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A black day for the Seattle Seahawks and their reputation

On the blackest of black Mondays (you are never farther away from meaningful football than you are right now), the February gloom of Seattle is even gloomier than what this hateful month usually offers. The news and reviews are in: the Seattle Seahawks lost the Super Bowl — and the respect of their peers, NFL observers and fans.

Taking the temperature

What’s it like out there? There is no more football. All we’re left with is the weather — both literal and metaphorical. How apt does the Pacific Northwest’s cold rain seem right about now?

Defeat in such a fashion alone is such a bitter pill to swallow. The “what the $&%*” call on second and goal that reversed the fortunes of the Seahawks when victory was virtually assured will be recalled and lamented in Seahawks and NFL history for decades to come. It appears the minds of the Seahawks’ offensive brain trust were a little under-inflated.

“Great team.” “You fought hard.” “Excellent game.” All true. And also irrelevant.

If ever these sentiments were used to console a losing squad, the Seahawks will find them in short supply now. After the way in which the Seahawks talked and squawked over the past few seasons, the rest of the NFL will have none of it. Instead of the time of a dynasty, this the time of a comeuppance.

The classless conduct of a handful of notable Seahawks players at the conclusion of the game (Bruce Irvin, Michael Bennett) and throughout the course of the game (Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman) capped off a Seahawks brand that can no longer be ignored: petulant, immature, self-aggrandizing, classless. Win and you can often times get away with it. Lose and, well ….

They earned it — not only from me — but from any of the millions of peers, learned observers and fans that witnessed the would-be dynasty’s unraveling. A sample:

David Bakhtiari (@DBak69)

Couldn’t be happier! The right team wins and true colors are shown. #havesomeclass 7:15 PM – 1 Feb 2015

Mike Pereira (@MikePereira)

What a great game! tough game to officiate especially the way it ended. Hate the skirmish. Hate the Baldwin act. Loved working with you all. 7:10 PM – 1 Feb 2015

Melany Cronkhite ‏(@iTrumpet94)

Really Seattle? #havesomeclass I was really rooting for you. 7:06 PM – 1 Feb 2015

Dan Graziano ‏(@DanGrazianoESPN)

Everyone who’s surprised the Seahawks turned out to be sore losers, raise your hand. Seriously. Anyone? No hands? Ok then. 7:05 PM – 1 Feb 2015

Elliot Harrison (@HarrisonNFL)

Super Bowl 49…a classic, if not classy, finish. 7:05 PM – 1 Feb 2015

You mad, Rich? In a callback to Seahawks, circa 2012, this tweet, which featured a picture of the post-Super Bowl XLIX meeting between Tom Brady and Sherman:

SportsNation (‏@SportsNation)

This conversation went a little differently this time… 7:19 PM – 1 Feb 2015

And if you’re looking for class in defeat, you generally don’t find they guy responsible for the worst play call in Super Bowl history throw his player under the bus. And yet:

Gregg Bell‏ (@gbellseattle)

OC, play caller Darrell Bevell: “We could have done a better job staying strong on the ball” Lockette breaking on final slant. 7:58 PM – 1 Feb 2015

I could go on. And on. You get the point. Do the Seahawks? The piling on here is not just because of this game. The Seahawks have more than earned their reputation (good and bad) since early on in the Pete Carroll era.

As I wrote in an article that previewed Super Bowl XLIX, the Seahawks are not generally well-liked outside of the Pacific Northwest. For that matter, neither are the Patriots outside of New England. Losing and taking their sure-to-be-fined behavior to new levels did not endear the blue birds to any potential new followers.

Of course, one reason people resented the Seahawks is because they were the reigning champions. Problem solved.

Petard, meet hoist

Whereas the Seahawks of yore can rightly claim that they got the shaft from the NFL officials in their previous Super Bowl loss, no such lament can be cried in this instance. The final nail in their coffin in Super Bowl XLIX was one of hubris: They out-thought themselves. They were too clever by half. They went away from what they do best.

Coaches plot, plan and call the plays. Players execute. The coaches called a risky play. The other team’s players then out-executed the Seahawks. It meant the game, set and match. And the entire season now belongs to the New England Patriots.

It comes down to this: They lost the game. With it, they ceded the chance to justify their, let’s call it “brash” behavior, that emanates from their mouths and late, flailing fists. Losers don’t get to shape the narrative. It shapes you. Having become yesterday’s champions, the Seahawks are left with no defense for their often offensive, belligerent conduct.

You can still love your team. You should, in fact. Don’t abandon a team when they’re down. You can, however, still remain a fan and be let down by the fact that they cannot conduct themselves with class either in victory or defeat. Certain players excepted, of course. Russell Wilson remains a class act, as do other Seahawks. It is the notable few offenders that are most shaping the perception.

Let’s be clear: this cultural brand is not what cost the Seahawks a chance at a rare repeat Super Bowl victory — separate issue. This is, though, an example of the downside of the Pete Carroll School of Football Management: let the characters be characters and gently tug the reins once in awhile. Apparently, it works better on the field than off the field.

We’re off the field now until September. That’s a long time. The Seahawks will have to live with the off-the field perceptions until such time when they can get back on the field again and try to reshape the public and professional perceptions of their organization.

It’s tempting to think that it doesn’t matter. Sorry, but that’s not credible. If it were, we wouldn’t have the Baldwin rants, the Sherman screeds, the Bennett word gymnastics or the Marshawn Lynch manipulations (and more) on a force-fed schedule. If they didn’t care deeply about the respect of their peers and the public, we wouldn’t be getting so many proof points.

That they lost the game is now old news. What lives on is the way they lost. They didn’t win, so they’ve opened up the door to call into question their way of doing things. It could have been different. All they had to do was show some class while competing hard. Or win.