Hope for Christine Michael

I remember the first time I learned who Christine Michael was. Field Gulls had mentioned some his name and how he was going to fall in the 2013 NFL Draft because of injuries and off-field issues. I was still new to blogging so I figured it was worth a shot to understand why he was so hyped. Of course, his tape in the East-West Shrine Game was impressive. I remember writing about how he was one of the few players that I have seen where he was so fluid and in control of the field that literally demanded your attention at all times.

But what stood out to me the most was what happened near the end of this video; when Michael had finished his snaps and was on the bench, he began bringing cups of water to his offensive linemen. It was funny, unexpected, heartfelt, and it made it easier for me to root for him. When the Seahawks ended up selecting him in the second round that year, I remember thinking that he had the potential to be someone special.

I still think about that hope today.

How does one summarize Christine Michael? To say that he was just another Pete Carroll/John Schnieder draft pick feels like a disservice if only for the indirect comparisons between him and his teammates. Michael was undeniably more talented, more liked, and more special than anyone else. And unlike Richard Sherman or Russell Wilson or other unproven players who were molded into stars, Michael was expected to succeed. Joining the Seahawks at a period of unfathomable hype, he was the next generation; the future after Marshawn Lynch inevitably wears down; the golden child of a golden age.

And yet, despite the labels of a pedestrian career, of another bust in a draft complete with missed expectations, Michael is treated with little indignation or anger. For example, his successes — like the 100-yard game he had against the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 — consistently reign in high esteem within Seahawks fans. On the other hand, his failures and inconsistency, like the many times where he missed a running lane or spun himself from one defender into a loss of yards, has been glorified to meme status on Twitter.

Between those two extremes lies the complex of Christine Michael. If the Seahawks were to sign him to a contract tomorrow and promote him to the starting spot, most of us would be unironically happy, if not eager to see him succeed. And should he fail to make it, we would have little reaction to the attempt.

In the NFL, fans have to ability to immortalize aspects of the game. Cultures, organizations, players, moments will all be reduced to stories recalled from one witness to another. We assume that such immortality is culpable to superior play, and yet there are many players in league history that we have simply forgotten. Of course, those who experience tragedy and other grave misfortunes (like an unfortunate, career-ending injury) become martyrs of the hypothetical and linger in our minds longer than the average player. But as we learn from Lawerence Taylor and Walter Payton and Bo Jackson, being remembered seems to stem from being unique. To have your story passed on, there must be an inimitable aspect that makes you worth passing on.

What then, is Christine Michael’s lure? One can argue that his off-field contributions — that of his American flag onesie or his picture with drunk John Schneider — is enough to carry the narrative. Even then, we cannot discount the subtly of Michael’s charm, and the intricacies that were revealed to be red flags. Perhaps Michael never took football seriously as his teammates, and that made it easier for us to fall in love with him. His career is an amalgamation of exasperation and appreciation, and it is a privilege that fans seem to hold for him and him alone. He is not on the same level as the icons we cherish. But if his play has taught us anything, maybe being close enough to one is sufficient.