Why the Seahawks? It’s the Team, the Fans, and the Yoga.

This post is part of an archived series of blogs called The LeVine Line, written by former Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine during her time at U.S. Embassy Bern.

1 February 2015

What follows is the English version of an op-ed that ran today – February 1, 2015 – in the NZZ am Sonntag.

Why do I have a passion for the Seahawks?  It’s the Team, the Fans, and the Yoga.

The Team: First, let me introduce you to just a few of their players who typify what an unlikely and extraordinary team General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll have assembled. Some themes you’ll see are: tenacity, caring, and growth.

  • Richard Sherman grew up in Compton – one of the roughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles – with gangs, guns, drugs and violence all around him, but his mother – who showed love to the whole community – made sure that her son worked hard in school.  Because of their respect for his mother, the gang leaders wouldn’t let Richard and his brother hang out with them – they made the boys go home and study.  Richard graduated high school with scholar-athlete awards, went to Stanford University, and is now, arguably, the top cornerback in the league.  While he certainly is known to be, how shall I say, provocative, you will very rarely hear him utter foul language.  Plus – his foundation helps kids rise up out of poverty like he did.  Oh – and did I mention that he wasn’t drafted until the 5th round?   153 players picked ahead of him!
  • On to Russell Wilson – the Seahawks quarterback.  He was drafted in the 3rd round (after 74 others).  Every Tuesday he visits the kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital and also devotes time to visiting soldiers at the local military base.
  • One more player I’ll highlight who didn’t play much this year due to injury, but who was essential last year,  is Derrick Coleman.  Another undrafted free agent that the Seahawks found, he went on to become one of the top running backs for the Seahawks. In an inspirational ad that he did last year, he is quoted as saying after he wasn’t drafted out of college, “they told me it was over, but I’ve been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen.  And now I’m here – with a lot of fans in the NFL cheering me on and I can hear them all!”  (yes, that ad made me cry).

And there are more stories just like that throughout the team — stories of players who, on their own, were good – but not seen as outstanding..  But the Seahawks identified something special in them and gave them a chance when most others weren’t willing to,  Working together, they are all great!  And together, they trust each other and never give up.  The final playoff game this season against Green Bay is a perfect example of that teamwork and dedication.  For the first 55 minutes, they were very far behind.  But their trust and confidence enabled them to get 15 points in 44 seconds and then to go on and win the game in overtime!  This team is far more than the sum of its parts.

The Fans:  In American Football, there are 11 players on the field.  In Seattle, as in many clubs around the world, the 12th man is in the stands (and everywhere else in the city).  One of my early blog posts compares the 12th man concept to direct democracy in that the fans can have a direct impact on the game.  In Seattle, they really do.  The Seattle stadium was designed to accentuate game acoustics and, when the fans are really roaring, the opposing team can’t hear.  Given the number of opposing team delay-of-game penalties caused by the 12th man, I’d say it’s working.

The Yoga:

This is a team that has gotten where they are because they think and train out of the box.  For example, their training regimen includes yoga.  This teaches the players a different way to be focused, balanced, calm AND strong. In fact, you’ll frequently see their kicker on the side lines in a yoga pose.

When you bring together the team, the fans and the yoga – what you see is a football club that is a metaphor for life.  Their results exemplify why collaboration is a way to get the most out of the individuals and is usually the best way to get things done; their caring for the community shows how interconnected we all are; the impact of the 12th Man shows how important it is to have support from those around you; and their integration of unorthodox training techniques demonstrates the importance of thinking (and training) in new ways to achieve grace and balance.

Lastly – by making it to their second Superbowl in a row, the Seattle Seahawks have proven to everyone that their approach works and that their Superbowl win last year was not an accident.

So, while as the US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein I love all of my American sports teams, I do love my hometown team a bit more.  #GoHawks!