Doug Baldwin looked up over his head, like Willie Mays in the uncharted wilds of the Polo Grounds, and stuck out a desperate set of phalanges. The hand was reaching not just for a victory-clinching fourth-exclamation-point in what my colleague Mike Chan would refer to as a “FUCK YOU!!!!” reception; he was pawing at the folds of history. He was reaching for a time before the Super Bowls, the Breaking of the Niners, and the rise of what was and still very much is the greatest era any Seattle sports team has ever experienced.
We do not talk often of, or appreciate enough, what it took to build the core the Seahawks have spent the last year jettisoning from their roster. The team’s hyper-competitive practice environment and absurd, roster-wide talent level created the team’s stars through what Bill Paxton referred to in Edge of Tomorrow as “The Fiery Crucible through which true heroes are forged.” This is the ecosystem in which Doug Baldwin arrived. Doug Baldwin the short, skinny, slow, undrafted kid. It is the environment that created the player and man we know today.
Prior to Seattle ripping through Andy Reid’s arts and crafts paper mache project he calls a defense, you may have felt this team still needed to prove their bonafides. “It’s no fun only beating teams you’re supposed to beat”, you thought. Oh my sweet, summer child, you have forgotten that as recently as four months ago these Seahawks were not “supposed” to beat anybody. This was the NFC West’s Worst Team. They were decimated by age, injury, loss, attrition, and the hard salary cap. You believed those words, and doubted the Seahawks, and that is ok. You did as you are supposed to. You obeyed.
The NFL’s business model necessitates doubt. It requires a tide to advance and recede, a moon to wax and wane. To arrest this cycle is to tamper with the magic baked into the League’s immutable laws. It is a violation of the rightful order. By forcing a return to the postseason in what that order demands to be a rebuilding year, it is what this team has done.
Douglas tipped the ball, and God’s DVR hit pause. There it was: undrafted, “appetizers,” injuries, preseason doubts, the passing of eras, age, decline, time, time, ever-passing-time, first and goal, victory…
It all floated there, compressed in that ball; memory, pain, and hope, tumbling a few inches from his hands. The past and future were sitting in front of his face waiting for him to wrestle it, to grapple it to earth, to assert control over his and his team’s fate.
You think he dropped it? You don’t know Doug. You don’t know what made him.
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