Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson draws strength from his late father. “He used to always tell me, ‘Russ, why not you?’” Wilson said. It’s not quite Horatio Alger, but almost. The 12th pick in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft (note the preponderance of 12s.) Today, a Super Bowl ring and a parade down Fourth Avenue. Why not you, Russ?
The gift of Russell Wilson, the gift of cornerback Richard Sherman — he that dare shout uninhibited — the gift of running back Marshawn Lynch, is ripping apart the Law of Jante. The fictional law, a cultural aversion to individual success, puts pride in the cross-hairs. It’s a sentiment imported by Swedes, Danes and Norwegians in the 1890s that dovetailed with a Coast Salish culture equally skeptical of standouts. Writer Aksel Sandemose reduced the law to 10 rules. Rule no. 1: You’re not to think you are anything special.
The principles suffuse the Northwest, shifting demographics be damned. The Jante Law gave birth to a culture of nice; the trouble is, Northwest Nice doesn’t square with human nature. Resentments fester, bottled-up anxieties morph into passive-aggressiveness. Make waves or showboat and you’re coarsening the Evergreen State.
And so, the Super Bowl Seahawks and a joyous, primordial yalp. Here is Richard Sherman, a channel for decades of repressed pride. Here is a deafening 12th Man, finding its voice. Here is a team playing the great, albeit temporary, unifier that sews together the east and west sides of the Cascade curtain.
All this wonder at last finds expression during today’s Super Bowl parade. Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation on Wednesday that encourages a “moment of LOUDNESS for the Seahawks at 12:12 pm on Feb. 5, 2014.” Making waves is hereby validated.
Is the hear-us-roar fleeting, or have we chucked the Jante Law? The sweetness of serene rioters is reminiscent of photographer Tom Brownell’s 1960 Seattle Post-Intelligencer pic of two nuns at a beach in Grayland. Sisters Agnes and Ruth in full habit, waist deep in the surf, arms heavenward, pure bliss.
Northwesterners aren’t cossetted religionists, but they’re awfully well behaved. There are sports victories from years past, from Enoch Bagshaw’s Everett High School national championship football team in 1921, to the 1979 Sonics, to the Seattle Storm in 2004 and 2010. But there’s a sense that this Super Bowl was decades overdue, a feeling that risks becoming righteous. That’s exactly why we need more “why not you?” fathers, more big solutions to big problems.