What is it about the Super Bowl that can drive men to madness? Look, I’m not really a sports guy, and especially not a football guy. By football I mean the American kind with the bigass helmets and giant shoulder pads to make everybody look like monsters, not the European kind where there’s less pads and people bite each other on the balls and shit. In this american type of football the whole season is leading up to the big day, zero hour, Men’s Christmas. The Super Bowl. See, I’m a man and I can prove it, but the fact is I don’t always watch the Super Bowl. I really don’t give a shit about football. That’s just how the Lord made me.
But a couple weeks ago the Seattle Seahawks were in their first playoffs in more than twenty years. Early afternoon the day of the last playoff game I was still waking up when I looked out the window and I saw a dude walk past my apartment with full head-to-toe Seahawks gear and a giant Seahawks flag over his shoulder. I almost spit out my non-alcoholic beverage because you don’t usually see that in this town. We’re used to our teams losing and those types of extremists usually have to be shipped in from the suburbs. I mean yeah the Mariners had a good season a couple years ago, the Sonics had a championship back before you were born and the Storm got the title recently. (That doesn’t count to these type of dudes because men don’t paint their bodies and set things on fire to celebrate women’s accomplishments. Maybe some day.) And the Seahawks have usually been the worst of all our teams. But there they were winning their first playoffs since 1984 which means they get their first Super Bowl since God made Adam, Eve and Steve.
As they won their game I looked out the same window where I saw the maniac with the flag and this time I could see fireworks launching off the top of Corporate Product Placement Field on the other side of the city. I went downtown to watch MATCH POINT (oh jesus, I’m sounding less and less masculine every paragraph) and everywhere you went people would come up to you and yell GO HAWKS! or high five you, or a car would drive past with the driver not watching the road but instead sticking his head out the window like a dog howling at the moon. I didn’t see any flames or rolling cars but there were firecrackers echoing from the hills and even after the movie there were carloads of dudes driving around yelling GO HAWKS at you, still circling the city high as a fuckin kite off the game that ended three or four hours ago.
The truth is I can’t relate to any of these dudes and probaly couldn’t even hold a conversation with them for more than five minutes on any topic other than porn. But as the game got closer I started to realize something kind of weird… I kind of did give a shit. I really wanted Seattle to win. Call it civic pride, call it vanity, call it a lust for glory, I don’t know but I don’t think I was the only one falling into this madness. Because it wasn’t just grocery stores and car dealerships and gas stations with the banners and painted windows and inspirational readerboard messages. It was the little one screen Landmark theater where they’re showing BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. It was the hipster independent record store that closed early on game day so their shaggy haired employees could watch. I don’t want to sound like a “fair weather fan” so let me be clear. I still don’t care about football. There are better accomplishments than being the best at carrying a ball through ten thousand pounds of angry muscle and plastic. But I still wanted them to win.
Because I don’t like football but what I do like is Seattle, and I wouldn’t be against us getting some fuckin credit over here every once in a while. Guess what bitches, we gave you Kurt Cobain. We also gave you Quincy Jones. Remember in the movie RAY, when Ray Charles was hanging out with Larenz-Tate-as-Quincy and the guy who plays Leprechaun? Where the fuck do you think that was? I’ll give you a hint: not Pittsburgh. Same thing with Loretta Lynn, we had her out in the boonies somewhere I think, when there used to be honky tonks. But that was a long time ago so after a little rest we decided to give the world Jimi Hendrix. He tried to leave us for London but we still ended up with his body and his guitars. Sorry Jimi. We also got Bruce and Brandon Lee, right next to each other at Volunteer Park. Not too shabby. And let’s not forget the WTO riots. You know those Orwellian “freedom of speech zones” they use anywhere there’s a protest now? Everybody thinks that’s an invention of the Bush regime, but it’s not. The first time I ever heard of it was WTO the day Bill Clinton came into town. Clinton did it, to shut us up. Okay so that’s a negative contribution to society, you don’t want to go around bragging about that one but it just goes to show we’re some rowdy motherfuckers over here in Seattle. Bolt down your cars and board up your Starbucks windows if you hear the opening notes of “Electric Ladyland” off in the distance.
But the sad fact of the matter is that’s not enough for the world. Starting musical revolutions and throwing the corporate bigwigs out on their asses is nothing compared to having a #1 professional men’s sports team. In fact it’s not just us, it’s this whole side of the country I feel is not taken seriously. Even with Hollywood and Disneyland over on our coast, so much of the media centers around New York and the east coast, like it’s the capital of the god damn world. It pissed me off when the Mariners had a record 116 wins in a season and the national commentators still talked about them like they were a total joke. And it pissed me off even more when they were right, at least about them not getting to the World Series.
But you know what really got me thinking about this was not sports, it was a script. My buddy Skander Halim (PRETTY PERSUASION now available on DVD) who optioned me for Hollywood and what not, he wrote a funny script called VERN TELLS IT LIKE IT IS (good title) that has jack shit to do with my life but it took place in Seattle. He’s from Canada or somewhere like that, so he’s probaly a pretty good sample of how Seattle is viewed from the outside. And he’s got alot of good clever and observant humor in this script but when he’s introducing Seattle he’s got a joke about how everybody’s drinking coffee. And he kind of acted like the very idea of crime in Seattle was funny. I tried to explain to him look, I know it’s not New York or Detroit or something but Seattle is an actual city. There are lowlifes just like anywhere else. There are homeless teens and junkies and prostitutes and the whole deal. You ever seen that documentary STREETWISE? It’s not just the Space Needle surrounded by espresso bars. But I don’t think Skander was buying it. He thinks we’re a bunch of pussies sipping mocha whatevercinnos.
