In 1976, the National Football League expanded to Seattle and since then the franchise has enjoyed up-and-down years and traveled to the Super Bowl once. But this season has been unlike any before, as almost everyone has caught a fever and the only cure is more football. Others ask is football even necessary?
The NFL is more than a game, a business and a couple of hard hits. Professional football gives a platform for individuals to provide inspiration, brings families together under the same roof and unites a community.
Back in 1997, I would rush home from church every Sunday, sprint to my room and do a quick change into navy and orange before a mad dash that ended with a slide onto my knees in front of the television. I couldn’t miss the Bronco game. I loved the colors, the contact, the strategy and I just knew that if I wasn’t there they wouldn’t win. I was a part of something so much bigger than just one 9-year-old.
Riley Kovalcik, 9 of Roxbury, N.J., sat down to pen a letter to her inspiration on Jan. 21. It wasn’t Taylor Swift or Selena Gomez, it was Seahawk fullback Derrick Coleman. The 23-year-old Coleman has been essentially deaf since he was 3 years old and has to wear hearing aids to make out any sounds other than deep bass. As a child he was picked on, yet he overcame odds to play football at UCLA. He went undrafted and was cut from the Minnesota Vikings before the Seahawks picked him up in December of 2012. Once again he overcame the odds and made the 53-man roster for the Seahawks, despite the fact that he has to read quarterback Russell Wilson’s lips to get each play.
“Dear, (my insperation) Derrick Coleman, I know how you feel,” Kovalcik wrote. “I also have hearing aids. Just try your best. I have faith in you Derrick and good job on January 20 game.”
When Coleman received a picture of the letter from Kovalcik’s father, he replied back to the girl whose twin sister also wears hearing aids.
“I want you to know that I always try my best in everything I do and have faith in you and your twin sister too,” Coleman wrote. “Even though we wear hearing aids, we can still accomplish our goals and dreams!”
It isn’t just Coleman who inspires individuals all over the country. There are others like Wilson who spends every Tuesday, his one day off, during the football season at Seattle Children’s Hospital. In an age of multi-million dollar contracts, the star quarterback only makes about $26,000 on the football field for every hour he spends giving hope to those who need it so badly.
When my family moved to Washington in 1998, I converted to being a Seahawk fan. All four of my family members were donning college navy, action green and wolf grey when the Seahawks took on the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 20 and parked in front of the television. When the third quarter began, I had just begun pacing around the room and I realized in that moment that the past hours had been the first three consecutive that our family had spent in the same room for almost two weeks. We are a close-knit group, but as my sister and I have grown older our schedules have sped up. The NFC Championship game was a chance to reconnect as a family, whether it was talking about chicken wings or touchdowns and as we prepare to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday we will be together again.
The sport of football has drawn together a group much larger than my family or Grays Harbor. The Seahawks have brought out a community known as “The 12th Man.” Those who cheer on the Seahawks are not just fans, they are a force that acts as if the team had one additional player. As part of the 12th Man, fans begin to feel an ownership in something bigger than themselves. Soon, neighbors that have little in common are united. When lifelong Seahawk fan Jay Staten watched Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman tip a pass to teammate Malcolm Smith that sealed a trip to the Super Bowl from his seat in Century Link Field, he was overcome with excitement. Staten high-fived people he had never met, he saw people hug that had just seen each other for the first time three hours earlier.
In a time when Grays Harbor County is divided over party lines, race, gender and various other issues, football can still unite us.
Brendan Carl is the sports reporter for The Vidette.