It's Cool to be A Russell Wilson Hater . . .
I want to be one, too. I have as many good reasons as anyone else.
As a long-time fan of an AFC team, the Seahawks were my adopted NFC squad the moment Seattle traded for Marshawn Lynch. So I get how Seahawks fans can sour on a star quarterback like Wilson who doesn't want to stay in town — even if he takes the high road and remains quiet about it throughout the process.
The only thing I hate more than Wilson leaving Seattle is where he signed.
My NFL fandom began in early childhood in Cleveland. I knew who Greg Pruitt, Paul Warfield, Jim Brown, Otto Graham, and Paul Darden were before I learned arithmetic. I could run a button hook, fly, slant, post, and out before I could spell them.
My first NFL game was a Browns overtime win against Don Shula's Dolphins. The blue girders of rickety Municipal Stadium swayed with the highs and lows of the Cardiac Kids.
I had one misguided flirtation with Denver when they went to their first Super Bowl during the Orange Crush years. I was a year away from my first Browns game and easily influenced because my father moved there a few years earlier in 1973 and adopted the town and the team as his own. After living there for nearly 50 years, it's understandable. Same for my siblings who were born and raised there.
Not me. The rest of my friends and family were rabid Browns fans before the Dawg Pound.
Even the mighty John Elway couldn't sway me. I spent summers in Denver. The nightly training camp reports swooned over Elway's arm strength on every local news outlet, documenting the early buzz and eventual ascension.
I initially regarded the over-privileged, "I'll go to the Yankees if the Colts draft me," first-round pick with the horse's face, centaur's broad chest, and bazooka arm with curiosity and amusement. Eventually, that amusement turned to disdain after witnessing Horse Face gallop across the length of the field squeezing his teams past my Browns' teams for three AFC Championships.
What's worse is Elway's teams couldn't win Super Bowls where Cleveland would easily have been the favorite.
Am I bitter? You bet I am.
I've been to six Broncos' games, they are 1-5 when I'm there, including two playoff losses. I even cheered for the Steelers at Mile High.
I'd rather associate with Yinzers than Broncos fans, and my three favorite teams are the ones that get a shot to beat the Steelers twice a year.
As a human being and a football analyst, I have nothing but respect for Elway's greatness on the field. He was tough, resourceful, and creative. Physically, he was the QB equivalent of Matthew Stafford's daddy and Brett Favre's older brother.
As a fan — and admit it, we fans are monsters — I'll always cherish the day I had a pair of former NFL players trying to get scouting gigs with the Broncos turn their back on Horse Face while he was in mid-sentence to fan-boy over me, "the guy with the YouTube videos that taught them more about football than they learned while in the league," in line at a Starbucks in Mobile, Alabama.
I still remember looking back at Cecil Lammey, Jene Bramel, Emory Hunt, and Rob Rang and seeing them witnessing this moment with their mouths agape.
My only regret: Not cutting between these two players to a bewildered Elway (whose most equine visage clearly had a "WTF is this guy," look), handing him my business card, and telling horsey, "If you want help evaluating prospects, drop me a line."
The monster inside of me despises Denver. No matter how they try to disguise it with modern designs, even their uniforms are uglier than Cleveland's — and that might be a bigger feat than them winning Super Bowls years later.
For the record, Elway doesn't have a horse face. I'm just letting my inner monster out for a walk.
Those teeth could cleave an apple in half...
Yet . . .
I still can’t hate Wilson despite the fact that hating him is the most annoying trend going. They're probably going to hate that this article still has Wilson in a Seahawks uniform — another reminder of what they've lost.
Every adult who wishes they were still at the cool kids’ lunch table – or wishes they could have been a part of that clique – is part of the herd of voices that have determined Wilson’s tailored public image as phony, corny, dorky, contrived, and meriting disdain.
I saw Wilson’s public-facing persona as a façade before most of the NFL beat writers. While they were eating up the rhetoric that Wilson had the leadership skills of a corporate executive or military general at the Senior Bowl---even referencing Norman Schwarzkopf—I saw the slightest crack in Wilson’s armor when he nearly initiated a bro-down with Lammey when asked how he’d feel about backing up Tebow.
I had not yet watched Wilson’s tape before making the trip to Mobile, but that flash of anger interrupting his attempts to maintain perpetual equanimity caught my eye. Especially when I learned his response to Lammey was, “I have no intention of backing up anyone in the NFL.”
You see, I could care less about what a player is trying to show the public. All of it is crafted. Any player with an early-round grade and draft prep consultants working for him will be taught how to deal with the media. Whether they continue practicing this behavior after earning a contract is up to their level of maturity.
When it comes to scouting talent or playing fantasy football, I’m not a fan. The things that happen outside the lines may bother me personally, but if we want to change what bothers us, participation in our government process is the first avenue. Shaming the NFL doesn’t get anywhere.
It’s why I only care what happens between the lines.
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