I thought about that and I realized… If only our football team was number one. That would straighten this shit out I bet.
Next thing I know it’s a Sunday afternoon, I should be finishing my chapters on BELLY OF THE BEAST and CLEMENTINE but instead I’m sitting there watching the fuckin Super Bowl. I know there’s the whole thing about Super Bowl ads, I’m supposed to get excited about the movie ads. But all it is is trailers that are way too short. Yeah I’m excited about the pirates movie and the Mission Impossible but I already seen Tom Cruise get blown up and fly into the side of the car, I’m not gonna get too worked up about seeing it again on a smaller screen. And you know me man, advertising gets my blood boiling. I mean what kind of an asshole does it take to get Kermit the Frog to sell out and shill for cars? Come on man it’s Kermit the Frog. Fucking Kermie, man. Is nothing sacred? So our society is going down the fucking john. Doesn’t mean you gotta get puppets involved.
Same thing with Dr. Seuss. I don’t know where he’s buried but I bet there were some disturbing vibrations somewhere when Harrison Ford read “Oh the Places You’ll Go” but with an alternate ending where you’re successful because everybody sees you on TV in the Super Bowl.
And then Seattle lost. They started out good, hung in there for a while and then blew it, which is a Seattle sports tradition. I enjoyed watching them but I think I put my finger on one of the things I don’t like about football. I think my favorite sport to watch, other than International Tough Man Competition, would have to be basketball. Not only does basketball have more opportunity for style and showmanship than most sports, it’s fast paced. It goes back and forth so fast. You don’t have to go through a complicated process to build towards getting points on the board, so there’s more potential for one team to turn things around. In baseball you got home runs, but there’s gonna be less of that now that they gotta cut down on steroids. In football you can run 75 yards for a touchdown like that one guy did, but that doesn’t happen every day. Most of the time you gotta work your way toward it, it takes for fucking ever.
Now you could argue that that’s the beauty of it, all that strategy, all that patience. Like chess, but with big musclemen grunting and banging their heads together. Okay, I’ll buy into that. So let’s take the slowpokes in baseball and football and contrast them. In baseball we got Ichiro, and he’s cool because when he makes a play that seems almost supernatural, like catching a longball and throwing it right to home plate or climbing all the way up a wall and catching a would-be homerun, he brushes it off like it ain’t no thang. He blows your mind and he acts like he doesn’t even care, which makes it seem twice as amazing. In football, they make one good play, it doesn’t even have to be all that impressive, they gotta dance around. They yell and put their fists in the air and pound the ground or spike the ball and shit like that.
Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to celebrate your achievements but I realized that this is why I can’t get that excited about football players. Because any other place in life, the Ichiro approach is gonna make you cool and the football approach is gonna make you look like a jackass. I mean think about Clint Eastwood, he plays it cool. Does he yell and punch things and spin around to show you how big and tough he is? No, he talks quiet and foils a bank robbery while finishing his hot dog. That’s the whole thing, you gotta be tough and then you gotta contrast it by not acting like a big fuckin neanderthal. That’s why Tough Man Competition is my favorite, you see a guy with arms the size of telephone poles carrying a jukebox on his back for 25 feet and then they interview him and he seems like the sweetest, most humble dude you ever met.
Anyway despite my philosophizing the game was pretty good. At least they didn’t get their asses handed to them until the fourth quarter. They kept hope alive until near the end. And even the commentators were uncharacteristically respectful of the team. At half time they were already losing but John Madden and friends were talking about how lucky Pittsburgh was to be in the lead and how they need to “settle down” or they’re gonna lose. And they agreed with me on all the bad calls: the Seattle touchdown that didn’t count because of an iffy holding call, the Pittsburgh touchdown that did count even though you could see from multiple angles of replay that the ball didn’t make it to the line. Every commercial break showed the Steelers holding the trophy, and the refs seemed to want to make this prophecy come true. If those calls had been made on the west coast it wouldn’t have been pretty. There would’ve been some free speech zones set up pretty quick. Hell, with better refs we (and by we I mean the football team that I only gave a shit about today) would’ve won this thing. In keeping with Seattle’s democratic roots, I guess.
And now life goes on and we thank the Lord that winning isn’t everything and football is stupid and we really don’t care at all about the stupid Super Bowl. Or at least we don’t care all that much. Usually. The saddest part is realizing that that time between the fireworks and realizing you lost the Super Bowl only happens once. Next time it won’t be as exciting. Next time instead of driving around like fuckin maniacs yelling greetings to total strangers we stay calm and we say, “This time we’ll do better.” You only get one first time. You gotta save it for somebody special.
Somebody like Bruce Lee. Hey Pittsburgh, you got somebody better than Bruce Lee? I don’t think so. You don’t even have Bruce Li. You have George Romero, and for that we respect you. But we’re #1 in Bruce Lee. Fuck all y’all.
Anyway thanks for reading this column, next time I’ll do better.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.