Meet the Fawkers

And shake hands with Coach Mike Holmgren again.

To paraphrase the Rossi posse, we may never know for certain the actual number of drunks in Pioneer Square the morning of Saturday, Jan. 8. But the high-minded rhetoric near Qwest Field was of a level not heard here since the most recent hourly development in the gubernatorial contest. Passing McCoy's Firehouse at Second Avenue and Washington Street, for example, I overheard one particularly civil exchange between an idling motorist sporting St. Louis Rams regalia and a Seattle Seahawks partisan spilling the foam off his breakfast in the roped-off sidewalk barnyard, er, beer garden.

"Sea-Fawks suck," reasoned the St. Louis enthusiast.

"Go Marshall-Faulk yourself," countered the Seattle supporter.

(Clearly, nobody can spell anymore—not surprising during this era of Meet the Fockers.)

Oh, yeah, and then there was that NFL playoff game: Faulks 27, Fawks 20. The Seattle Seahawks' most disappointing season since prior owner Ken Behring tried to take the boys to Disneyland ended when—stop me if you've heard this one—a catchable ball was dropped in the end zone. It happened on fourth and four at the 5 with a few clock ticks left. Some say the play was actually "fourth and job" for Mike Holmgren, the embattled Seattle mentor outcoached for the third time this season by Smilin' Mike Martz, the Rams X-and-O specialist. It means the Seahawks, losers of two regular-season point counts to the St. Louis Rams, couldn't quite become the Christine Gregoire of professional sports. The third time was as charmless as any Hawk loss of the season, especially considering that the locals held the lead early during the fourth quarter.

In retrospect, it seems a little ridiculous to have imagined another outcome, since this franchise hasn't won a postseason game for more than 20 years. Blame for this letdown gets shared by both platoons, with special emphasis on Holmgren's offensive play calling, which repeatedly asked for passes when runs were appropriate and vice versa. With 46 seconds left in the game, the Hawks had first down at the Ram 11. Shaun Alexander should have run the ball. But quarterback Matt Hasselbeck scrambled and was sacked at the 17. Forced to pass for a touchdown, he was zero for three. Even had Bobby Engram picked up the end-zone completion, there's no reason to believe overtime would have finished better than the Oct. 10 game, when the division-rival Rams effectively ended any big postseason plans franchise management might have had.

Holmgren, afterward, was unintentionally amusing in understating the notion that the Rams amount to "a rivalry we have to do better at." As for the near future and the probable loss of free-agent talent, the coach said the challenge would be "to make every attempt to keep our young players on defense with us. . . . The second thing is to try to keep our core guys on offense." Yet, he said, "we took one more step this year" with a division championship, albeit at 9-7. "One of these years, we're going to win a playoff game and take that next step," he predicted, but he wouldn't speculate as to which year—or decade—that might happen.

The defense, "victimized by big plays," the coach said, at times looked like 11 blind guys trying to work a jigsaw puzzle. This was especially the case on the third play of the game, when Rams QB Mark Bulger found Torry Holt for 52 yards. A few plays later, it was 7-zip St. Louis. After the teams traded pickoffs, a Seattle drive stalled at the Ram 30 before a 47-yard field goal put Holmy's homeys on the scoreboard. Another Bulger "victimization" pass covered half the field to start the second quarter before that Faulkin' Marshall waltzed in for a Rams score. Fourth-quarter lapses in the Seattle secondary kept alive a critical Rams possession that tied the game at 20 with 8:07 left. Then Martz choreographed an award-worthy touchdown march after Seattle piddled away its own chance to ice the game.

Early on, Hawk receivers were in familiar form, with Engram, Darrell Jackson, and Maurice Morris dropping balls their grandmothers could've caught. Jackson and Engram redeemed themselves with athletic TD grabs, but Engram couldn't hang on to Hasselbeck's last pass of the season.

It took the locals three quarters of the game to go ahead, 20-17, on a 23-yard Hasselbeck-Jackson pass play. Some of the rabid fans seemed to feel this meant the Hawks had assured themselves of a win and another playoff game, in Atlanta.

After meeting with team prexy Bob Whitsitt two days after the latest Ram loss, mediocre messiah Holmgren appeared ready to steer the C-Hawks in yet another quest (or Qwest, as it's spelled) for a better playoff fate. The meeting came on a day when sports-tawk radio indicated that fans have about had it with the Big Guy.

Slogging through Pioneer Square that night, I overheard various shouted reactions to yet another unfulfilling Seahawks season. Forms of the words "Faulk" or "Fawk" were of such abundance and amplitude that one wondered whether they'll still be bouncing off the district's ancient bricks when next season begins.

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