If you are a fan of the Denver Broncos more power to you. If you’re down with the Legion of Boom and the Seattle Seahawks, then put on your silver and blue, play some Macklemore—or Blue Scholars—and have a great Sunday. But let’s just say you happen to be somebody who has no rooting interest in the Super Bowl or, even better, are not a football fan but will find yourself at a Super Bowl party and want something to do other than rank the best commercials. Here is one reason to go all-in and root for the Seattle Seahawks. No, my one reason has nothing to do with Richard Sherman, although I bet his victory speech would be one for the ages. The reason to root for Seattle can be found behind center. And his name is Russell Wilson.
My rule on these matters is simple: when you don’t have a rooting interest, stand with a squad on the basis of the conversations beyond football that they can provoke. Put simply, if Russell Wilson wins this game, then the most retrograde voices on sports radio, at the neighborhood bar and in social media will have to shut their mouths.
If Russell Wilson holds the Lombardi Trophy amidst the swirling environs in New Jersey, here are some things we are never going to have to hear again. We are never going to have to hear that Doug Williams, way way back in 1988, remains the only quarterback of African descent to lead a team to Super Bowl victory. That tired line, usually said by an uncle after too many beers, will have to die.
The second thing we will never have to hear again—and believe me, this cannot come soon enough—is the backward-looking concept that you can only win a Super Bowl if you have some dropback pocket passer with feet encased in mafia-grade cement like a Tom Brady, Joe Flacco or, oh, I don’t know, Peyton Manning. The scouting groupthink is that if you are Russell Wilson or Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick, then your style of play, no matter how “entertaining,” will lead to inevitable failure. Being able to run is a nice bonus for a quarterback, but irrelevant when it’s time to win. What I hate about this conventional wisdom is that racism runs through it like a jagged scar people pretend not to see. There is certainly a strong argument that the scampering Steve Young should have put all of this to bed in 1995 when he threw six touchdowns and led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl glory. Or even a player like Aaron Rodgers who led the Packers to victory in 2011 with mobility to spare. But no. The trope that mobile quarterbacks can’t win the big one lives on because all too often it is code for “mobile black quarterback” in the tradition of showstoppers from Randall Cunningham to Michael Vick. A generation of great college players like Jamelle Holieway, Brian Mitchell, Tony Rice and Tommie Frazier, to name only a few, never had a shot at playing quarterback in the NFL because, being mobile black quarterbacks, they did not fit the mold. What is so amazing about Russell Wilson—and I hope RG3 is taking notes—is that he absolutely is a “pocket passer,” only he redefines what we understand to be the “pocket.” Wilson scrambles and scurries every which way, but his eyes are downfield at all times.