Yesterday was a special day. No, it was a super day. The NFC Championship had come to Seattle on the backs of an undefeated home record and the vocal chords of arguably the loudest NFL fans in America. In the team's 30th anniversary season, the Seattle Seahawks had finally ended their 21-year drought without a playoff win and brought the Conference Championship game into town. The only thing standing between them and the Super Bowl were the Carolina Panthers.
Kristin and I donned the same gameday apparel that we've worn to every game this season and left the house by 10am, nearly 6 hours before kickoff. We immediately headed to the whiskey bar at F.X. McRory's, just north of the stadium. To say this is a popular spot on gameday is an understatement. The pub measures about 70 feet across by about 80 feet deep and easily had over 400 people in it. Many reportedly waited outside for the place to open at 8am so they can lay claim to some of the tables and booths. Those lucky enough to get a table then sold the table to other guests when it was time to leave. The going rate? One round of drinks.
We weren't there early enough to get a table, but we found a great half-wall to lean against and were able to get in before they reached capacity. And so we stood. And drank. And chanted and yelled and made friends with other Seahawk fans. And watched the AFC Championship game on the television. And we drank some more. Ted Ferguson, the guy with the crash helmet who does the Bud Light "stunt" commercials came through with a camera crew and walked right by where we were standing, high-fiving everyone as he went. Yes, I high-fived Ted Ferguson, the Bud Light stuntman -- a man known for performing such acts of bravery as going shopping with his girlfriend, ignoring a table full of hot women while he was dining out with his girlfriend, and -- the most daring of all -- attempting to actually listen to his girlfriend about her day. The man is a legend.
At one point I worked my way over to the restroom and encountered a guy in a Carolina Panthers jacket on the way. And so some friendly trash talk was in order. "How did you get here without ending up in Mexico: don't all the cars in Charlotte only turn left?" He was a good sport and thought it was pretty funny. Original, at the least. I did too. I was proud of myself for having thought of it. Even moreso for not being one of the 60+ people in the hallway waiting to be allowed in. Good luck.
Eventually it was game time so we headed over to the stadium to get our customary hot dogs (always from Joe's) and kettle corn (always from The Dragon) from the vendors on the street before getting patted down on the way in. The Blackhawk helicopters that Kristin had seen earlier in the week flew overhead as the National Anthem was wrapping up (they had one of those nifty radar-jamming planes accompanying them which is definitely cool, albeit in a slightly uncomfortable way) and then it was time to raise the 12th Man Flag. This is a tradition at the start of all home games, where someone of local or Seahawks significance raises a flag with a giant #12 on it. The flag had been flying atop the Space Needle for the past week and Seahawks owner and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen did the honors. It was a touching moment as he had never done it before and, if not for him, the team would have been moved to Los Angeles a decade ago. He saved the team and the fans are indeed appreciative. Also, watching a billionaire in a giant puffy winter coat flail about waving a towel and cheering is just plain cool.
The game was a rout. All week long we heard about how unstoppable Carolina's star wide receiver Steve Smith is (and he is damn good) but the Seahawks defense had an answer for everything and shut him down. The Panthers only managed a measly 6 yards of offense in the first quarter. A mere 56 total yards at halftime. Meanwhile, the Seahawks were unstoppable. They threw with precision, they ran with force, and Carolina could do little to keep them off the field. The Seahawks seemed to move the ball and score at will. The game ended with a final score of 34 to 14, and the Seahawks controlled the ball for nearly 42 minutes, compared to Carolina's scant 18 minutes of possession.
We cheared like we never had all season and my ears are still ringing from the noise of the crowd. Let me repeat that, my ears are still ringing. It was louder than a rock concert. And when the game ended and giant cannons launched confetti into the air, some made it all the way up to our seats, a third of the way up the upper deck and we managed to catch it. A free souvenier, if you will. This city needed this. Forever a geographical after-thought in professional sports, Seattle needed this more than any other city in the country. And tears of joy streamed down the cheaks of many in the crowd. I've only been a member of this community for four years but so desperately wanted this victory for this place that I love to call home.
With the NFC Championship Trophy awarded and the well-deserved speaches made, 70,000 people filed out of the stadium chanting Su-Per Bowl! Su-Per Bowl. Indeed, the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl! Does that feel as weird to read as it does to write? It should. With a sore throat, ringing ears, and pulsing temples, we were carried off with the current of Seahawks fans to Pioneer Square, the city's nearby historic district. Car horns wailed, people chanted and screamed, and horse-mounted police looked on with approving smiles. We waited out the traffic at a nearby Italian restaurant and could hear the raucous noise through closed doors. When we left an hour later, it was as it was when we arrived. A party in the streets and everyone was invited.
The next two weeks will be spent listening to the pundits pre-annoint the Pittsburgh Steelers as the Super Bowl Champs and how the Seahawks aren't tough enough or nasty enough or experienced enough to win the game. They will say the same stuff they did all year long. They won't learn from the Carolina game. They'll forget what this team has accomplished, and they'll chalk the Seakaws presence in the Super Bowl up to a soft schedule and an overwhelming home field advantage. I won't argue the latter point.
And then, on February 5th, the Seahawks will once-again introduce themselves to the nation and will once again prove the so-called experts wrong. Pittsburgh is a good team that will be made to look poor. Because that's what these Seahawks do.