RENTON For TV networks, a New Years weekend usually is a wasteland of old movies, infomercials, reruns and Black & Decker Lutefisk Bowls.
So it was hardly a surprise that NBC, already desperate for visitors, demanded from Fox the rights to the Seahawks-Rams game in order to ooze it into the 5 p.m. Sunday night prime time spot.
Unscheduled reality programming doesnt get better than this:
Clash of the Tiniest Titans: Americas Funniest Playoff Teams.
Football fans with a lust for the absurd crave the amusement of watching the winner become not only the NFC West champion, but advance to the playoffs with a home-field advantage in the first round.
Should that winner be the Seahawks, the game will have the additional benefit of creating the NFLs first playoff team with a losing record (7-9).
That calls to mind another analogous bit of entertainment: the 1959 Peter Sellers movie The Mouse That Roared, in which the fictional, hapless Duchy of Grand Fenwick attacks the U.S.
The movie was a hit. As would be the Seahawks, darlings of a sports nation that loves freaks.
But before we set up that playoff mismatch, the Fenwicks, er, Seahawks must first get there. And they must get there, it was confirmed Monday, on the quarter-back of Charlie Whitehurst.
Keeping Matt Hasselbeck from his usual role as starter is a bad butt muscle, oddly appropriate given this game between back-enders. A week of rest from practice might help, according to Pete Carroll, but the head coach hedged no bets in declaring a full week of practice for Whitehurst.
Im trying to make it so there isnt any uncertainty, Carroll said. Im going with Charlie because we know hes ready to go.
That, of course, summarizes the biggest fear for Seahawks fans: Says who?
Coming off another battering, this one 38-15 Sunday at the hands of Tampa Bay, Whitehurst evinced nothing that would suggest he was ready to lead his team to victory in a nationally televised, prime-time, do-or-die game.
In three quarters of play following Hasselbecks non-contact injury, Whitehurst was on the far side of feeble. Even Carroll admitted same, more or less.
We had chances to put the ball down the field that he didnt feel comfortable with, Carroll said. He kind of made some conservative decisions. The ball just kept kind of getting dumped down.
Basically, Whitehurst did a Barney Fife shook like a leaf when the gun was in his hand. He was scared to throw deep, sloppy about dumping off, and struggled with play-calling and cadence.
To which I say:
Perfect for the Seahawks. The Rams arent ready for Whitehurst to be Dan Marino for a day.
Consider two things:
*It is nearly impossible for a professional athlete to play as bad as he did Sunday two times in a row;
*Even when the Seahawks had Hasselbeck in the first Rams game Oct. 3, they lost 20-3 in St. Louis.
And that was the period of the season when the Seahawks were, ahem, playing well.
A week ago, I advocated for Whitehurst to start against Tampa Bay simply because the game outcome likely would not affect Seattles chances at a playoff berth. Whitehurst needed the experience and Hasselbeck could use the rest. And if Whitehurst really was flailing in a close game, Hasselbeck was better prepared to come off the bench for a late rescue.
Well, Whitehurst played, but because of injury instead of intent. He wasnt ready. He took too seriously Carrolls admonition to take care of the ball, and lost his athletic aggressiveness. Thats on Carroll.
Nevertheless, game action was what Whitehurst needed, not only for this season but to help determine the Seahawks future at the position.
For reasons likely to be about house politics, Carroll instead danced with the guy who brung him. Starting Hasselbeck was not unreasonable, just not gutsy. And as events turned out, the game AND Hasselbeck were lost.
But now, Whitehurst has his bad mojo out of the way. He will have the complete support of players and coaches, plus a week of preparation. Then theres the home field, which should be sufficiently weather-whipped to provide additional advantage beyond decibels against a dome team.
Seahawks 17, Rams 16, NFL purists with fingers in their eyes, two knuckles deep.
Besides the flabbergasting nature of the triumph, the Seahawks as 7-9 division champions would fit well into the 2010 local sports condition.
When the football Huskies get to a bowl game with a 6-6 record, thanks to three last-moment wins, and when Felix Hernandez is voted the Cy Young Award with the fewest victories (13) ever for a winner, it adds, if not luster, then at least a grease spot, to our local legacy:
We do mediocre right.