Beware the sub-.500 Seahawks
Bring it on. Mock the Seahawks. Call them the worst playoff team ever. Whine and sob about the injustice of it all, how your imagined sense of fairness has been destroyed by a 7-9 team soiling the NFL playoffs with its blue stink. Point out all the statistics your little minds can hold before exploding from information overload -- point differential, DVOA, average yards per rush, Matt Hasselbeck's QB rating, Pete Carroll's ratio of funny-to-weird tweets, whatever.
Heck, make fun of the uniforms if you want.
Guess what? We don't care. The stadium will be sold out for Saturday's game against the Saints, with Seahawks fans going crazy waving their lime green towels. It will be louder than an Iron Maiden concert from 1985. And just to rub it in everyone's faces, we hope it rains so hard that Drew Brees will think the footballs were soaked in Puget Sound.
Let me put it another way: We laugh at your criticism. Consider that for the better part of three decades, our professional sports teams have choked, gagged, disappointed, crushed our hearts, underperformed, stunk, been screwed by the refs and then by a no-good slickster from Oklahoma who stole our beloved basketball franchise. So, no, your indignation does not bother us; the way we look at is that we're four wins away from a Super Bowl celebration.
Please, enough moaning about the sanctity of the regular season. Every team worth my three hours of tube time is in the playoffs. The Giants? Try covering a punt return properly and we'll listen to your complaints. The Bucs? Four wins against the NFC West, two wins over Carolina, wins over Cleveland, Cincinnati, Washington and New Orleans ... in other words, their only win against a good team came in the season finale when the Saints didn't care.
Look, if you want fairness, just put the two best teams in the Super Bowl. But that's not the way the playoffs work: Under the current playoff structure, only 20 of 40 No. 1 seeds have reached the Super Bowl. Take your gripes to Katherine Harris and see if she'll do anything about them.
Here's another thing: Why not rally around the Seahawks? Isn't this the type of storyline we're supposed to embrace, the underdog overcoming incalculable odds to shock the world (not to mention the pundits)? In an NFL season in which the major plot lines were Brett Favre's return, Brett Favre's private parts, Michael Vick, the NFL's investigation of Brett Favre, concussions, Brett Favre's injuries, Rex Ryan's wife's toes, Brett Favre's fine and Brett Favre's impending retirement, here's an actual feel-good story without revolting undertones. It's a lot more interesting than rooting for yet more success from Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, that's for sure (not to mention the twin pariahs of shame, Vick and Ben Roethlisberger).
Trust me on this: Seattle fans have suffered much more than Cleveland fans. Cleveland's teams have mostly been crappy and irrelevant. None of them actually should have won a championship, except maybe the 1995 Indians. Meanwhile, Seattle has had many great teams that didn't win.
In short order, the Sonics dominated throughout the '90s, only to suffer inglorious defeat after inglorious defeat in the playoffs. In 1993, we lost Game 7 of the conference finals to the Phoenix Suns when the refs committed crimes against humanity by allowing the Suns to shoot 64 free throws. The next year, Seattle had the best record in the post-Jordan NBA, but Dikembe Mutombo and the eighth-seeded Nuggets pulled off the biggest playoff upset in NBA history. A couple of years after that, we had the best team in Sonics history, only to run into the 72-10 Bulls in the NBA Finals. Even took two games in the series, not that anyone remembers.
The Seahawks went 13-3 in 2005 and reached the Super Bowl. We outgained the Steelers and committed fewer turnovers, but referee Bill Leavy took us behind the woodshed and performed unmentionable acts.
The Mariners had Griffey, A-Rod, Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner and couldn't reach the World Series. We lost to the Yankees in the 2000 ALCS in part because Jamie Moyer broke his kneecap when he was hit by a line drive during a simulated game following the ALDS (damn you, Chris Widger!). By 2001, the Mariners had lost A-Rod, Griffey and Randy Johnson ... and won an all-time record 116 games. Only to lose again to the Yankees in the ALCS.
Sorry, Cleveland, but those Bernie Kosar Browns teams would have been destroyed in the Super Bowl anyway. Plus, you eventually got your football team back. Where's our NBA franchise?
Let me ask you this:
Were the Giants better than the Patriots?
Was Villanova better than Georgetown?
The Houston Rockets made the NBA Finals in 1981 with a losing record.
The Arizona Cardinals nearly won the Super Bowl a couple of years ago with a lousy 9-7 record.
The Yankees won the World Series in 2000 despite having only the fifth-best record in the American League. The 2006 Cardinals won the World Series despite a meager 83-78 regular season.
But I understand. Everyone loves to drink the Haterade these days. Go ahead, assume the Saints will win by 30 points. However, let me leave you with one final statistic: Matt Hasselbeck threw for 366 yards earlier this season against the Saints.
In the NFL, there are no guarantees. Four wins away. It would be one heck of a story.
David Schoenfield is a senior editor for ESPN.com.