The year was 1988: long before YouTube and HDTV changed the way we watched the game, and long before the risk of concussions became a reason for changing the way we interpreted the game. Steve Largent was leveled by an illegal forearm-to-the-face hit by Bronco safety Mike Harden. You name the damage, it was there: broken facemask, dislodged teeth, unconsciousness... I was 7 and thought he was dead. Largent was always undersized and a bit of an underdog: went to college at Tulsa, drafted in the 4th round (and then before ever playing a game was traded to the Seahawks for an 8th round pick). He always played bigger that he was, but at that moment, in the twilight of his career, lying motionless on the football field, it looked like it came to an early end.
Of course, as his fans all remember, that wasn’t the end. The season was blessed with another game against Denver, where Harden caught an interception and a gusting wind of karma. After missing several weeks, Largent was back on the field and made his own amends, uprooting Harden from the surface of the field. The hit was hard and clean and even forced a fumble, which Largent recovered.
I bring it up because I was thinking about the difference between being a fan of a team, and being somebody that loves the fan experience. Usually the two go hand in hand. I have no idea if the Seahawks went on to win or lose that game. Maybe a fan of the team, focused on wins and losses and the chance for an elusive title would. However, I’ll always remember my favorite player coming back from such staggering adversity to exact the kind of justice we all only dreamed about. Beyond the realm of sports, that one play encapsulated so much of what we love about human resilience. To me, it whispered about the ability to rise above one’s station and achieve things that we didn’t think we could. In his case, Largent always had guts. But in ANY circumstances where somebody beats the odds like that, and we as fans get to see it play out on the field of battle… well… it doesn’t get much better than that.
Counter to anyone’s imaginations , Greg is now the underdog. His adversity hasn’t come in the form of a small frame or obscurity, certainly. And to some extent, his adversity has become less about simply injuries. It’s become more about the continually growing dogpile of humiliation for falling short of enormous expectations. The latest news takes me back to seven years old, seeing the home-team hero down for the count, wondering if he was dead.
My conclusion is this: if Greg has the guts to come back, and wants to finish the fight of the NBA, then I want him back as a Blazer next year. Even as I type this, I wonder if I’m crazy for saying so, given how snake-bite we all are by this point. Maybe he gets hurt again, and maybe he weighs as a liability on our cap space and as a vacant roster spot, and maybe we ultimately lose a few games because of it. However, all of that is a dim flicker when compared against the prospect of seeing him overcome this adversity. As has been well chronicled by now, very few think he can. The core essence of my fanhood yearns to see him lay a clean hit on the ghosts and make something of himself as a player. And I want to be there to watch him do it, because, see…. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Go get ‘em, #52. I’m not giving up on you just yet.