Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Oily-Salmon Series Continues

Since my brother Chad and I both have irrational love affairs with our favorite football teams (the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks, respectively), a few years back, we decided to start a tradition of meeting up any time our teams played. I’ve dubbed it the Oily Salmon Series (in reference to prominent industries in Dallas and Seattle). With Game Six quickly approaching, I thought it appropriate to memorialize each game of the series.

Read about Game One here.

Game Two—Good Timing and Bad Defense

The Seahawks played the Cowboys in the regular season of 2002 on October 27. Before making our travel arrangements to Dallas, Chad did a little arithmetic and estimated that we just might get lucky and see Emmitt Smith break Walter Payton’s all-time rushing record of 16,726 yards against the Seahawks that day. The season started with Smith needing 542 yards to break the record. Before the week 8 game against the Seahawks, he was only 93 yards away.

Though Emmitt hadn’t rushed for over a hundred yards all season, Jerry Jones, in typical arrogant fashion, planned a huge celebration and banner unveiling for Smith and scheduled it for the Seahawks game. As it turns out, however, Jones’s arrogance was well founded, as the Seahawks ranked dead last in rushing defense in the NFL in 2002.

If you needed a hundred-yard rusher in 2002, you looked no further than Seattle’s opponent. This week, your guy was Emmitt Smith. He broke the record with 9:10 left in the fourth quarter with an 11-yard run and capped off that drive with a one-yard touchdown run to tie the game 14-14 with 5:35 remaining. It was sort of nice for me to witness the historical moment, but the real joy was watching Chad and his two boys raise their arms in celebration as Emmitt broke the record and the crowd erupted.

Unfortunately for Chad and the Cowboys, game number two of the Oily Salmon Series started an uncomfortable tradition for Cowboys fans. After the record-breaking run and the one-yard touchdown by Emmitt Smith, Matt Hasselbeck, who had entered the game for an injured Trent Dilfer, led the Seahawks down the field for a game-winning field goal with 25 seconds left in the game. (Hasselbeck never yielded the starting quarterback job to Dilfer again and went on to play in three Pro Bowls.)

Chad and I had gone to two games and experienced two Seahawk wins. While we didn’t immediately realize it, it had officially become a tradition. We rationalized that the first game was an irrelevant blowout and this game was a win-win, since my brother was able to witness the record-breaker and I was able to witness a Seahawk victory. Unfortunately for him, Chad had somehow become a good luck charm for my Seahawks, as the next three games in the series would clearly indicate.

Game Three—No Luck in Attendance

We DID NOT attend this 2004 Week 13 game. Seattle scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to go up by 10 points with 2:46 left in the game. Had my brother been there, surely this would have been the end of the story.

Instead, Vinny Testaverde hit Keyshawn Johnson in the end zone on an apparent touchdown. I remember being furious at the call, because replays seemed to clearly show that Keyshawn only had one foot down before running out of the back of the end zone. I can’t remember if the booth failed to review it (less than two minutes were remaining, so no coach’s challenge was possible) or if they reviewed it and failed to overturn it.

Either way, Seattle was still up three points with 1:45 remaining in the game. All they had to do was recover an onside kick and run out the clock. And, like I said, had we been there, surely they would have done this or found some other way to win the game.

But no—the onside kick bounced off Jerheme Urban’s hands and Dallas recovered. Shortly thereafter, Julius Jones (then a Cowboy, now a Seahawk) finished off a 198-yard day with a 17-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds remaining and Dallas won the game 43-39.

Fantasy notes: Matt Hasselbeck had 414 yards passing with three touchdowns. Jerry Rice led the Seahawks in receiving with eight catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. Julius Jones had three touchdowns to go with his 198 yards. Keyshawn Johnson and Darrell Jackson both had over 100 yards receiving and a touchdown each.

Game Four—Seahawks Come Through in the Clutch?!!

In Week Seven of the 2005 season, Chad and I joined the Cowboys in Seattle for another Seahawk beat-down. Yeah, ok, it was nothing close to a beat-down, but with their good luck charm Chad in attendance, surely the Seahawks would find a way to win, right? Not likely.

This game was actually quite miserable to watch. Interestingly, it was the first rainy game hosted by the Seahawks at Qwest Field. (I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned that fact beforehand!) While the rain didn’t bother us in our covered seats, the Seahawks pathetic play certainly did. Well…me, anyway.

Matt Hasselbeck killed a first-quarter drive with an interception at the Dallas 10-yard-line and he killed a fourth-quarter drive with an interception at the Seahawks 16-yard-line. The latter led to a Dallas field goal. Drive after drive ended with a Seahawks punt, a total of nine for the game.

