A dear friend wrote me the morning after the Super Bowl and asked if I felt “spiritually wounded.” She knew I had a lot invested in the Seahawks. (See this post I wrote on the NFC Championships, where I explore my rising belief system that teamwork and synergy will untap magic, and that the Hawks were powerfully modeling this truth.)
Yes, I did feel wounded, and “spiritually wounded” was sort of right, too, in the sense that the wounding was much deeper than a football game. That I’ve felt sick to my stomach since the Super Bowl isn’t about a football game.
Look, I’ve followed the Seahawks most of my life; being a fan is mostly about a lot of defeat and a few moments of glory. So, it’s not a loss, per se, that hurts. I don’t care about a loss.
But that loss wasn’t just a loss to forget about and move forward on. That loss needs some reckoning with.
And if you send me one more article explaining the “logic” of Pete’s call in the final moments, just know I’ve read them and I am done reading them.
Look, that play call to throw into a sea of defenders (when your passing game was at 50% that day), instead of putting the ball in the hands of Lynch, who had not been stopped or stuffed all game, was not about the “logic” of a play call. I don’t care how likeable Pete is, or the stats they can throw at us, or how they want to stand by that call with fancy interviews and explanations so we all can stop hurting and feel better.
And, with all due respect to Pete and what he’s accomplished in Seattle, I don’t want to be told to forget what just happened before we are honest enough to name what happened.
So, tap into your body for a moment. When you watch arguably the best running back in the league, who is at the peak of his career, who has literally carried the team on his back all year, who has created the conditions for the quarterback to shine—when you watch Marshawn, who challenges the media and the power systems in the NFL, who defiantly owns his own labor, who “shouts out to the real Afrikans” in the room during Media Day, when you watch this man denied his opportunity to go a half a yard and win the game for his team and his MVP, your body ought to hurt.
Because you are not just seeing a bad play call.
You are tapping into a deep grief, and you are seeing what this country is built on, and what most white people live their whole lives refusing to perceive.
(And if you can’t perceive that, if you refuse to perceive that, I can’t help you in this one article because white supremacism runs too deep in our bones and bank accounts. I can suggest that you look at your bookshelf. Whose on it? How many folks of color? How many women? Who narrates the world to you?)
Pete Carroll is charismatic and likeable and great with words. I think he’s probably an amazing coach. I think he probably thought having Wilson throw was a good play.
But tap into your body and heart and be real.
This moment, with 2 minutes lefts in the Super Bowl, right after a miracle diving bobbling reception by Kearse, this moment was Lynch’s moment. Everybody knew it. I don’t care if they put 5 defenders on him. Lynch can go 5 yards with 5 defenders on him. We all know that. And we had 3 downs, which meant he had 3 chances to go half a yard.
Roger Goodell—the NFL Commissioner who is the apotheosis of smug, rich, white supremacism—was supposed to hand that MVP trophy to “shout out to all the real Afrikans” Lynch.
Many of us were waiting for this moment, for that shift of power that meant something. It’s a shift of power we so desperately need in this historical moment, a change that has been building up in many arenas.
Dave Zirin wrote a brave piece the day after the Super Bowl about the kinds of mutterings that were happening in the locker room and that mainstream writers were afraid to write about. He called it a “conspiracy theory,” which is what we call a theory that is outside the norms and exposes structures of power.
Legends Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, and Marshall Faulk spoke out right away about how power operated in this moment of denying the ball to Lynch. Twitter was alive with critiques from big-time players who spoke to the moment as the moment happened. And this 5-minute piece of performance art from Jay Smooth that came out this morning just nails it all.
I’m a conspiracy theorist on this one, too. Maybe not in the sense that someone powerful from within the industry made a call to Carroll before this championship game and strongly advised the glory to go to Wilson, not Lynch. Though, I’m not beyond thinking that coercive stuff happens all the time. Look, this is a 2 billion dollar industry, run largely by white men, who are not interested in their power being shifted. They are not interested in glory going to any black man who refuses to play along with their script. And Lynch refuses the script more than any player in the NFL right now. He will not allow himself to be co-opted by their structure of power.
I am a conspiracy theorist on this one because I believe there are investments in structures of power which protect who can get the glory, endorsements, and platform within huge money making industries. They can reason their way all they like through why the ball wasn’t given to Lynch on the half yard line to win the game, but there is more “there there” as my professor Dean Emilie Townes used to say.
There are investments playing out—conscious & unconscious investments that cut through the reality of capital within systems of power structured by race and class.
The task is not to move on, but to grieve this reality in order to find the synergy to create another reality. This current reality is not just held together by “logic”—it’s more subtle and pervasive than that. It’s like capillaries. It’s inside of all of us. It’s in our “logic,” too—it’s in our many words to explain what is, in fact, truly illogical. It’s in our attempts to not feel the pain of what just unfolded on a world stage and was covered over by a lot of rationalizing.
(And let’s remember that rationalizing is a psychological defense mechanism. It keeps us from feeling the pain.)
My final critique: Wilson has boldly told us that he’s not going to let this interception define his career at 26 years of age, and that despite watching the play 12 times he thinks it was the right call and would do it again.
Do you hear this narcissism protecting him? Can you hear it? How would you feel if you read that and had literally carried this team on your back all season and had created the conditions for Wilson to become a great QB?
The last moments in that game, just like these moments in the aftermath, are not about Wilson. He has likely another 10 years to play, to get his glory and achieve his goals and to make his money and be the heroic, God-fearing face of the NFL. Running backs don’t get that luxury of a long tenure, because they carry the team on their back, and thus, their bodies break down. Their careers are usually done by 30/31. Lynch is about to turn 29.
It was his moment, the moment he’s worked his whole life for—to win this Super Bowl for his team. And yes, to win the MVP rightfully due him.
Let’s not forget that, please.
*(With thanks to Erica Ewart, with whom I’ve been in conversation and solidarity and sorting out my thoughts and grief about all this.)