Seahawks Earning an Asterisk for Substance Abuse


Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Let me preface this by saying that I am a proud Seattle Seahawks fan and a season ticket holder.  The point being that I put my money where my mouth is even to the point of paying more to ensure that I catch an earlier flight home from trips so that I’m with the rest of the 12th Man at the CLink to cheer on the ‘Hawks come game day.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I have to admit that it wasn’t always that way.  Call me a late bloomer if you wish, but I grew up a loud and proud Oakland Raiders fan.  I fell in love with the “bad boy” Raiders of the 1970s and 1980s that included John Madden, Jim Plunkett, Lyle Alzado, Marcus Allen, and so many other colorful characters of that era.

The Raiders had a well-earned reputation for intense rough play as the most penalized team in the league for several years and rumors abounded about alleged dirty tactics that Al Davis’ team may have used such as sending deflated footballs out for opposing team kickers, doing things to the field before game day to make it harder on visiting teams to run, and more.  And like other teams of the era, drugs (including steroids) were almost certainly part of the culture.

And Raiders fans were proud of the team’s reputation as a gritty, hard-hitting, and almost criminal team.

Then things changed…but it seems as those Coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks didn’t get the memo.

With the recent announcements that Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner were both found guilty of violating the NFL’s substance abuse rules, I certainly wasn’t proud.  I was disgusted.  I echo Golden Tate’s sentiments that what Thurmond and Browner did was “selfish”, and lacked any commitment to something greater than themselves.

I’m also disappointed in Coach Carroll.  There I said it.  Since he took over the team there have been eight suspensions for violation of the league’s substance abuse rules since 2011.  To be more precise, seven players have been charged (Browner chose to be a repeat offender), and one suspension was overturned (Richard Sherman).  So seven suspensions in less than three full seasons.  One suspension, much less eight, is too many.  Carroll needs to get a clue, get control of the team, and start realizing that our reputation is as important as a win-loss record.

I want the ‘Hawks to be the dominant team in the NFC West, the NFC, and be a perpetual Super Bowl contender but I don’t want an asterisk next to those accomplishments that colors those achievements negatively.  I don’t want our ‘Hawks to be in the same league as the 1919 Chicago “Black Sox” cheating their way through the World Series (whether they won or lost is immaterial) or Lance Armstrong and his drug-driven Tour de France wins.

As we head into the final five games of the regular season with a depleted secondary against some very good teams, the poor decisionmaking of Thurmond is going to hurt.  Browner was already out for the season with an injury, and although it is anticipated that he will be suspended for a year, it is safe to say that he has played his last game in a ‘Hawks uniform. General Manager John Schneider was already going to have to make salary cap room and it was widely thought that one member of the “Legion of Doom” would be leaving.  Browner just made that decision an easy one.

Hopefully, Carroll has the message now if he didn’t before and will aggressively and actually do something about it.  If the two suspensions are upheld, the ‘Hawks will probably get a substantial fine for the continued misconduct.  But let’s face it, the team can afford the money.  It’s the bad (not in a good way) reputation, potential loss of draft picks, and fact that the team would have earned a reputation as a bunch of cheaters.  The team’s remarkable turnaround over the past three seasons would not be attributed to Carroll’s “always compete” attitude, but instead his tolerance and implicit support of drug use.

So as much as Carroll and team need to focus on Monday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints, the team also needs to focus on cleaning up its act.  Other teams are already shooting rounds our way, and San Francisco 49ers coach John Harbaugh was all too quick to offer his derisive thoughts.  Carroll is accountable and I hope he and the other players understand that their reputation, our reputation is on the line.

Get it together, ‘Hawks. Win big and win honestly. Make us proud. Now.

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