When the Seahawks got the ball back with 2:06 left in the game, I knew it was their last chance. They were down 10-3 and had hardly moved the ball all day. Chad was starting to sense a Cowboys victory. He elbowed me and smiled as he nodded in anticipation. As Hasselbeck walked up to the line of scrimmage for the first play of that last-chance drive, he looked up at us, pointed and winked—as if remembering that his good luck charm was here.

Ok, that didn’t happen, but Hasselbeck did lead the Seahawks down the field for only the second time all day. Jerheme Urban, Jeremy Stevens and D.J. Hackett all came up with clutch catches on a drive that ended with a game-tying one-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Hannam.

At this point, I lacked any optimism whatsoever. It took me a while to remember why. This was in 2005, before the Seahawks had gone to the Super Bowl. In fact, at that time, they held the record for longest streak without a playoff win of 21 years. My attitude matched the team’s sorry history. “They’ll just lose in overtime,” I thought. Then when Dallas returned the kickoff 39 yards to their own 41-yard-line with 33 seconds still remaining on the clock, I thought, “No. They’re gonna lose right now.”

Imagine my shock and surprise four plays later when Jordan Babineaux (“Big Play Babs”) intercepted a Bledsoe pass and returned it to the Dallas 32-yard-line with 5 ticks still left on the clock. Josh Brown then ran out and kicked his second 50+ yard field goal of the day to win the game. I couldn’t believe it. I was almost too shocked to celebrate. I expected the Seahawks to blow it. Instead they came through in the clutch. Such an unfamiliar yet wonderful feeling.

Game Five—Slick Balls

The Cowboys traveled to Seattle for a first-round playoff game in January of 2007. I was still depressed about the travesty that was Super Bowl XL. I don’t remember much about most of the 2007 playoff game, but I certainly remember the last couple of minutes.

Seattle had taken a 21-20 lead with 4:24 left in the game. The Cowboys drove down the field and eventually faced third-and-7 from the Seattle eight-yard-line. Tony Romo passed to Jason Witten for an apparent first down at the Seattle one-yard-line with 1:53 remaining in the game.

At this point I was resigned to a Seahawk loss. A first down would have allowed the Cowboys to run the clock down to a few seconds and then kick a game-winning field goal. Oh, but wait—the booth decided to review the spot. The first down was overruled! The Seahawks were still alive.

They called their last timeout as Dallas lined up for the field goal with 1:19 left in the game. That’s plenty of time for Hasselbeck to get the Seahawks in field goal range, right?

I could feel the excitement growing in my brother’s mind. For the first time in four games, he would get to see his Cowboys win. I felt bad for him and actually anticipated a bittersweet feeling assuming that a Cowboys victory was at hand.

From our vantage point in the upper deck, we couldn’t see clearly what happened on the ill-fated field goal attempt. I heard the roar of the crowd and saw Romo running.

“What’s it, a fake?” I wondered aloud.

As I saw him loping towards the end zone, it occurred to me that he didn’t even need to score a touchdown—he could get a first down at the one-yard-line, and the Cowboys could run the clock down and try the kick again. As Jordan Babineaux (who else?) dragged Romo down from behind, my brother already feared the worst and sat down with his head in his hands.

When the ball was spotted and it was ruled that Romo hadn’t made the first down and the Cowboys had turned the ball over to the Seahawks, I just stood there stunned. I couldn’t believe it. Chad, on the other hand, looked as if someone had just sucker-punched him in the stomach. I definitely don’t remember ever feeling worse after a Seahawks victory. (Check out the game highlights here.)

Especially sad (or perhaps ironic, or perhaps just funny) was my offer to Chad before our trip to Seattle. Given the outcome of the last three Cowboys-Seahawks games we had watched, I offered to cancel our trip. It was obvious that Chad was a major good-luck charm for the Seahawks, so I, being the good-sport that I am, offered to cancel the trip and help create a more level playing field for our teams. He declined.

Personnel note: Seattle cornerback Pete Hunter, signed off the street days before the game, played an important role in knocking down several Romo passes.

Game Six—A Thanksgiving Tradition

I just got off the phone with my brother and made him the same traditional offer to cancel our trip. I thought it especially important this year, since the Cowboys are still in the playoff race while the Seahawks are not. As I read somewhere recently, when you’ve stopped yelling at the television, you know the season’s over for your team. I stopped yelling several weeks ago. One more Seahawk loss isn’t going to bother me all that much.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Chad has once again declined my offer. We leave for Dallas tomorrow. We’ll have dinner at Mia’s, where Jerry Jones offered the head-coaching job to Jimmy Johnson. We’ll tour Texas Stadium and check out the new stadium. We’ll stop by the Cowboy Sports CafĂ© Bar and Grill and see if we can spot any groupies. And on Thursday we will give thanks for family and football and once again watch the Cowboys lose. My apologies, but after all—it’s tradition.

1 comment:

bigskygirl said...

I had no idea Chad was such a good luck charm for others. I need to tap into that!