SEATTLE – Russell Wilson tweeted the other day that it “makes me sick” not to be still playing in pursuit of a Super Bowl title.
The Seahawks quarterback did just about everything humanly possible to try to get his team there. The next few months in these parts will be spent agonizing over what went wrong, where the team’s deficiencies lie, and what can be done to correct them. The process is already underway in full force.
But the Seahawks’ premature ouster in Green Bay does allow one unique but ever-constant phase of their calendar to commence, in all its glory.
I’m talking, of course, about the unleashing of Off-Season Russ, the coolest, weirdest cat on Earth.
He’s a decidedly different fellow than the buttoned-up, cliché-ridden, so-called Stepford Quarterback to whom we become accustomed from August through January (or, optimally, early February).
You know the persona I’m talking about: “Typical boring Russell. Robot Russell.”
Don’t get offended. Those are Wilson’s own words, in a video he put out in 2018 to introduce a character he dubbed “Mr. Unlimited,” which he described as his alter ego.
“You got to be unlimited. You got to have a thought process of being unlimited,” Wilson explained, sort of. “So when people ask you what you’re thinking about or what you want to do in life or where you want to go, tell them I’m unlimited. You know what I mean.”
Well, not exactly, if truth be told. But Mr. Unlimited, in fact, is a perfect representation of Off-Season Russ – the Notorious OSR. A little bizarre, but ultimately endearing.
Once unencumbered by the immediate pressure and responsibility of winning games, Wilson seems determined to, in the words of a recent New York Times article, “let his goofball flag fly.”
He’ll make you raise your eyebrows, for sure, and maybe shake your head, but try to keep from smiling when his next way-out-there Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat post arrives. I’ll let you decide if you’re laughing with him or at him.
You can see already Wilson shaking off the rust from Off-Season Russ during the lead-up to Sunday’s Pro Bowl, during which he’ll be quarterbacking the NFC squad. There are the videos of him attempting witty repartee during an NFC workout, the picture of him cheekily wearing Ciara’s sunglasses, the photo of him sporting what appears to be a man bun.
Trying out hairdos and assorted costumes, incidentally, is a key element of Off-Season Russ. Who can forget OSR sporting a jaunty top hat while attending the Royal Ascot horse race in London in June 2018, or posting an animated video of himself dressed as a bunny, chanting “Welcome to my Snapchat” when he first joined that platform?
You never know where Off-Season Russ will show up via social media – and these are all real, from years past: flipping pancakes with Jeff Bezos; in the pits at a Canadian Formula One Grand Prix race; hanging out with Justin Timberlake at his album release or Snoop Dogg at the Super Bowl; filming a sketch for Joel McHale’s Netflix show; getting slimed as host of the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards; piloting Ciara on a helicopter ride around Seattle on “date night,” walking with her down the red carpet at the Academy Awards, or dancing with her on top of a hill in Cape Town, South Africa.
I’m eagerly waiting to see what exotic locales the Wilsons will visit, what tony events they’ll frequent, and what A-list celebrities they’ll rub elbows with between now and training camp. You never know quite what accent, inflection or tone of voice Wilson is going to use, either. That’s an equal part of the intrigue.
The classic of the genre, of course, occurred last April, after Wilson signed a record $140 million, four-year contract with a $65 million signing bonus and $107 million guaranteed.
Wilson appeared on Twitter, in bed with Ciara late at night, bare-chested, announcing in a smoky, Barry White voice, “Hey Seattle, we got a deal.”
It was an “I don’t believe what I just saw” moment. That video immediately became a meme, and imitations were rampant – including one memorable one by Seattle teammates D.J. Fluker and Tyler Lockett.
Who knows what Off-Season Russ has in store for 2020? Maybe this is the year he tries to unicycle or hot-air balloon or sing opera. I can’t wait to find out.
It’s a guarantee there will be posts galore of him training, working out, throwing the football, pumping iron, with and without teammates.
Another certainty: Eagle-eyed fans will study those videos and photos like the Zapruder film and claim to find evidence that Wilson has become a little thicker, or a little slower. And then he’ll come back in September in optimal shape and have another stellar season.
At that point, of course, Wilson will bid a fond adieu to Off-Season Russ, along with the rest of us, and reassume his straight-laced alter ego: Robot Russell. The top hat goes back into the closet, the dancing shoes come off, and the soundtrack is set permanently on “earnest, supportive teammate with a laser focus on playing football.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to soak it up while I can. OSR, let loose that hot-air balloon.
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