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Originally published Thursday, January 9, 2014 at 7:39 PM

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Seahawks beloved here, but are growing into a hated team elsewhere

A different narrative is developing for those who reside outside the Seahawks’ sphere of sycophancy. These same players who are so revered locally are regarded, in some quarters, as cocky, boastful prima donnas.


Seattle Times columnist

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If you’re like most Seahawks fans I know — bandwagon variety or otherwise — you think this team is pretty darned cool. A bunch of likable, engaging fellows who do good work in the community and thrilling stuff on the field.

Ah, but a different narrative is developing for those who reside outside the Seahawks’ sphere of sycophancy. These same players who are so revered locally are regarded, in some quarters, as cocky, boastful prima donnas.

Just this week, Washington Post columnist Norman Chad, in a Seahawks hit piece, wrote that “Nobody on the Seahawks just makes a play and goes back to the huddle. They are a chirping, preening lot of look-at-me-I’m-the-baddest-man-on-the-planet showboaters.”

This is not a universal appraisal, mind you, but there’s enough anecdotal evidence from the media — mainstream, alternative and social — to make it clear that the Seahawks backlash that began to develop last year has picked up steam.

That’s something Seattle fans should be perversely proud of. It’s a measure of the Seahawks’ ascension that they are becoming a team that people love to hate. You have to have achieved a certain stature to induce those kinds of emotions, and the Seahawks, who enter Saturday’s playoff game against the Saints as a co-favorite, with Denver, to make the Super Bowl, are getting there fast.

They are a team of strong personalities, no question. For a team to win over a community like this one has is a rare and powerful thing. It begins with winning, of course. Nothing endears more than success, but it goes beyond that. There is an allure to this group, a charisma, that forces you to pay attention.

And that works both ways. What one faction sees as appealing exuberance another views as unnecessary boasting. Richard Sherman is the epitome of this dichotomy, of course. One year ago, Bleacher Report ran a long piece entitled, “Why Does Everyone Hate Seattle Seahawks Cornerback Richard Sherman?”

The premise was expressed early: “Surely we all know that Richard Sherman is not really an evil person, but his cocky attitude and swagger rub almost everyone the wrong way.”

The story ran down a litany of Sherman’s “offenses,” from the “U Mad Bro?” exchange with Tom Brady to his contentious postgame skirmish with the Redskins’ Trent Williams.

But the article’s conclusion was telling: “People hate his big mouth and cocky attitude first and foremost, but overall I think there is one real reason why people hate on Sherman: (quoting a tweet) ‘Because he’s so damn good & he knows it.’ ”

Golden Tate believes the Seahawks are a team of uncommon passion, and it pours out on game day. Tate was penalized in St. Louis for taunting when he waved bye-bye to Rams defenders as he ran for a touchdown — just the sort of incident that detractors love to point to.

“I think we try to do things the right way,’’ Tate said. “When we make a great play, yeah, we have a lot of emotion. I think that’s what separates us from other squads, because we have a lot of emotion, and we love the game so much. You have guys who are really trying to be the best they can.

“Maybe from someone who’s never played the game, or someone who’s just watching from the outside, maybe it does come off as a little arrogant or cocky. But for us, I just feel like the preparation we put in, the work we put in for months and months and months, and really our whole lives, when something great happens, why not celebrate?

“We’re celebrating with our teams a lot of time, and we’re just having fun. We’re not doing this to be (jerks).”

Tate acknowledges that there is a line, and regrets that he crossed it in St. Louis.

“I think showing up the other team is when you do things like what I did against St. Louis, which was penalized,’’ he said. “Or you make a play and you stand over the guy or throw the ball at him. I think that’s kind of throwing it in their faces and showing off. I think the rules have changed so much they penalize it. That’s a penalty nowadays.

“You make a good play, there’s nothing wrong with beating your chest or celebrating with your teammates or whatever, as long as you keep within the rules. I think people don’t understand how important this game is, and you have to have passion and love for it to play for a long time, I believe.”

Chad reserves most of his ire for Pete Carroll, writing: “There might be close to 100 reasons not to admire the Seahawks, and 92 of them involve Carroll.”

Again, disapproval is in the eye of the beholder. Carroll’s relentless enthusiasm might have rubbed Husky fans the wrong way when he wore USC’s colors, but now it’s just part of his charm to the home folks. The fact that they’ve had more substance-abuse suspensions under his watch than any other team in that span — well, it’s easier to write those off as aberrations when you’re living and dying with the ballclub.

With the playoffs at hand, the Seahawks will be exposed to an ever-increasing audience — all the way, they hope, to the ultimate showcase. If they get to the Super Bowl, their polarizing potential will be maximized — and I’m sure the Seahawks would love nothing better.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @StoneLarry




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