BY Art Thiel 12:35AM 10/24/2016

Thiel: Don’t let tie obscure great sports theater

Maddening as was the tie for fans of both sides, the 6-6 tie between the Seahawks and Cardinals was a compelling episode of sports theater that is worthy of serious appreciation.

The kick that will live in Seahawks infamy — Stephen Hauschka misses at Arizona. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

One of the great virtues of most sports — and why soccer still has trouble in the U.S. — is that the games provide resolution. The Seahawks and Cardinals Sunday night in Glendale, AZ, offered no resolution. Instead, they provided their fan bases and the sports nation watching on NBC with the unresolved — a tie.

It’s a thing America doesn’t do well. Win or lose, that’s our deal. The draw is our flaw; we can’t feel something for nothing.

After the 6-6 tie — the first in Seahawks history and the first in the NFL in 44 years that didn’t have a touchdown — nobody sputtered better than Pete Carroll.

“I don’t know where a tie fits,” said the Seahawks coach, a garrulous man suddenly tangled up in awkward pauses. “I don’t really have a good place to make sense of this. We don’t live this way.”

Most of us regularly have unresolved issues with our spouses, children, parents, bosses, auto mechanics, internet service providers and presidential candidates. But not a sports event. In sports, we invest invest hours, days, weeks, even professional lives, knowing that sports will give us something rarely obtained elsewhere — resolution.

Win or loss. Joy or sadness. A tie? No.

Even Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was moved as close as he’ll ever get to contempt.

“A tie? That’s no fun,” he said. “I don’t really believe in ties.”

OK, so he wasn’t Jesse Jackson raging at The Man. But a tie leaves every thread at a loose end. How do you wear that?

On the other hand . . .

It was maybe the most fascinating pro football game I can recall.

Wash off your green and blue face paint and go with me a minute.

The game between two of the NFL’s best coaches was an ultra-conservative chess match between division rivals who had each given the other previous heartaches. And for all the missed opportunities, failed plays and penalties, there was neither a fumble nor an interception, although it was nearly so several times.

How sloppy can a game be if it had no turnovers?

For all the field command the Cardinals had, they never led by more than three points. Despite the Seahawks’ abysmal offense that never reached Arizona territory by its own doing throughout regulation time, they never trailed by more than three points.

In my most dystopian nightmares about football, I never could have dreamed up such a thing.

Yet there it was, played out through nearly four hours of exquisite tension. No cinematic art could rival the wall-to-wall drama in live action where something that was anticipated to happen (a touchdown) never did. It was like watching a man and a woman intensely attracted to one another, yet never kissing. You can’t look away because it might happen.

Then consider the magnificence of both defenses. For every possession in regulation, each had a ruthlessly jarring answer for the offense. It cannot be a bad football game when half of it is populated by premier athletes operating at the acme of their profession, yet were unable to shake loose the ball even once.

And then the Seahawks execute the astounding special teams feat of having LB Bobby Wagner jump over the center to interrupt a field goal.

Twice.

After getting  the first one blocked, the Cardinals still couldn’t prevent Wagner flying into the vision of Cardinals kicker Chandler Cantanzaro for the attempt in overtime. There is little doubt Wagner’s airborne presence affected the kick.

Consider the stricken head coaches at each moment of despair when the kicks failed. Arizona coach Arians threw his arms high, anticipating the game-winning score, then threw them down so hard he may need rotator cuff surgery.

And how about that look on the face of Carroll after Stephen Hauschka missed? Frozen by shock, jaw slackened, eyes wide . . . for as much success as Carroll has had, and as much energy and enlightenment he has brought to the Seattle sports marketplace, his expression in that moment is burned into my brain until one second past forever.

The outcome was a universal frustration for all involved. But don’t let that diminish appreciation for one of the most compelling episodes of sports theater any of us have been privileged to witness. Feel free to enjoy a 60-58 college game, but that is closer to football porn than the opera that played out at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night.

