Conspiracy theories abound in US history, a way to explain the unexplainable in a nation with massive gaps in wealth and power. How could a lone gunman kill the President of the United States? Who put a drifter like James Earl Ray in position to kill Dr. Martin Luther King? Or the conspiracy theory of our century, one that has been entertained by the person at the heart of this article, Seattle Seahawks Pete Carroll, how did the Towers fall? (Please save the e-mails. I am not passing judgment on any of the above theories. Only pointing out that they all have found purchase.)
Sports, where antitrust exemptions, a compliant media and authoritarian structures don’t exactly encourage open discussion, conspiracy theories have always been nourished. Well, one is certainly emerging after last night’s shocking end to Super Bowl 49, as the Seahawks gave away a game that looked comfortably in their grasp. With the outcome in their hands in the closing seconds, on second down from the one yard line and trailing by four points against the New England Patriots, Seattle coach Pete Carroll chose to throw a three-foot slant over the middle instead of handing it to their power runner extraordinaire Marshawn Lynch. It was, of course, intercepted, the first time a pass from the one-yard line had been intercepted all season in any game.
In the stunning aftermath, after that unfathomable decision, conspiracy theories sprouted like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. I’m not talking about Twitter-theories from deep-thinking eggs, or any cris de coeur from devastated Seahawks fans. I’m talking about people inside Seattle’s own locker room. I’m talking about texts I received from mainstream writers who don’t want to deal with the backlash that would come with writing it up.
The theory goes something like this. Russell Wilson is your young clean-cut God-fearing media-perfect quarterback. If one was creating a superstar face to market for the twenty-first century, chances are they would look, sound and basically be Russell Wilson. He’s Derek Jeter with a Bible, someone who comes across like he has never spoken out of turn in his entire life.* Marshawn Lynch is… Marshawn Lynch, and if you haven’t figured out what that means after the past two weeks, then you haven’t been paying attention.
The theory goes that there were major financial, public relations and football reasons for Russell Wilson and not Lynch to be the one who ends the game in glory. If he throws that touchdown for the victory, Wilson is almost certainly the Super Bowl MVP. He gets the commercial. He gets to stand with the commissioner. And oh, by the way, he also gets his new contract, one that will fasten his prime, at only 26 years old, to the Seattle franchise. Marshawn Lynch is also due a new contract. Marshawn Lynch, had he punched that ball over the goal line, would probably get to be the one handed the MVP trophy. Marshawn Lynch also maybe gets on the mic to say Lord knows what.