Three non-football episodes in the short week leading to the 49ers game prompts a question: Isn’t the season tough enough without making trouble in high places?
After Marshawn Lynch went passive-aggressive, Pete Carroll went active-aggressive, then Doug Baldwin and Richard Sherman went Beavis and Butthead in attacks directed against the mother ship, the NFL. All in a short week of preparation for the game against the villainous arch-enemy that must be rooted out of its new, alien home bunker.
Question for the Seahawks: How do you find time to alienate the known football world and still work up a mad-on for the 49ers?
They play the 49ers at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Santa Clara, a much-anticipated moment on the national sports calendar that is threatened to be an oh-by-the-way episode in the cartoon life of the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Seahawks have lost five in a row on the road against the 49ers, who are actually more desperate to win this game than the Seahawks, simply because they have to split the season series with Seattle to stay alive in the playoff hunt, and winning at the Clink in three weeks is a low-percentage wager.
Despite the game’s portents, the Seahawks have, coincidentally but undoubtedly, pissed off the league.
The string of provocations began Sunday after the Seahawks beat Arizona when RB Marshawn Lynch, who wants to be Teller in a Penn world, decided to mock the NFL and the $100,000 fine it laid on him by giving non sequitur answers to post-game questions. The full YouTube video has passed 300,000 visits and has become a national talker.
On Monday, in an episode you might have missed, coach Pete Carroll on his weekly radio show on ESPN 710 uncharacteristically went off on officiating. As he did in his days with the ultra-successful USC program, Carroll suspects there is a built-in bias against successful teams because the penalty disparity is, to him, otherwise inexplicable.
“I have had it about up to here with this penalty situation and the way it’s gone,” said Carroll, whose point is buttressed by the fact that the Seahawks have been flagged 88 times (for 670 yards) this season compared to 48 (396) for the collective opponents, a disparity that leads the NFL. “There is nothing I can do about it, but they just won’t call penalties on the other guys, they just won’t do it.
“When an (opponent) steps forward at the tailback position and our players point it out, and (officials) say ‘No, no, no, he did not simulate a start,’ they decide not to call that.”
The rant came after the NFL admitted to him that in the previous week’s loss in Kansas City, the crew of referee Bill Leavy (you may remember him fondly from Super Bowl XL), failed to call pass interference when a Chiefs defensive back bumped WR Doug Baldwin on a fourth-and-goal pass into the end zone. The penalty would have given the Seahawks first-and-goal at the 1-yard line in a game they lost 24-20.
Meeting with reporters Monday, Carroll, attempting to avert a fine, tried to tone it down. A little.
“I think it’s interesting — fascinating,” he said. “When we won the national championship (at USC) the first year, the next year our opponents were penalized the least — for the next four years. That’s all I’m going to say about that.”
But he was thrilled to have been asked about the disparity.
“Yeah, there is quite a gap between what they’re calling on one team . . . really glad you brought it up.”
Then on Tuesday came the comedy twins, Sherman and Baldwin. Props to them for creativity and some classic Stanford smart-ass in their attempts to point out hypocrisies by parodying the league’s stances on the Lynch fine, player safety and sponsorship products.
But for some whose eyes rise above sports to, for example, the ongoing tragedy in Ferguson, MO., casting NFL players as victims rings a little hollow. And for those still focused on sports, the league is an easy target, but its positions on the issues were largely reached via collective bargaining with the players union.
The revenues the league gets for Thursday night games and from sponsorships is, like nearly all revenues, shared with the players, which make stars such as Sherman and Baldwin wealthy.
For Seahawks fans, they fairly can ask: How about you guys spending your creative energy on beating the 49ers instead of picking fights that can only make things worse?
The NFL has been mum on consequences for these episodes. But given rules and precedents, it seems just a matter of time (and the holiday) before fines are handed down. The consequence for the Seahawks is not about the fine money; it’s about the frequency of hassles.
As defending champs, the Seahawks are already a competitive target by opponents. They don’t need to make the bulls-eye bigger and easier to hit by publicly mocking (Lynch, Sherman and Baldwin) the already hypersenstive NFL or implying conspiracy among its officials (Carroll).
The Seahawks may be dead-right on their principles. But the league’s executives and field officials are human who think they are right too. Whatever the Seahawks think of the rules, the bosses have the rulebook on their side.
As with previous off-season penalties levied against Carroll for too much practice during practice, he shouldn’t be tempting the NFL to set up a satellite bureau in Renton to play gotcha with the repeat offenders.
The object here is winning games. Anything that detracts would seem to need setting aside until the off-season. The Seahawks were masters a year ago at minimizing distractions. Now they are creating their own.
Isn’t playing two division games in five days against the NFL’s best a sufficient challenge?
Prediction: Seahawks 8, 49ers 5.
The Seahawks will get two 50+-yard field goals from Steven Hauschka and a safety after a Jon Ryan punt backs up the 49ers to their 2-yard line. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh orders a seven-step drop for a shot by QB Colin Kaepernick. He is sacked and knocked out of the back of end zone by LB Bruce Irvin, who is plunked by bricks of brie thrown by angry 49ers fans.
Besides a field goal, the only 49ers’ score is a safety when LB Aldon Smith tackles Russell Wilson after foiling the read option for the 11th consecutive time. “Hard-count that, you little s—!” Smith is heard to say on a sideline mic, apparently discussing the NFC Championship moment when Wilson drew Smith offsides on a fourth-and-seven at the 49ers 35-yard line, giving the Seahawks a free play that became a touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse that decided the best game of 2013.
Retorts Wilson: “I understand your point. Thanks for sharing.” Smith draws an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for punching. And missing.