I went back and forth about whether to write a post about the Super Bowl on this blog. But, despite my hesitation today I have decided to go ahead and share some thoughts. These are my own thoughts and I think this is a fun way to tie in my love of sports which is not usually referred to in great detail on this blog. They post may not exactly reflect leadership and neighbor love thought, but I will try and make some connections here and show some of the tensions I am feeling today.
First, of all, I am ecstatic, like the rest of the 12th Man! The Seattle Seahawks are Super Bowl Champions and it feels good to have been able to cheer for my hometown team. For the first time in 8 years, I had a real legitimate rooting interest in the big game. This time around I woke up on Sunday morning to get ready for church fairly confident, unlike then. This Seahawks team was just that, a team in the fullest sense of the word- well rounded and focused. Much has been said (and rightfully so) about the Seahawks defense, but their offense and special teams are great too and I believe it showed yesterday.
I believe this is a credit to good leadership. Coach Pete Carroll has proved that his strategy and style of coaching can work. He believes in positive leadership, and that leadership is infectious and encourages rather than discourages. Yes, when people need some corrective action, he pulls them aside. But he also lets individuals be themselves, and rather force them to fit roles, he plans and works around their strengths and gifts. General Manager John Schneider and Owner Paul Allen also deserve tremendous credit for their vision, strategy, and support. Paul Allen bought this franchise to keep them in the Northwest, and because of that he will always be beloved. Together, these leaders show what strengths based leadership can look like, not just in athletics, but also in any sector. Their collaborative effort and positivity are infectious and should be lauded, as should their collective talent in recruiting, hiring, and supporting a fantastic host of assistant coaches who are highly sought over year after year for other “promotion” type opportunities by other teams.
Granted, their is a tension here. It is hard to talk about leadership in a professional football team, in an industry where millions and even billions of dollars are dispensed for a form of “entertainment.” Are professional athletes paid too much? Is this an industry (like much of larger popular culture) which perhaps takes too much money as opposed to other societal needs and the needs of our needs? Sure, absolutely! Friend and adviser Rev. Dr. Matt Skinner wrote a good reflection on this last week and I encourage you to read it.
So, in spite of this tension, when your team, city, or group wins its impossible to quell your feeling of joy and pride. And that is not a bad thing. The whole “othering” thing is a problem (the “other city” or “other team), but at the same time, at least in terms of sports, there is the creation of fellowship and community around an event and team. (Even if its so strongly commercialistic to the craziest extent. For instance, consider the cost of commercials to air during the Super Bowl, or the fact that the Super Bowl yesterday has now been announced to have been the most watched TV program ever in the United States.)
Speaking of community, it was amazing to me yesterday to be watching the Seahawks in Minnesota and having so many of my Vikings fan friends root for the Broncos. Why did so many of them want the Broncos to win? Alternatively, my Packers fan friends almost unanimously rooted for the Seahawks, out of conference loyalty. (I don’t know if there is a direct correlation, but I do wonder if my Packers fan friends might be generally smarter than my Vikings fan friends. Maybe not, but its something I pondered.)
Some people had questions about the whole “12th Man” thing, and the raising of the flag, etc. For those of you who think this is some high school like ritual, you just don’t understand the way the community in the Pacific Northwest rallies and can rally. The 12th Man is a community in the fullest sense, and the raising of the flag is symbolic of showing the support and solidarity of a whole region (the Pacific Northwest) and ex-pat Northwesterners scattered across the country and the world. Take a look at all of the pictures of the fireworks and 12th Man flag over the Space Needle, or all of the downtown buildings which at night spelled out the number twelve. (Or the countless pictures taken with 12th Man flags and banners all over the world.)
The 12th Man is definitely special, but its not necessarily unique to the Seahawks, at least in the spirit of community around a team in the Northwest. The same energy can be seen by the thousands of supporters of the Seattle Sounders. It can be seen by the thousands still hoping for the return of the Sonics to Seattle, and the thousands hoping the Mariners return to relevance. Every region and city has a huge fan base, but none can quite claim the noise and spirit records of those in the Northwest.
If you want to know why the fans are so passionate about their team, see this story about Derrick Coleman. This is just one story, but this is a team of people that faced negativity or challenges in their lives but refused to be told “no.” Instead, like Russell Wilson’s father once told him, “Why not you?” The 12th Man likewise could ask, “Why not us?” And on Wednesday with a grand parade and celebration the city of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest will be able to celebrate together as a large community of the 12th Man, the Seahawks.
If you are Broncos fan, I am sorry that you may be feeling great disappointment today. But as a Seahawks fan, let me say it feels wonderful to finally claim that this team has won a Super Bowl. Here’s to many more, and to a team and region which are so greatly connected in support of one another.