Throw In the Towel

The Seahawks wind up naked on national TV.

Party-clad fans and rabid game announcers know the Monday Night Football TV spectacle is supposed to be all about celebration. Unfortunately, the Seattle Seahawks commenced their revelry a few dozen clock ticks too early. A last-minute 43-39 loss to the Dallas Cowboys during the widely viewed program's latest broadcast, Monday, Dec. 6, was another flagrantly blown Seahawk lead to accompany the home loss Oct. 10 against St. Louis. It leaves Seattle 6-6 and, even by the coach's own estimation, poised to miss the playoffs. The team came back to lead by 10 with two minutes left. Then, on the sideline, coach Mike Holmgren and the boys seemed to break open the victory bubbly when the mentor should have been watching and worrying about losing the game and his job. In an improbable run of good luck, the Cowboys scored two touchdowns with little time left, and Yogi Berra's axiom about when a game is never over proved correct yet again.

So Seattle lost one it should have won after almost winning one it should have lost. Not even veteran booth guys Al Michaels and John Madden could sort it out. Michaels accurately noted that a late Cowboys "touchdown" grab by Keyshawn Johnson should have been reviewed by the officials and nullified. It wasn't, and after Dallas worked an onside kick, the final Cowboys touchdown sent the beer-cold crowd into the dark of the Qwest Field parking lots to head home considering the abyss of yet another misspent season.

At least a disinterested viewer would have said it was all entertaining, not always the case for this often-lopsided game. A month ago, few knew, much less cared, who Nicolllette Sheridan was or how many L's she uses in her first name (we use three, but other news services get by with just two or one). Then much of the Desperate Housewives actress' unclothed self appeared during the pregame teaser for Monday Night Football. Sheridan's bath-towel malfunction seems to have assured that nobody would really think about the actual football game that night (Dallas is said to have played Philadelphia, but the score, if there was one, was never recorded).

Chastened by the many who feel football is not to be adulterated by base sexual innuendo (much less excessive violence, profanity, etc.), ABC-TV execs decided to cheese it with the cheesecake. The decision led to going with a fully clothed Jerry Rice prior to Seattle vs. Dallas. It proved fitting in that Rice's eight receptions (along with nine by suddenly reliable Darrell Jackson) nearly gave the Hawks the victory.

As has been the case lately, Seattle's defense let up at the end, when transgressions were of the greatest consequence. Though mostly outplayed by Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck (28 for 40, 414 yards, three touchdowns), Cowboys quarterback Vinny Testaverde, though older than the Marlboro Man, nonetheless summoned the late-game playmaking expertise as the Hawks' once-promising season slipped away. Seattle can lament yet another loss to a pro foe that might not be capable of beating the best-rated college teams this year. If the playoffs happen for the hapless Hawks, Seattle could be the first 7-9 club ever to win a division title. The phrase "Super Bowl," spoken locally with great confidence just seven weeks ago, is now uttered only by those who support the NFL fortunes of Pittsburgh, New England, Philadelphia, or Atlanta. Michaels on MNF noted that the Hawks once were considered "the trendy choice" to represent their conference in the Super Bowl that will now elude them yet again. No sane person would say Seattle would win more than one of its remaining games, losing the next two weeks, away, against Minnesota and the New York Jets, and maybe salvaging one here against Arizona Dec. 26, before losing at home to Atlanta.

Monday Night Football, meanwhile, continues to be a traveling 17-week TV oddity that functions as something of a secular Mardi Gras (Fat Monday, you could call it) in the cities whence it emanates. Not that Hawks fans need an excuse for a party. Prior to most games, the usual costumed partisans shiver for hours in the Qwest parking lots, many fans wearing ersatz football uniforms and enough face paint to make Dame Edna raise a mascara-blackened brow. A mere street-clothes-clad fan maneuvering toward the stadium might have asked whether all the hoi-polloi pageantry is really necessary, but the importance of the game for many has long since shifted from the football to the masquerade ball.

Even given repeated ABC camera shots of the stadium, the city, and many of its sartorially creative denizens, we seem to remain comfortably undiscovered here in "Seattle, Washington," as Michaels thrice said, differentiating from all those other Seattles. He also called the area an "outpost," meaning, Webster says, "a settlement on a frontier or border." One hopes ABC explorers kept their boots and powder dry fording the Columbia. Maybe they'll venture out thisaway again sometime, perhaps after the massacre Hawks owner Paul Allen (on hand for the latest disaster) no doubt is contemplating for Holmgren and his lieutenants.

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