Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks downed Tom Brady and the New England Patriots with a throw so beautiful that it might help NFL fans forget Wilson's presence in an ugly scene earlier in the season.
Against the Green Bay Packers, Wilson threw the ignominious pass that many believe ended the labor dispute between the NFL and their officials. That last-second heave into the endzone was (inexplicably) ruled a touchdown by the replacement refs working the game, and defiantly declared an interception by pretty much every other impartial observer of the play.
The Seahawks won. The Packers lost. And the vast majority of NFL fans screamed "Foul!"
The (mis)ruling on that pass became symbolic of the NFL's greed, obstinacy and perceived callous disregard for the value of the product on the field, a sport that a wide swathe of fans and players unabashedly cherish.
In light of the outcry over the call, and all the incessant replays reinforcing general fan disdain over the labor dispute, Wilson's post ... ahem ... "touchdown" celebration—a reverent two-fingered-salute heavenward—might have seemed blasphemous to those who considered the Seahawk victory a diabolical product of ineptitude, not a blessing.
Wilson was, of course, an innocent bystander who got dragged into that mess, and no one was blaming him for the debacle.
But there he was, on replay after replay, throwing the ill-fated pass, beaming with joy.
Some fans might not have known what Wilson has been through, how intricately entwined every one of his reverent athletic celebrations is with tragedy and searing loss.
When Wilson's father was dying in 2010 from diabetes and multiple strokes, Russell got what he believes was a chance to make his father proud, even in the midst of his father's coma.
As a two-sport athlete, Wilson had just been drafted into the MLB by the Colorado Rockies, and he relayed that news to his motionless and unresponsive father.
Wilson left the room but felt mystically prompted to return to see his father just at the moment that he passed away. Wilson took it as a sign that somehow—miraculously, even—his father had been holding on to hear the triumphant news.
Here is his description of the encounter, via Linda Thomas of 97.3 KIRO FM:
"We were just standing there and all of a sudden it clicked," he said. "The Holy Spirit was telling us to go in there. So we went in the room and - this is the crazy part.
"I walked in and I could see the (EKG) monitor. As soon as I walked in the door I said: 'Hey, Dad, I'm here.'
"As soon as I said that, the line went flat. That's how I knew the Lord is real. I knew my dad heard me and he could hear everything I was telling him about how I got drafted. He was waiting for something great to happen.
"That's how I knew he went in peace. He is here watching me right now."
So when Wilson points to the sky in celebration, it is a profound gesture.
A little less than three weeks after that disputed touchdown against Aaron Rodgers's Packers, Wilson got another shot at a fourth quarter comeback against another undisputed elite QB in Tom Brady. And this time Wilson threw a 46-yard strike to Sidney Rice that required no instant replay and provoked no dispute.
Wilson signaled to the heavens, a feat and celebration that will hopefully be replayed for years to come as a signature moment for a rookie QB making early strides toward greatness.
Play it again, Russell. Something great has happened.
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