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Originally published Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 6:05 PM

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Winning is when things start to get complicated

Seattle’s not used to winning much on the national stage. And it shows.


Seattle Times staff columnist

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Whew, Seattle. This whole winning thing has turned out to be trickier than we thought.

First we had the winner who gloated too much. Richard Sherman’s game-winning play two weeks ago started out as an epic sports moment. But it ended up getting us a national lecture on grace and sportsmanship and how Seattle could grow up a bit.

Then we had the winner who apologized too much. Rapper Macklemore won the most Grammys of any artist in Seattle history, but then went all guilty-sorry about it. So instead of pride, we got a national lecture on white privilege and artistic authenticity.

Seattle just isn’t all that used to winning. We’re victory virgins. On the national or global stage, except for a few bolts out of the blue like the ’79 Sonics or Nirvana, Seattle still feels mossy and small and tucked in the country’s corner, well out of fame’s klieg lights.

A lot of us like it like that. Let New York and L.A. wage the pop-culture wars. Seattle’s sudden dominance is exciting but has led to a little awkwardness.

A few weeks back when I wrote that for all Seattle’s emerald glitter we also have an insecurity complex, some of you protested that I was crazy. But I ask you: Have you ever seen self-doubt manifested so strongly as in these recent moments of triumph?

If you’re confident you’re a great player on a great team, you probably don’t need to scream you’re the best, as Sherman did. And if you’re OK with your place and role in music, you probably don’t post a slightly self-serving “It’s weird and sucks that I robbed you” message to another artist, as Macklemore did. Especially if you don’t intend to return the award.

But I also don’t blame them. We’re all new at this. If the Seahawks win the Super Bowl, it will climax the winningest fortnight ever for Seattle on the national stage. As one of our music writers joked after I suggested Seattle still looks up to San Francisco: “If we win the Super Bowl and Macklemore wins all the Grammys, can we finally say Seattle is a world-class city?”

The best answer to that is: We won’t have to.

Cue Marshawn Lynch. He may be from the projects in Oakland. But this guy is the one truly speaking Seattle’s language.

Years ago, an official for the Sons of Norway Lodge in Ballard was explaining the Scandinavian influence on Seattle’s culture to me, and he noted they have an old code called “janteloven.” Simplified greatly it says: It isn’t all about you, even when it may seem like it is. So don’t make such a fuss of yourself.

Who knew Marshawn Lynch was Scandinavian?

OK, honorary Scandinavian. But when the media scrum asked him why he didn’t want to talk and he answered “I just don’t get it,” he not only exposed the emptiness of Super Bowl media week. He suggested a way for Seattle to learn how to win.

“I’m just ’bout that action, boss,” he said.

Sherman, Macklemore, are you listening? It’s ’bout the action (plus from here on out, ‘boss’ is the new ‘bro’).

Lynch’s advice is solid gold for others, too. Bertha: Cut the insipid tweeting and be ’bout the action. Politicians: Skip all the vainglorious speechifying and be ... well, forget that one. That’s too far-fetched even for me to fantasize about.

Now Marshawn isn’t always true to his own advice (like the time he grabbed his crotch at the end of his famed “Beast Quake” run). I’m not saying any of these people are role models. They’re entertainers. But for better or worse, we’ve temporarily hitched our civic star to them.

So here’s my Super Bowl fever dream. Seahawks win, and Marshawn gets MVP. But as we’ve seen, winning is when it just starts getting complicated. So then Marshawn rejects the award, explaining he meant what he said. He’s just ’bout that action. Boss.

And the old-time Seattleites looking on over at the Sons of Norway nod in silent approval.

Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or dwestneat@seattletimes.com



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About Danny Westneat

Danny Westneat takes an opinionated look at the Puget Sound region's news, people and politics. Send tips or comments to dwestneat@seattletimes.com. His column runs Wednesday and Sunday.
dwestneat@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2086

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