Monday, January 26, 2015

This Tribal Celebration

"It was a blast growing up in Oakland. We used to walk to house parties, play doorbell ditch, have rock fights, do front flips and backflips off concrete walls off and into the bushes. Taking the boxing gloves out and box in the middle of the streets . . . Walking atop the monkey bars -- that's how we played tag. We couldn't touch the concrete. That was the only way you could get away -- run atop the monkey bars, on the rails, up and down the slides -- because if you touched the ground you out, and if you out you can't play." ~Marshawn Lynch (Seattle Seahawks running back)

It's neigh impossible to not be a professional football fan in Seattle right now as the Seahawks prepare for the Superbowl. This week, our liveliest circle time discussions involved the children sharing their NFC Championship stories, most of which included descriptions of how their parents behaved, of how they behaved. We've joined together at circle time more than once to chant, "Go Seahawks!" For those of you who are blissfully unaware, the Seattle team came from far behind in the closing minutes to pull victory from the jaws of defeat, which, not surprisingly, resulted in children witnessing the adults in their lives experience a roller coaster of emotion. 

There are sports moments from my childhood that I'll never forget; this will be one of them for many Seattle children.

Downtown building are lit up in team colors

Everywhere you look, there are signs of fan support. There are banners in store windows and hanging from the sides of buildings. Construction cranes sport team colored lights and the whipsaw flapping of giant flags, celebrating the "twelves," the proverbial "twelfth man," the fans. Office workers, baristas, and roadside panhandlers are wearing Seahawks jerseys, scarves, and hats. I even noticed the electronic displays on the Metro buses alternating between showing the route number and flashing "Go Seahawks!" It seems that everyone is talking about the Seahawks, even those who normally refer to all athletics dismissively as "sports ball," glowing in it, warming our hands together around this midwinter blaze as if it were a giant communal bonfire to which everyone is invited.

It's easy to criticize professional sports: grown men making millions playing a game while people starve; schools being boarded up while cities build new stadiums; real humanitarian heroes being ignored in favor of guys in tights or shorts; wealthy owners reaping profits while young men break their bodies in "careers" that only last a few years. The list is long. It's fair to say our societal values are out of whack, and I'm the last to deny any of those criticisms, yet it's also hard to dismiss the positive impact these past few playoff weeks have had on our city.

Men, women, and children of all economic, ethnic, and cultural classes are anticipating together, cheering together, riding this emotional roller coaster together. And for these past few weeks, and likely several more, I've chosen to set aside my "concerns," my cynicism, and instead join my fellow citizens, shoulder to shoulder, in this tribal celebration of a game played by grown men. It's good for us.

That is the beauty of it for me, I guess, we hear the players and coaches talk about their hard work, their sacrifices, their grit and heart and determination, yet at bottom they all know it's a game: it's a celebration of play and we're all in it together, running across those monkey bars. And it's making memories of unity our children will have forever.

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