to celebrate just how wonderful it is to play sports for a living.

The Fun-derdogs of southern Alaska.

Can’t wait for the book and movie. But first, we get to see it live.


YourThoughts

  • Greg Anderson

    Fantastic writing as always, Art. I love to start the day with a laugh.

  • Lucky Infidel

    Hawks are going to the Super Bowl! I can smell it. Or I can smell something.

  • nick

    Art, it’s all so true. What a story it will be if we pull this off. It’s all so weird and F’d up that the potential is there. Go Hawks!

  • Mike

    Infidel, RE:” I can smell something.” Are you in Tacoma? Just kiddin’. Not of the the 1980 Olympics Hockey Gold Medal game magnitude if it happens but I gotta hunch it’s gonna happen tomorrow on a lesser magnitude.

  • Dave J

    My brain stem has been hurting since Sunday night! If they win Saturday, it will probably go nuclear.

  • fairmontdave

    Nothing, nothing is sweeter than this. Art, love you, you know, in a manly way. New Orleans, be afraid, be very, very afraid!! Nothing to lose, everything to WIN!!! There is nothing more fun, nothing, well, maybe something, at this point, it slips my mind.
    Signed by temporarily delusion. Delusion, don’t leave me.

  • Steve Pitell

    Everyone has an opinion, and I think this may be the worst thing I have ever read by you. Though even your worst has a few laughs. I think analysis suggests the Seahawks have a real chance to win this one. Maybe my brain stem is below average. But seriously, I think Hass is under severe pressure right now. End of contract so he wants to shine his image, Charlie is breathing down his neck, and the fans and his teammates seem to prefer Charlie, which he might be taking personally. That last is based solely on the frown the TV cameras caught on Hass’s face as the Seahawks beat the Rams while the rest of the team was congratulating CW. Maybe Hass ate a bad shrimp for lunch is all?

  • Tim McHugh

    Say it Art!!!!

    I’m thinking Superbowl too…

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