It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m standing elbow to elbow with fellow sports fans in a dark, crowded bar in Culver City. We’re an army attired in athletic gear, a sea of blue and green about a hundred strong . OK, I’m only guessing about the head count; it’s whatever the fire marshal has deemed to be the maximum number of people that are allowed to pack into this joint. The mood is decidedly despondent. The DJ, who’s been placed in charge of morale, finishes spinning the Sublime song, “I’ve Seen Better Days,” and asks the cheerless crowd, “Does anybody know any good jokes?”

This NFC Championship game has been a grim one for Seahawks fans. Russell Wilson, our typically unflappable, playmaking quarterback, the guy who always seems to get better when the moment gets bigger, has just, in the biggest game of the season, thrown an unprecedented fourth interception. There are just over three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, and we’re down by twelve points. This game is all but lost, and with it, our once bright and glittering hopes of returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in as many years to try to once again capture the coveted Lombardi Trophy. Our spectacular late season winning streak is coming to a very unspectacular end. Anybody know any good jokes, indeed.


And then, the improbable happens. Our offense, which has been stagnant for nearly the entire game, springs to life. The Hawks launch a quick scoring drive, culminating in Russell Wilson taking the ball himself into the end zone for a touchdown. Our quarterback, our receivers and our beast of a running back are suddenly, inexplicably, playing like themselves again.

Still. There are only two minutes left and we’re down by five. All Green Bay has to do is recover the onside kick and they’ll put the game away, punching their ticket to the Super Bowl. The entire bar – full of mostly Pacific Northwest expats – holds its collective breath. Our kicker – Steven Hauschka – launches the ball into the air . . . and in the fracas that ensues, a navy blue jersey comes down with it. Oh my god – the Seahawks have done the unthinkable. They’ve recovered the onside kick! The crowd inside Backstage Bar emits a thunderous roar. Strangers – united by love of team – embrace each other. Eyes – including mine – fill with tears, sensing the enormity of what has just occurred.

If you follow sports at all, you know what happens next. Our running back Marshawn – Beast Mode – Lynch runs for a touchdown, Russell Wilson floats a Hail Mary of a two-point conversion that somehow, some way, finds Luke Willson in the end zone, the game goes into overtime and the Seahawks march down the field and score the game-winning touchdown. Improbable miracle after improbable miracle, culminating with what no one thought possible just a few minutes prior: the Seahawks are heading back to the Super Bowl.

Later that day, I send a text message to a friend and fellow Hawks fan, berating him for prematurely admitting defeat, for giving up when the chips were down and the game appeared lost. “Where would we be if our quarterback thought like you?” I joke. “Well, Russell Wilson is a Christian,” came the response from my friend, an atheist. “And Christians just believe.”


Huh. Christians just believe. Is that all there is to it? It is true that Russell Wilson is a devout Christian who speaks openly and often about his faith. It is also true that after the Seahawks’ victory, Wilson, overcome with emotion, wept openly and thanked God during an interview with sideline reporter Erin Andrews.  Religious faith certainly plays a role in his ability to persist in the face of overwhelming obstacles. But what about other forms of belief – like belief in self and in one’s own ability to persevere? Where does that come from? And where does belief spring from for those of us who don’t possess an abundance of (or any) religious devotion, but who remain equally resilient in the face of crisis? What about those of us who don’t attend church, but still think that life is made up of more than just a string of random coincidences?

For most of my life, I’ve been both an unflagging optimist and a religious skeptic. And I never thought there was anything weird about that. I don’t think you have to be a “believer” in order to believe, nor do I think you have to be religious to have faith in something that can’t be proven. But the game did leave me wondering about the concept of belief. For example, why was it so easy for me to have faith in my team, to not give up on them even when the situation appeared desperate, and yet at the same time, so difficult for me to cultivate those same beliefs in myself?

These last few years, circumstances have given me plenty of reasons to abandon my optimism. Life has knocked me down and kicked me in the shins. Often, I’ve felt that I’ve had no reason to hope, other than the fact that hope itself exists.


And while I’ve maintained my sense of hopefulness, what I realized during the Seahawks’ improbable NFC Championship win – and this is going to sound totally crazy to all the non-sports fans out there – is that, unlike my team, I haven’t honestly believed that things are going to get better for me. I’ve spent so much time in crisis mode that I’ve become used to just surviving, to just getting through it. And on some level, I think I believed that surviving was the best I could hope for. But – if you’re still with me – my wacky, football-induced epiphany is that when it comes to life, the mere act of surviving is not enough. Staying in the game is not enough. If you want to win, you have to take the big chances, because the big rewards only come when you take the big risks. The Seahawks’ come from behind victory was a direct result of taking those types of risks, like Russell Wilson throwing a deep ball down the field to Jermaine Kearse – a receiver he had targeted four times prior, with all four passes resulting in interceptions. The evidence would suggest throwing that pass was a mistake, but Wilson’s belief – in himself, in his teammate, in God, in the playbook, whatever – gave him the confidence that this time, in the 11th hour when the game was on the line, he would complete the pass and win the game.

