The Elephant in the Locker Room: After Wilson’s Hot Streak, Who’s Sorry Now?

be-back-smBy Greg Wright

If you’re reading this column, you most likely follow the Seahawks.

If you follow the Seahawks, you, um, most likely are also aware how dominating they have been the last three weeks.

So we really don’t need to talk about that, do we? After all, just about every journalist across the country is now singing the praises of Carroll and Co., if reluctantly so. Even Pete Prisco is waxing eloquent… though he makes odd references to the “Wilson cult” and lobs most of his praise at Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell (!!!!).

So there are three basic fan reactions that seem prevalent right now.

  1. I Told You So. Maybe this is a correlate to the Wilson Cult, but there are always die-hard fans who feel vindicated when their team turns it around and starts fulfilling the promise of early-season blowhard braggadocio. I confess to a little of this reaction myself, and rationalize it by thinking, “But this isn’t just fanboy glibness. I had good reasons for knowing they’d turn it around.” And it’s tempting to list those reasons, and right now. Still, such turnarounds are never a given. Just ask injury-plagued Baltimore. Separation may indeed be in the preparation, but separate a shoulder or two (or lose Gronk and Edelman unexpectedly) and you can just easily pull a late-season slide. So if you can say “I told you so,” it’s not because you’ve got magical insight; it’s because your team is simply fortunate, if talented and well-coached.
  2. Yeah, but the Wheels Are About to Fall Off. On the flip side, there’s the reluctance to be a believer because you just can’t stand more of the Seattle Sports Disappointment Syndrome (SSDS). Sure, the Hawks are hot right now… but Wilson can’t keep up the pace. Just wait until Okung or Lewis misses another game to injury. The D still can’t cover tight ends. They could have re-signed Red Bryant to help bolster their D line while Dobbs and Hill recover. Rawls is no Marshawn. Bevell and Carroll are still living in denial over the Super Bowl loss, and it’s eating into everyone’s psyche. Etc., etc., etc… I get SSDS. I really do. All you have to do is summon the word “Mariners,” and this frame of reference makes perfect sense. But here’s a fact: every season is different. Every one. That means the possibility of success is always out there. And if you’ve got to believe in something, why not believe in hope?
  3. Enjoy the Ride. This is really where we are, and where most fans should live if they aren’t already. The fact remains that the Seahawks have held a lead in every game since the 2012 season opened. This season, they have held a lead in the 4th Quarter of every game. We may not be witnessing a thrilling season like 2012, a dominating season like 2013, or a come-from-behind BeastQuake 2.0 magic NFC Title season like last year’s, but this is still awfully good football. Even if the team falters and they somehow miss the playoffs this year, the Football Gods are kind to Seattle this decade. We are fortunate, very fortunate, to be Seahawk fans right now. Be realistic about the experience, and have fun with it!

Still, that’s not really what I want to talk about today. No.

Today, I mourn the death of Real Print Sports Journalism. More specifically, I decry the shallowness of Seahawk coverage at the Tacoma News Tribune.

Even when Steve Rudman and Art Thiel (now running were still active at the Seattle P-I and Steve Kelly was the go-to guy at the Times, the Tribune was the local paper turning out sports journalists of national acclaim.

If you follow local sports at all, you must know that “The Professor” John Clayton came out of the Tribune, where he covered sports from 1986 through his jump to ESPN in 1995. As of 2007, Clayton is essentially a member of the NFL’s journalist hall of fame, having won the Dick McCann Memorial Award.

Heir to Clayton’s throne at the Trib was Mike Sando, who covered the NFL for them until his own jump to ESPN in 2007. His beat coverage for the NFC West was the best thing around, and I started writing this column due to dearth of decent Seahawks coverage when ESPN reassigned Sando to another beat. (Apparently, he was just too good for the NFC West. What?) As a vested journalist of repute, Sando is a voter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Even with Sando’s departure from the Trib, the paper remained the best source of hybrid print/online Seahawks coverage. With the P-I‘s virtual demise and the shrinkage of the Times (and why is the Journal-American a non-entity in these conversations?), there are precious few column-inches of local, real NFL analysis of one of the hottest and most popular teams in the country.

But if you were going to find it, you’d find it at the Trib.

Up until a month ago.

That’s when McGrath and Boling jumped the shark.

Take a look at these headlines from the aftermath of the Cardinals game:

Capture 1

Capture 2

That’s right. Dethroned. Window slammed. White flag run up. Just rebuilding for next season. Yup.

Beyond all reason, and clearly beyond hope, the Tribune gave up on the Seahawks and wrote them off as a lost cause.

I suppose one might argue that the dire rhetoric was simply designed as a wakeup call to a middle-of-the-pack, underperforming team. But seriously–does anyone think Michael Bennett or Richard Sherman or Marshawn Lynch picks up a newspaper, reads a headline, and thinks, “Aw, shoot. Boling and McGrath are on to us! I guess we better start playing up to our contracts.” Get real.

The Tribune completely lost my respect that week. Whatever happened to “On Any Given Sunday?” Whatever happened to real analysis that looks at coaching strategy, business limitations, and managerial objectives?

Whatever happened to simply saying, “I was wrong” instead of just blithely jumping back on the bandwagon?

Whatever happened to sports coverage that was actually about the sport, instead of about the personalities and the emotion?

Oh, wait. I know where it all went. It all went to the Brock and Salk show on ESPN 710.

So, after the last three victories, who’s sorry now? Not, apparently, McGrath and Boling.

But the Tribune itself sure looks sorry.

Is it time for a letdown? I think not. And the Ravens are just in bad, bad shape. As I noted above, “Any Given Sunday” still applies. But this Sunday is not that Sunday.

Seattle 38, Baltimore 13.

After two Super Bowl appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us on Saturday mornings for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.

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