Kam Chancellor was a delightful, disruptive, kinetic menace

Kam Chancellor outed me as a fraud. Not in general — it’s my articles which do that, hah hah — but as a football fan fraud. The lie was mostly to myself. I liked the sport because of the intricate designs, the tactical battle, the delicate interplay of x and o. It wasn’t because of the comic-book violence. Definitely not. C’est pas sophistiqué.

Chancellor did to my pretensions what he did to basically everything he encountered in his NFL career: he beat the absolute hell out of it. Observe.

I don’t know about you, but it was basically impossible for me to watch any of these hits live without cackling like a delighted hyena. I loved Kam Chancellor and everything about him. It helped that I’m a Seahawks fan, but I like to think I’d have appreciated Chancellor no matter what. What’s not to enjoy? He exploded out of the secondary and then right through whoever he wanted to tackle, a heat-seeking anvil in a football helmet.

There were better players than Chancellor in Seattle’s Legion of Boom. Hell, there was a better safety in Earl Thomas, who was drafted 119 picks ahead of his partner. But while I have nothing but admiration for the rest of that unit, Chancellor was my favorite. It’s impossible, for example, to imagine Richard Sherman hurdling over most of Carolina Panthers’ roster and then giving their kicker the most terrifying day of his life:

My friend Zito Madu put it better than I ever could:

His feet don’t touch the any players because halfway through that jump, he ascended into a higher plane of existence. He’s now the divine Kam Chancellor. He ran into that jump the same way a DeLorean by a mad scientist goes back into the past … He went back in time, found that kicker’s great grandfather in a soccer field somewhere and destroyed him before coming back to put fear into his great grandson. They don’t mention Kam’s name in that kicker’s household the same way Hogwarts schoolchildren don’t say Voldemort.

That’s Chancellor in a nutshell. He was the sort of player who could send even the most cynical onlookers into spasms of delirious admiration. Seattle won that game against the Panthers, but four years later the result is incidental to the absurd majesty of that jump, which will live far longer in the memory. Chancellor gave his audience moments which transcended mere winning or losing. He was more real than the game.

When Chancellor was still active, I liked to think of him as a sort of avatar of a famous physics equation:

Kam was kinetic energy reified. And he loved transferring that energy into his hapless opponents. He somehow gave off the impression of being more solid than anyone else on the field. It’s not that I imagine being hit by any NFL player is a pleasant experience, but compared to Chancellor’s work, other tackles seemed … I don’t know. Ghostly.

Given his style, it was probably asking the impossible for Chancellor to have a long career in the NFL. As it turned out, he made it through 123 games before being forced to retire after a severe neck injury sustained in 2017. I still miss him, but I bet the NFC West’s receiving corps doesn’t.