On Sunday, in an attempt to defend a pass into the end zone, Earl Thomas stepped funny and his leg gave out. This happened in a tight game against a division rival starting a rookie QB. He was in the last year of his contract with trade rumors swirling for months. All of these are true and none of them mean anything. The middle finger he gave in the direction of the Seahawks’ bench might be the last image we have of Thomas in a Seahawks uniform. That might be the closure we get on the entire Earl Thomas era. It’s as brutal a breakup as I have ever had.
There is a lot of inane shit on twitter (my entire tweeting history), but one of the best tweets I’ve ever encountered was this:
And with the final member of the LOB likely kicking the Seahawks-branded bucket (ok he isn’t dead he just probably won’t be with us any longer), that tweet came back to me.
Because fandom really is a labor of love. And not the mutually beneficial, “makes you a better person” type of love that we strive for with our partners, but the irrational, unforgiving, unresponsive love that we associate with teams, countries, and not putting pineapple on pizza. (Editor’s Note: Pineapple on pizza is fine at its worst.)
We all pour our emotions into this team (and other teams) and not one bit of it changes the outcome. Our collective love of franchises doesn’t prevent them from doing the banally stupid stuff like drafting first round running backs, denigrating the performance of an internationally iconic pitcher, or hiring Brian Schottenheimer. It doesn’t prevent them from doing the morally questionable (at best) things like drafting and signing players with a history of abuse, promoting sexual harassers, and inviting a Canadian charlatan chauvinist psychologist to speak to the team.
But we stick around because there is some part of sports, whether it is the communities we have built, the awesome spectacle of athleticism we see, some sort of civic pride, or a hundred other reasons. We continue to pour our energy and emotion into something that is incapable of reciprocating. What else could this be, but love?
And love rarely ends well. Which is not an argument against love! Like prime numbers, there are an infinite number of happy endings scattered throughout time, but there are more infinite disastrous, bad, or just plain “meh” endings. Joe Montana’s last NFL pass was an incomplete on 4 and 1 that, even if completed for a touchdown, meant his team was still down by 3 with 15 seconds left. Steve Young was benched at halftime for Jeff Garcia in his last NFL game. Tony Romo’s last snap was in a preseason game and his career ended on an innocuous looking (as much as any Cliff Avril sack can look innocuous) sack. Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor sustained weird neck injuries within a few weeks of each other, and neither play looked like a career-ender at the time. For every Elway or Peyton Manning-esque ride-off-into-the-sunset-as-champions ending, there are dozens more that occur in ways that carry no narrative weight.
With Earl Thomas the Third, who is one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game, who represents everything Pete Carroll could want in a defensive back, a Seahawk, and a man, we don’t get the closure we want. We get the closure we deserve. This conclusion is not some fairytale ending nor is it a cosmic “Fuck You.” We get a broken bone on a seemingly cursed field in fucking Glendale, Arizona. The world is messy, incoherent, and frequently heartbreaking and that is exactly what this was.
We don’t get to choose the world we live in but we do get to choose how we react to it. In fact, I think that is what closure really is. Not the delivery of some explanation that clarifies how and why things ended the way they did, but an understanding that, regardless of the how and why, things ended.
We will never get an explanation that gives the end of the Earl Thomas Era a moral clarity. The best we can do, the only thing we can do, is know that this chapter is closed and look to the next one.