For each team to run the field in overtime to set up a game-winning field goal, only to scuff the kick . . . well, it doesn’t get more American than a double Charlie Brown.


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YourThoughts

  • inplaylose

    i was at the game in DC in 1997 where the Redskins and Giants tied 7-7, during which Gus Frerotte head butted the wall and concussed himself. I thought I’d never see a stranger game of football than that in my life. Apparently, I thought wrong.

    • art thiel

      Personally, I enjoy seeing stuff I’ve never seen. The game was unique, in the literal sense of that much-abused word.

  • bugzapper

    Even my uber-sports-challenged girlfriend was slack-jawed at the final miss.

    How’d you like to be a fly on the wall the next time Catanzaro and Hauschka get together to talk about old times?

    • art thiel

      Catanzaro: Should we invite Blair Walsh?

      Hauschka: Nah. He did it in the playoffs. We’re not in his league.

  • Matt712

    All I can say is, Rudman is gonna have a field day with this.

    • art thiel

      Check out the site for what he found.

  • Effzee

    That was fun, actually. I love great defensive battles. Problem is, most of our offensive line has no business being employed by an NFL team. Thankfully the defense is great, and Carson Palmer isn’t.

    • art thiel

      As I said above, many earlier mistakes were covered by a healthy Wilson and Lynch.

  • Buggy White

    Okay, ‘sports theater’ is all well and good, but how about the fact that the offense was terrible, especially the running game and the offensive line with all their penalties? Thank goodness the defense showed up so amazingly well! Bobby Wagner rocks!

    • art thiel

      The drama — literature, film, TV — is in the overcoming of hazards and long odds. That’s why you couldn’t leave the TV. And won’t leave this season. How does it play out?

  • Warchild_70

    This game will go down in the history of the Hawks. 90 plays on Defense to watch a 28 yard chip shot go hard left? That has to hurt. The D did their job in spades and again the O line crumbled and Dangeruss hobbled, limped and staggered for his life. I will NOT have any heartburn with the kicker we didn’t look good enough to beat a Pop Warner team!! Time to look for a old stud with a half tank of gas to shore up our offense. Coach Cable is lucky he’s bald already otherwise there would be a trail of follicles from Kingman to Seattle. GO HAWKS, Please!!

    • art thiel

      Midseason O-line fixes are hard in midseason. But not impossible.

  • coug73

    What is done, is done.

  • Will Ganschow

    All night long Michaels and Schenkel were talking about how much Hauschka hates kicking in the Cards stadium. I’m old enough to remember when ties were a regular part of the game, when ties did crazy things to post season considerations. I turned to my wife at the end of the game and said, “I love this .” Maybe I should go live in Europe…..Nah, no baseball.

    • art thiel

      Boy, if Chris Schenkel was in the booth, I should have unmuted.

  • Diamond Mask

    From the beginning you could see this football game was going to be a battle of field position. We actually lost that battle and survived only because our defense ROCKS.

    Carson Palmer is overrated.

    The reaction of Michaels and Collingsworth to the magnificent play by Wagner was strange. They should have been shouting with glee at the outstanding football play that just occurred in front of their faces and yet they seemed somehow unable to take it in. I don’t think they were actually looking when it happened. Perhaps their poor ratings have as much to do with these two sleep walking in the booth as it does football.

    Not sure where our offense went last night. Each one of them starting with Wilson needs to get down on their knees and thank their defense and then buy them dinner.

    The next time these team meet it will be a completely different game. We will crush them at the Clink for Christmas. Just a prediction.

    • art thiel

      Unless the Seahawks have a massive O-line renaissance — again — not quite seeing a rout.

  • Matt Kite

    Dangling modifier alert:

    After blocking the first one, the Cardinals still couldn’t prevent Wagner flying into the vision of Cardinals kicker Chandler Cantanzaro for the attempt in overtime.

    • art thiel

      Fixed. Good catch. I need your scouting report before the play, not after. :)

      • Matt Kite

        Ha! At least you can fix your mistakes. Hauschka would love to amend his last kick.

