Tales of the old West rivalry: Largent, Elway and the Boz

SEATTLE -- You think Colin Kaepernick is a pain in the pigskin? You shoulda seen John Elway running around in the 80's, like a crazy cornered cat on a hot tin Kingdome roof.

He was like Charlie Chaplin in one of those old herky jerky silent movies, with cops bumping into each other falling down trying to catch him. All that was missing was the manic piano music.

The Seahawks? They were the cops.

Go to YouTube and look him up. He was fast and elusive. He'd be running around all willy-nilly, 10-yards behind the line of scrimmage... even 20-yards. Lefts and rights, hairpin turns, with Seahawk linemen huffing and puffing on his trail. 30-stinkin' yards behind the line of scrimmage! And then right when there was nowhere for him to go, when you KNEW that this time he was trapped and they were finally gonna give him what he deserved, he'd heave the ball on the run with that ungodly arm of his, and every single time it seemed like it'd land in the belly of a guy with an ugly orange jersey for a first down.

On YouTube, in retrospect, it was beautiful.

At the time it was downright sickening.

It's almost hard to remember now, but back in the old AFC West days, the Broncos and the Seahawks were bitter, nasty rivals. At least that's what it felt like in Seattle. Truth is, in the back of our minds, there was always the nagging notion that the Broncos were slightly bemused by our enthusiastic hatred of all things orange. When you're on your way to six Super Bowls, everybody wants to be your rival.

Those were heady times in Seattle. The dome was rockin'. We were revolutionizing fan involvement with something called "The Wave" and I'm here to tell you, the place was a madhouse. Loud? Heck, it was INDOORS! The sound bounced all over the place. Not so good for hearing Paul McCartney and Wings, but perfect for football.

Mamma Blue was just a kid, and she stood out in her outlandish getup, because this was before pro football games turned into Halloween costume parties.

Dave Krieg was the quarterback, and Curt Warner was running hard, and Steve Largent was about as good as it gets.

But those damned Broncos...

The Seahawks played 'em twice a year. The Broncos are 34-18 all-time against Seattle. That's not a rivalry. It's a big brother holding his kid brothers arms down and thumping on his chest. No team has pounded more stakes into the collective heart of the Emerald City than the Broncos. No athlete has swung the hammer so mercilessly as Elway.

There were some great moments for the Hawks mixed in, though. The fist playoff game in franchise history was against Denver in December of 1983. Krieg threw three touchdown passes and the Seahawks won big, 31-7. It felt like a coming out party. Seattle had arrived.

The next season, in '84, the Hawks needed just a home win on the last Sunday of the regular season against the Broncos to clinch the AFC West title. Elway sucked the air out of the Dome that day. The Broncos won, and the seeds of sheer unbridled hatred began to fester.

And then along came a brash rookie linebacker in '88. He had a crazy haircut and a big mouth and he did something Seattle absolutely loved. He called out Elway. He nicknamed him "Mr. Ed" to make fun of his teeth. It was like he was a gunfighter in a saloon telling Elway to stand up and draw first.

Only there was something about Brian Bosworth that Seattle didn't know: he had no business being in a gunfight. With anybody. He was pretty much unarmed. The shakiest gun in the AFC West.

And the Broncos kept beating the Seahawks.

Sweet Revenge for Largent

Pretty soon kids stopped wearing their Mr. Ed T-shirts with Elway's head shaped like a horse. And then poof! The Boz was out of the league and making bad movies, and Elway was still winning games, and we felt like we'd been extras in our own bad movie, and everybody was pretty much embarrassed about the whole thing.

But the saving grace of the entire one-sided football relationship between Seattle and Denver played out in two parts. And for The 12th man, before it WAS the 12th man, it was better than the first two installments of The Godfather.

It was the whole Mike Hardin-Steve Largent affair, and it was magnificent.

In the first Hawks-Broncos match-up of 1988, Largent was coming across the middle on a crossing route. Kreig led him too much, Largent extended himself to make the catch, and Mike Hardin, the Broncos safety absolutely crushed him. He went straight for the head and delivered a blow that was equal parts crushing and cheap.

Largent crumpled in a heap, out cold with his legs awkwardly folded under him like a broken chair. There was blood and gore and two of Largent's teeth were knocked out onto the turf.

He laid there, unconscious in a heap for three excruciating minutes. For Seahawks fans, it was like seeing your dad get beat up. It was unthinkable.

The rematch came a three months later. And no poet, no novelist, no dreamer could have written it any better.

If you saw it, you'll never forget it. Kreig back to pass, throwing long, near the end zone, the ball flutters and it's intercepted. It was that guy, Mike Hardin with the ball! Insult to injury! And here's Hardin with the run back, dancing and cutting like he could run it all the way back! To the 15...the 20...he could go all the...

And then, out of nowhere flying into frame of the mind's eye comes a heat-seeking missile at the speed of fright! It's Largent and there's a sickening collision of plastic and flesh and retribution. He absolutely DESTROYS the guy! Crushes him! And there's Hardin on the ground all wobbly and dazed, wondering what truck had hit him.

We knew what he didn't: that was no truck. It was Hall of Fame greatness.

But ultimately, all memories of the Hawks and the Broncs back in the day lead to one man. Elway. No quarterback threw for more touchdowns or more yards against the Seahawks than John Elway. No quarterback beat the Seahawks more than John Elway. No quarterback, not Kaepernick or Roethlisberger or anybody else has inspired as much sheer loathing in the Emerald City as Elway did.

And you know what? He's still there. Only he's running the whole Bronco show now. He's the guy that brought Peyton Manning to Denver. Front office magic.

He's also the guy standing in the way of the Seahawks grabbing onto a destiny that has eluded them like a runaway Bronco wearing No. 7 for 38 years.

Time flies, the decades roll by, and sometimes it feels like nothing changes. It's the Seahawks trying to catch Elway again.

But this time The Boz is nowhere to be found. This time we're ready for a gun fight.
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