In advancing to the Super Bowl for the second straight season, the Seattle Seahawks have emerged as Black America’s Team.
They may not want the label, and many will scoff at the notion. But figuratively speaking, it fits.
This unit has a mixture of grace and swagger, intelligence and street grit, brashness and humility, immense talent and forceful will.
Juxtaposed opposite the New England Patriots, who are as vanilla and insipid as they come, with the golden boy quarterback and mumble-mouth coach, and the distinctions between the two teams are blatant.
It’s a gridiron good vs. evil, with, of course, the Seahawks serving the latter role. They assume this position even as the Patriots are mired in the deflated football scandal that is made more significant because of their rap sheet of alleged cheating.
“Will they be punished? Probably not,” Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said about the controversy. “Not as long as (Pats owner) Robert Kraft and (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes. . . You talk about conflict of interest. As long as that happens, it won’t affect them at all. Nothing will stop them.”
Sherman is the most outspoken and most interesting of all the Seahawks because he possesses all the aforementioned characteristics that make Seattle embraceable by Blacks who are not even football fans or who are not ordinarily Seahawks supporters.
He talks trash, but intelligently. He wears long locs, but dresses often in suits and ties. He grew up on South Central Los Angeles, but attended Stanford. He boasts, but backs it up.
Sherman’s commitment to sharing his thoughts are appreciated, especially since he shares them so pointedly and eloquently, unafraid of the consequences or being punished by “big brother.” He represents his South Central Los Angeles neighborhoods—and many other urban areas across the country—that never has had a voice beyond the community.
So when Sherman speaks his truth, much of Black America applauds. On the possibility of the Patriots cheating in the deflated ball scandal, he said: “Their résumé speaks for itself.”
The Patriots, meanwhile, are sort of a machine with a diminishing image as cheaters. There was the lip-reading drama of years ago. There was “Spygate,” when the Patriots had infiltrators record teams’ practices. Now “DeflateGate.” All this under coach Bill Belichick’s watch, and presumed direction. Golden Boy Tom Brady has been called out as the cheater in the deflated balls saga by Troy Aikman, John Madden and Mark Brunell, among others. In response, Brady, one of the all-time great quarterbacks, denied any involvement and said his “feelings were hurt.”
On the other side of the Super Bowl, the Seahawks carry less glamour than Brady but more appeal. There is Marshawn Lynch, the running back whose ferocity as a ball carrier paradoxically counters his refusal to discuss himself or the game with reporters. Why Lynch, who went to one of the nation’s top colleges in California-Berkeley, has been so unwilling to answer even the most pedestrian questions about football is hard to understand. But his anti-establishment posture can be looked at as taking a stand on an issue that’s important to him, and that conviction resonates in urban America—even though he’s tossing away money because of the NFL-levied fines.
Then there is Russell Wilson, the star quarterback who has been a touchstone of heated discussion because he plays with calm and poise and carries himself with dignity.
Percy Harvin, a talented receiver Seattle gave up a lot to acquire (three high draft picks), was traded to the New York Jets because of a brewing divide in the locker room about whether Wilson was “Black enough,” as if a man’s Blackness can be defined in how he speaks or dresses.
That was a disturbing part of their season, but the Seahawks regrouped, jettisoning Harvin. Wilson performed as if unfazed, their defense dominated and they were back on course.
But Wilson emerged as a point of pride for Black fans—including women—who appreciate the fashion in which the quarterback carries himself, his consistent talk about faith and his tremendous play in times of duress.
Up and down the Seattle roster are players with personality and talent. Kam Chanceller, the dynamic safety who hardly receives his due; Michael Bennett, the defensive lineman who turned down more money and the chance to play with his brother Martellus with the Chicago Bears; Earl Thomas and Jermaine Kearse and Bobby Wagner and on and on.
The Super Bowl is the biggest sports day of the year, a day when fans whose teams are out of the hunt choose a side.
New England has a legion of diehards in that part of the country and many in other areas of the nation, too, as well the Patriots should. But the Seahawks have become Black America’s team, a powerful declaration, whether they want that label or not.