Sing to me, O Muse, of the wrath of the eastern seaboard, illuminated by morning’s glare, wrecker of the body clocks of footballers of the west, bearer of countless tales of tragedy and woe.
Among those weirdos whose veneration for a thing increases with its age, as if the thing’s endowment with history gives it an intrinsic value, Homer’s Iliad is sacrosanct. It’s a convenient first, a place from which to begin that allows its readers to ignore all of the myopic, parochial tendencies that refuse to wonder what else has been written. It’s also a great story, and what a cast of characters! The tale that the muses breathed into Homer is one of wrath and conflict. It begins with Ilium, a vaguely proto-Hellenic place that isn’t quite proto-Hellenic enough, and thus sufficiently independent, to where it can challenge the proto-Hellenism of the other, more proto-Hellenic places, under the dominion of King Priam of Troy, the virilest man of the ancient world, his sons innumerable, including Paris, the world’s first cautionary tale, and aided by lesser heroes like Aeneas, the erstwhile founder of Rome. Engaged in a mission to break that city are the Achaeans, a terrifying host of heroes: Achilles, so tragic and full of rage and convinced of his own perfection that you’d be excused if wondering whether he’s supposed to be a teenager, joined in most things with his homoerotic sex-pal Patrocles; the wily Odysseus, protagonist of the world’s first spin-off; wise Nestor to whom absolutely no one listens, Agamemnon the absolute dumbest fucker to ever wear a crown, who decides to test the morale and resolve of his army by persuading them to abandon the war and is then surprised when he succeeds; his brother Menelaus that the Gods turned into a cuck; et all of the ceteras. And we cannot forget those Gods, wanton arbiters of fate whose love for slaughtering and raping their worshippers kept them busy enough that they weren’t quite all-powerful, who on important occasions just decided that certain things would happen in a certain way, no matter what was or could have been done otherwise.
But here I’m thinking most of the Telemonian Ajax, also known as Ajax the Greater, to distinguish him from the other Ajax. Ajax was called the “bulwark of the Achaeans”, strong, powerful, and smart. He was a constant defender of the Achaeans’ camp, particularly when Achilles was sulking (for reasons that are phenomenally problematic in terms of modern views on basic human freedoms). And, perhaps most interestingly, he never received any direct assistance from the Gods, nor (I’m informed) does he ever appear in an aristeia.
Guys, Russell Wilson is the Telemonian Ajax*. Dominant, but still somehow underrated. Like Ajax, who is distinguished by an epithet that acknowledges his greatness even while it simultaneously limits it (he remains Ajax the Greater, not Ajax the Greatest), Russell Wilson is cast as a player never quite good enough to be the best, the most notable, the most deserving. In a game during which he had to overcome dropped passes, both expected and aberrant, the occasional breakdown of pass protection, too many Travis Homer rushing plays on first down, slightly more than 13,000 Floridians, even his own mistakes, Wilson showed that characteristic perhaps most sought by Ajax: resiliency.
* It’s also worth pointing out that, in both of Ajax’s most significant encounters against Hector, he almost kills the esteemed Prince of Ilium with a massive rock, the latter time by throwing it at him. And who else is Russell Wilson, if not the famousest slinger of rocks?
We jest often enough, and frequently with good cause, about Pete Carroll and his west-coast-positivity-vibe, a philosophy that by most accounts makes him beloved by players. And yet. If Pete Carroll is the Zeus to Russell Wilson’s Telamonian Ajax, we have years of evidence that Carroll’s grip on the balance-scales of fate supports Wilson on some days, trips him on others; Carroll is, after all, like other coaches, and Gods, imperfect. Resiliency keeps Wilson cool and calm, whether fate dictates a challenging duel, a battle in which he becomes the bulwark against defeat, an impossible obstacle, even a cacophonic storm hurled upon him by his own coach.
But what if there’s another explanation, another layer baked into this apparent madness? What if Carroll is simply playing the long game? What if Carroll saw himself a kid who was good, could be great, with the potential to be the greatest, and hurled at him every challenge he knew the kid could stomach, cognizant that this incessant pattern of overcoming would result in a player who simply couldn’t not overcome, a player whose psyche was so rooted in it that there was no alternative, a one-way road whose every milepost reads better?
Because Telamonian Ajax, at the end of all things, kills himself when gods and men alike decide that Odysseus deserves the fabled armor of Achilles more; in his last moments, he is refuted by the finality of that greater, never greatest. As we all know by now, Wilson’s headset began malfunctioning on the first play of the Seahawks’ first drive of the 4th quarter. And so, what does our resilient hero do when confronted with a reality in which the gods no longer speak? He marches down, one crosser to Lockett; an inside-zone run at the time when you’re supposed to call that play; another crosser to Lockett, though this time on play action, as if calling to the nerds that the run can set up the pass; a shrugs-who-knows let’s give to it Dallas?; a reprieve in which Russ demonstrates that he can successfully complete a check-down pass; and then a wily play, a play that Ares and Athena would equally condone, swiftly taking advantage of a tired, mid-substitution defense that either forgets to cover David Moore or just does a terrible job of it. The march ends with a perfect toss, as easy as breathing.
We watched a game in which the Seahawks should have scored more points, and could very well have kept the Dolphins from scoring as many points. They have the talent and leadership to do more. But there is a kind of wisdom in being imperfect, whether by design or because we’re all infallible and imperfection is our incurable lot, our default place of embarkation.
Instead of pressing forward, let’s look back. Recall the 12-7 victory in Carolina from seven years past, or the 13-9 victory in the same place the next year. Remember, starting at the end of 2015 (which by then was actually 2016): the divisional loss yet fucking again in the ambiguous state of Carolina in 2015; the painful loss to the Saints, followed by a horrifying loss to the Bucs, both in 2016; and…
As it turns out, the narrative of the 10 a.m. east coast trap game is more a narrative than a fact — going back to 2013, in the regular season, the Seahawks are 11-2 in East coast games starting at 10 a.m. But many of those games weren’t traps; they were games when the Seahawks beat a team they should have beat. That record then drops to 4-2 if you consider games played outside of domes in East coast states formerly belonging to the Confederacy, with all four victories all against the Panthers, by a combined +19 point differential. To the extent anyone is looking for a point to this — itself, a troublesome proposition — it’s this: we’ve constructed a narrative, based to some degree on truth, that the Seahawks are bad at comfortably beating inferior opponents in what let’s call 10 a.m. southeast-coast trap games. Let’s enjoy, not the overturning of this narrative, which becomes less and less true the more it is exposed to examination, but the fact that the Seahawks have finally arrived at a dimension of imperfection where they can play poorly in such a game, and still drop 30+ points on the way to slightly less panic-inducing victory.
It’s 2020, we all ought to enjoy what we can.