By ART THIEL
Maddening as was the tie for fans of both sides, the 6-6 tie between the Seahawks and Cardinals was a compelling episode of sports theater that is worthy of serious appreciation.
One of the great virtues of most sports — and why soccer still has trouble in the U.S. — is that the games provide resolution. The Seahawks and Cardinals Sunday night in Glendale, AZ, offered no resolution. Instead, they provided their fan bases and the sports nation watching on NBC with the unresolved — a tie.
It’s a thing America doesn’t do well. Win or lose, that’s our deal. The draw is our flaw; we can’t feel something for nothing.
After the 6-6 tie — the first in Seahawks history and the first in the NFL in 44 years that didn’t have a touchdown — nobody sputtered better than Pete Carroll.
“I don’t know where a tie fits,” said the Seahawks coach, a garrulous man suddenly tangled up in awkward pauses. “I don’t really have a good place to make sense of this. We don’t live this way.”
Most of us regularly have unresolved issues with our spouses, children, parents, bosses, auto mechanics, internet service providers and presidential candidates. But not a sports event. In sports, we invest invest hours, days, weeks, even professional lives, knowing that sports will give us something rarely obtained elsewhere — resolution.
Win or loss. Joy or sadness. A tie? No.
Even Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was moved as close as he’ll ever get to contempt.
“A tie? That’s no fun,” he said. “I don’t really believe in ties.”
OK, so he wasn’t Jesse Jackson raging at The Man. But a tie leaves every thread at a loose end. How do you wear that?
On the other hand . . .
It was maybe the most fascinating pro football game I can recall.
Wash off your green and blue face paint and go with me a minute.
The game between two of the NFL’s best coaches was an ultra-conservative chess match between division rivals who had each given the other previous heartaches. And for all the missed opportunities, failed plays and penalties, there was neither a fumble nor an interception, although it was nearly so several times.
How sloppy can a game be if it had no turnovers?
For all the field command the Cardinals had, they never led by more than three points. Despite the Seahawks’ abysmal offense that never reached Arizona territory by its own doing throughout regulation time, they never trailed by more than three points.
In my most dystopian nightmares about football, I never could have dreamed up such a thing.
Yet there it was, played out through nearly four hours of exquisite tension. No cinematic art could rival the wall-to-wall drama in live action where something that was anticipated to happen (a touchdown) never did. It was like watching a man and a woman intensely attracted to one another, yet never kissing. You can’t look away because it might happen.
Then consider the magnificence of both defenses. For every possession in regulation, each had a ruthlessly jarring answer for the offense. It cannot be a bad football game when half of it is populated by premier athletes operating at the acme of their profession, yet were unable to shake loose the ball even once.
And then the Seahawks execute the astounding special teams feat of having LB Bobby Wagner jump over the center to interrupt a field goal.
After blocking the first one, the Cardinals still couldn’t prevent Wagner flying into the vision of Cardinals kicker Chandler Cantanzaro for the attempt in overtime. There is little doubt Wagner’s airborne presence affected the kick.
Consider the stricken head coaches at each moment of despair when the kicks failed. Arizona coach Arians threw his arms high, anticipating the game-winning score, then threw them down so hard he may need rotator cuff surgery.
And how about that look on the face of Carroll after Stephen Hauschka missed? Frozen by shock, jaw slackened, eyes wide . . . for as much success as Carroll has had, and as much energy and enlightenment he has brought to the Seattle sports marketplace, his expression in that moment is burned into my brain until one second past forever.
The outcome was a universal frustration for all involved. But don’t let that diminish appreciation for one of the most compelling episodes of sports theater any of us have been privileged to witness. Feel free to enjoy a 60-58 college game, but that is closer to football porn than the opera that played out at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night.
For each team to run the field in overtime to set up a game-winning field goal, only to scuff the kick . . . well, it doesn’t get more American than a double Charlie Brown.
(Art Theil is one of the best and most clever, creative and, yes, controversial columnists in the world. Never having met a metaphor he could not twist beyond recognition, Art has been illuminating, agitating, amusing and annoying in the Great Northwest for a long time. Along with Steve Rudman, he co-founded Sports Press Northwest because it didn’t seem right that the Google monster should aggregate daily journalism into oblivion without at least a flesh wound from somebody.
Thiel and Rudman labored under the Seattle Post-Intelligencer globe until the print edition died an undeserved death in March, 2009. Art continued on at its online successor seattlepi.com while working on SPNWs creation. His radio commentaries can be heard Friday and Saturday mornings and Friday afternoon on Seattle’s KPLU-FM 88.9. In 2003 he wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, Out of Left Field, which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists, a cross between historylink.org and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom. A graduate of Pacific Lutheran University as well as two dead papers and a live one, the News Tribune of Tacoma, he has become a fan of entrepreneurial online journalism because it allows him to continue a lifelong passion to take the English language to places it rarely visits willingly, and does not involve the cleaning of kennels or stables. This column originally appeared at sportspressnw.com, and has been updated. Art occasionally will contribute columns to woodypaige.com.)