I’m not saying that because of a great football victory, I’m going to go out and get religion. But what the game did do was awaken something in me that had been long been dormant: an idea about the miraculous, resilient, mysterious nature of the human spirit, about the unquantifiable x factor that exists within all of us, and in the ability to trust in something that can’t be seen or proven but that still, we somehow know to be true. I may have ambivalence around the big GOD question, but when given the choice between the idea that life is random chance or composed of a little bit of magic, I choose magic. Every. Time.

Sometimes a sporting event is simply just a game. And sometimes, it’s so much more. Sometimes it reminds you – in small moments and in big ones – how you want to live.

It’s going to be one exciting Super Bowl.

Until next time, friends.


Why not us?

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m madly in love with the Seattle Seahawks, and in particular, their superstar quarterback Russell Wilson.  Russell is a gifted athlete, an intelligent student of the game, and no one works harder or spends more time preparing than him.  He’s also a really nice guy.  But what impresses me the most about him is the ice water in his veins.  The guy is cool as a cucumber.  No matter what’s going wrong, no matter how many points his team is behind, he doesn’t get rattled.  He takes it one play at a time, he never gets down or discouraged, and he always believes he can win.

Russell practices visualization.  He imagines every possible play, every possible outcome in a game, and then he envisions how he will react to it.  In his mind, he imagines himself succeeding no matter what the scenario, no matter what the defense gives him.  Over the course of the season, as the Hawks marched toward clinching the NFC West and a playoff berth, there were plenty of doubters, haters and disbelievers out there who said that they could never win a championship.  After all, they never had.  But as someone who was told that he was ‘too short’ to play quarterback, Russell was used to having the odds stacked against him.  And in the face of all the doubters and the disbelievers, he rallied his team with a simple mantra:  “Why Not Us?”

Why not indeed?  I happen to believe that perception is reality.  I believe that the narratives we tell ourselves about who we are and what we’re capable of have a way of coming true.  Like Mr. Wilson, I believe in the power of our minds to affect the outcome of our lives.

I used to believe that tragedy was something that couldn’t touch me, that it was something unfortunate and horrible that happened to other people.  Then life taught me differently.  In less than nine months I witnessed my dear sweet mother lose her mind, spiral into self-destruction and die.  I witnessed my Dad’s rapid descent into the final throws of terminal cancer.  I witnessed my Grandmother’s diagnosis of advanced Alzheimer’s, where one minute she was there, the next she was gone.  And the sudden and far too young death of a close college friend.  In the span of about 9 months, someone I loved dearly was either sick, dead or dying.

I’ve had several months to process and heal from this incredible series of really bad things.  And while I’m better, I’m definitely not OK yet.  I’m still grieving, still processing, and still struggling.  But I’m struggling on the other side of it now.  The big bad wolf blew down my house, and I discovered that it was made of straw.  Now I’m forced to rebuild, except this time, I’m building with bricks.

In the same way that I used to believe that nothing truly bad could happen to me, I also believed that nothing amazing could happen to me either.  Deep down in the bottom of my heart, I never truly believed that I deserved to be full of joy, to design the life I wanted, to live boldly and without fear.  Instead I played by the rules, I did the ‘right’ thing, and I didn’t challenge myself to dream bigger.  I was content and complacent but not really happy.  Not fully alive.

It’s funny how having your heart shredded can shake you up and change your perspective.  Some of the worst things I ever could have imagined in my life have happened to me and I’m still here.  I’m not perfect, I’m struggling through it, but I’m here.  And being compressed by grief has, ironically, made me more open.  More open to try, more open to fail, more willing to risk it all.  Because when you’ve already lost so much, what’s the point of being afraid of losing?

So this is me, taking a page out of my favorite quarterback’s book.  If ‘Why Not Us,’ can bring the first Lombardi Trophy to Seattle in the history of the franchise, it’s a philosophy worth adopting.  I’m flipping the script on what I used to believe, and now I choose to believe that great things are not only in store for me, but that I deserve them.  Why not me?  Why not you?  Why not us?

Why not.

Until next time, friends.

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