If you watch ESPN for any significant amount of time, you can't help but notice that teams outside the Boston-New York corridor don't get nearly as much attention. Sure, if you're one of the glamour boys around the country like Ladanian Tomlinson, Dwyane Wade, Peyton Manning, Roger Clemens, or Kobe Bryant you'll get plenty of showtime, but if you're just a good all-around team with a good record? Forget it. If you're not from the eastern seaboard you're going to have to settle for the hatchet-job highlight reels the local media's sports desks put together. That is, until you become an elite team. It's a simple matter of the bar being much higher for a team from, say, Seattle to be featured on "NFL Live".
For weeks, the conversation of best teams in the NFC has been limited to the New York Giants, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, and Carolina Panthers. This despite the fact that the Seattle Seawhawks had already bested two of those teams and had the same record as the others. They've had the NFL's most potent offense and the leading rusher in the game for several weeks now, but still, no mention on any of ESPN's primary shows such "Around the Horn" or "Pardon the Interruption".
Living in the Seattle area and chearing for local teams, I'm learning, is a bit of an exercise in frustration. As far as the sports-minded public is concerned, this is a city in which a mere spot on the podium or invitation to the dance seems reason to launch a celebration. For example, the Mariners spent the entire year honoring the 1995 ballclub. Why, you might ask? Did they win the World Series? No. Did they make it to the World Series? No. They just spent a year celebrating the ten-year anniversary of "The Double". For those whom this significance is understandably lost on, I'll tell you. The Double -- always capitalized, I'm told -- was hit by Edgar Martinez during the ALDS against the New York Yankees in 1995 and won the game and pushed the Mariners on to the second round of the playoffs that year. Granted, The Double created a buzz in the city that rallied support for a new stadium and did keep the team from moving to Florida, but come on? A season-long, 10 year anniversary celebration for a team that didn't even make it to the World Series? Forgive the analogy, but this is like the Special Olympics handing out Honorable Mention ribbons to everyone who completes a lap around the track.
So, as if the general malaise wasn't bad enough (which I'll attempt to explain in an article this week), when we do have a good team we still have to endure a wholesale lack of national attention. But hopefully not anymore. The Seahawks are now 7-2 and remain atop the standings in the NFC, with the short-track towards the NFC West Division Championship and also currently in possession of a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. No longer will I tune into my favorite shows on ESPN and listen as the constant chatter ignores our corner of the country. Last Friday, Shaun Alexander, our NFL-leading rusher, was the guest on "Pardon the Interruption" and several of the reporters scoffed at the notion of the Giants making the Super Bowl on "Around the Horn", citing Seattle as one such obstacle that they won't be able to hurdle.
This is indeed a good time to be a Seattle Seahawks fan. Not only are we undefeated at home this year (again!) but the team is actually good enough to win it all. The fans believe it, the team believes it, and the national media is starting to believe it. Last year,the Seahawks were a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl prior to the season starting. And too many people believed the hype. The Seahawks got bounced from the playoffs in the first round by a St. Louis Rams team that beat them three times last year. Everyone in the locker room continues to chant the mantra that "this is a different team" and, you know what? I believe them. And, this time around, you can believe the hype.