        • art thiel

          I’ve hit uprights and crossbars numerous times.

      • John M

        Art, I think you should have mentioned that, though we love him, Bobby cannot jump as high as Kam and if Kam isn’t there next time they should give the job to Lane . . .

  • tor5

    Yeah, I don’t know how to process a tie either. But that diving stop by Kelsie McCray at the goal line, followed by another improbably stop by Earl Thomas, still make me smile. It goes down as an L without those. And, who knows, the difference between an L and a T could be huge down the line.

    • art thiel

      Given the Cards’ need for a win, this amounts to a loss for them.

  • WestCoastBias79

    One of the reasons why I can deal with the occasional turd soccer game where one team parks the bus hoping for a counterattack but is really playing for a tie (i.e. Portugal), is that, worse case, it’s going to be around two hours long. That was a fascinating football game, but it was also a slog. It was like running a 10K and not getting the runner’s high until 9500 meters then cramping up and face-planting a meter short of the finish line. Throw in the ticky tack offensive PI’s and holding (at least they were consistently calling it on both teams), that game became an affront to my love of football. I’m looking more fondly on it today because I’m ignoring the four hours where I was researching cars I can’t afford on AutoTrader to combat the boredom in between exciting special teams play.

    • art thiel

      I like the 10K analogy. But dreaming about cars you can’t afford . . . can’t quite go there.

      As a told the commenter above, try not to get lost in the aggravation over penalties. Lots of intrigue in how this game played out.

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    Yes, great theater but hard to watch especially Seattle’s non-operative offense and Seattle’s usual high number of penalties some of which were just god-awful calls by the officials.

    The calls on Kearse for offensive pass interference and Sherman for defensive pass interference come to mind as well as the penalty on Jeremy Lane (20) for hands to the face against tight end Jermaine Gresham (84).. Lane was tangling with Gresham who was holding him and pushed off to get away and ended up hitting his facemark . . but no call on the holding by Gresham. Lane and Gresham went at it several times and on this particular play Lane was probably still stewing over a non-call a few players earlier where Gresham, who is much bigger than Lane, had come in late on a play and picked Lane up and threw him down in what looked like could have been called either a late hit or unnecessary roughness or both. There was no call.

    Likewise, several of the offensive holding calls on the O-line were questionable at best especially when you watch the Arizona O-line getting away with pulling Seahawk players down by their jerseys on several occasions with no call. And, on the blocked punt by Tanner McEvoy, he was grabbed and actually throw around by his jersey after the blocked punt as the Arizona blocker tried to prevent him from recovering the fumble.

    It was all I could do to restrain my self from throwing something at the TV and I’m feeling a little sorry for my neighbors who heard my profanity-laced tirades.

    • art thiel

      I would guess some of your neighbors were in a similar profane mood.

      I know miscalled penalties are an aggravation, but don’t let it overrun your experience with a game that can truly be called unique.

  • giannisee

    I never minded a tie as long as it was a well-played game. Kudos to the D on both sides. And to have both field goal kickers miss! Most entertaining. This was very different. And I liked it. Hockey is my favorite sport, yet I could do without the NHL’s determination to achieve resolution. By the time a tied game goes to shoot-out, I’ve lost interest.

    • art thiel

      This game tested a fan’s sensibility about what constitutes a great game.

  • ll9956

    This is what happens when Pete Carroll, Tom Cable and John Schneider go shopping at Walmart for offensive lineman rather than Bloomingdale’s or Neiman Marcus or even Nordstrom’s. Both Gilliam and Sowell whiffed on blocks and each got called for holding at least once, maybe twice. Hopefully yesterday’s debacle will help the latter three geniuses realize that if you want to have a good running game, you need a good OL. Duh! It’s nothing short of a miracle that Russell got sacked only once.

    There is a simple solution for avoiding the mental anguish of a tie: Let the teams play until there is a winner like they do in college football. Presumably there is a reason why they rule this out.

    As to Russell’s performance, regardless of how he harps on how great he feels, his elusiveness, mobility and speed are nowhere what they used to was (intentional poor grammar). I believe Warren Moon was right when he said that Russell is about 80%.

    • eYeDEF

      Except the offensive line was awful in 2013 the SB season. I understand your point but you have to consider which part of the team that money is going to come from. Skimping on the line allows them to keep all the talent together on defense. The salary cap makes both impossible.

      • Effzee

        We may be witnessing the threshold for badness, lol. They pushed the envelope too far!! At some point, it’s just not responsible or fair to RW and the rest of the team. The defense plays too hard, and RW is too valuable to just Shanahan/RGIII him. He deserves to be protected and the defense deserves support.

        • art thiel

          All true, but little can be done at mid-season. They already changed the playcalling emphasis a year ago.

      • art thiel

        That’s the key point: Allocation of resources. Until now, the Seahawks could get away with skimping on the line because Wilson and Lynch, when healthy, were unique.

    • art thiel

      Re infinity games: The players union bargained the OT rules because they know the dangers of playing exhausted. College players have no union protection, so they play as long as the plantation overlords instruct.

      The Seahawks bosses knew exactly the high-risk nature of what they were doing. But the biggest mistake was in betting on RW’s continued good health.

  • Paul Harmening

    Imagine if Hauschka made the kick. All the talk would again be how the Seahawks once again lucked out. And, as you said Art, there would be no frozen photo frames of Arians explosion and Carroll’s slack jawed face. There would be no instant ratcheting up these two teams as fierce rivals, which is another theater we’ve been missing since the 49′ers died.
    There would be no conversation here or on the national level as is now raging.

    (QUESTION) Do you think the NFL will take another look at ties because of this?

    RW had a suggestion regarding an overtime ending tiebreaker. I’m sure many others will have ideas. How bout this: Coin flip. Winner of flip gets ball at midfield and has 6 plays only to see how far team can go down field. If scores either way, wins game. If not, then other team gets the ball at mid-field with same chance. If no score, team with most yardage in 6 plays wins game.

    This score really needs settling now, and Dec 24th is suddenly a date to mark on the calendar, nationally.

    • art thiel

      Ties are so rare that I can’t see the NFL doing a thing about this. Besides, there was no error or misapplication of the rules in the outcome. No wrong to be righted.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    Going to be hilarious watching the local and national press bitch and moan the rest of the year about that “1″ in the win-loss column. Akin to the itch we can’t scratch. X-mas eve will be that much more fun, although I might be busy that day.

    • art thiel

      Make the time. The sequel will be a dandy.

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    I loved the game. Two very good teams played their butts off. I read somewhere that the Seahawks D spent more time on the field than any NFL defense in the history of the game [46:21] and allowed zero touchdowns. The Arizona defense played lights out, too. The only negative I saw is that if other teams figure out how to successfully blitz Russell from that game’s film, we could have some trouble offensively going forward. A minor problem is that Arizona doesn’t have any players or coaches to really hate which makes the whole “rivalry” thing kinda tough. I suppose I could work up at least some artificial loathing for Bruce Arians. That hat he always wears is kind of annoying.

    • art thiel

      It would be good to have contempt for Arians, but he’s a good man and coach in ways different than Carroll.

  • John M

    Dead center, Art, you nailed it. AZ in their own house, ridiculous spread in clock time, could not get to the end zone, nor could we. Both teams have good offenses that made plays, but nobody could sustain a drive far enough. Perhaps the most amazing defensive game by both teams I’ve ever seen. Terribly frustrating to watch – the way defensive games are. I liked it for it’s uniqueness – don’t want to see another right away . . .

    • art thiel

      Read Steve’s story on how rare was the game.

  • LarryLurex70

    Meh. Lipstick on a pig, Thiel. Spin it any way you like, but, for me, this is karma for those crybabies who moaned too loud from the press box and the armchair that the previous Sudden Death OT format needed to be changed to allow both teams a chance to score on offense rather than one team losing on a FG without its defense getting off the field. It was just fine the way it was.