This must be what the bye week feels like for NFL players. A week after a whirlwind of activity saw me leave New York City for Seattle, only to leave Seattle headed for Phoenix, now I've finally got some free time. Not that I'm complaining, oh no, this last week was definitely one of the best of my life and one that I'll never forget. Still, if there's one thing I've been thinking about a lot lately is how much respect I have for players and their ability to practice, live their lives, travel and play games, and do it all over again.
It seems like an eternity ago, but it was only two Saturday's ago that I set out from JFK airport in Queens, New York to my favorite destination, Sea-Tac! This time, I'd be meeting a new friend that I had made while taking in the Hawks game in Charlotte at the start of the season. Man, does that ever feel like an eternity ago already! Anyways, it was in Charlotte that me and my girlfriend met Bob AKA PredatorHawk. Bob's one of the good guys still out there and he was kind enough to bring my Indianapolis game tickets to me while we were in Charlotte. It might not seem like much, but it was a very cool gesture. We had a blast in Charlotte watching the 'Hawks fight their hardest for a tough victory, and despite the eventual loss, we had a great time in Indianapolis with the rest of the gang also.
When I mentioned in passing in Indianapolis that I would be in Seattle for the game against the Titans, Bob immediately told me to crash at his hotel, as he would also be in town for a business conference. Not only that, but in the buildup to the game, Bob told me that the guy who was supposed to go with him to the game had something else to do and that the ticket was mine! Wait, there's more. He then told me that he had passes to get on the field before the game. As you could probably imagine, I was on cloud nine. My last few days in NYC crawled by, as my mind was drifting away to what the future held.
I'd always dreamed of being on the field in some capacity. Whether it be with a press pass, pre-game pass, for a stadium tour (which I still haven't done), I had never been on the field at CenturyLink and I had only heard of the sheer awesomeness. Soon, I would be afforded that opportunity. Would I freak out? Handle it in stride? Who knew. The not knowing helped me stay grounded in the present and in reality, so I finished out my work week and headed for my flight early Saturday morning. I was especially excited for this trip because Seattle figured to be a hotbed for sports action for the weekend. Not only were the Seahawks hosting the Titans on Sunday, but the Huskies (Boo) were hosting the Ducks on Saturday. Add to that that my beloved Cougs would be hosting Oregon State with a chance to further add to their impressive 2013 campaign and you had the recipe for many a sportsgasm.
As if all that wasn't enough Washington sports one could possibly handle, I had the pleasure of sitting next to the Seattle University Women's Soccer Team on my connector flight from Phoenix to Sea-Tac. What a cool bunch of girls that you can tell enjoy their teammates company and consider one another close friends. It made me think of the Seahawks and how close-knit they have become since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over. Not surprisingly, this close group has experienced success this season, having started the season 5-0 up to that point, and having shutout their opponents in 5 straight matches. Here's hoping they keep playing well and keep having a good time while they do it.
When I finally touched down in Seattle after nearly 10 hours of traveling, it was off to find Bob. Fittingly enough for such a big Seahawks fan, I would find him at Easy Choppers and Tattoos, getting some more Seahawks ink of course. He already had the Seahawks logo on his bicep, this time he was adding a great 12th Man tattoo, complete with feathers and 12th Man logo pointing to the heavens. His tattoo artist, J-Sick, did an excellent job and also told me that he's done work on Seahawks Guard James Carpenter. Despite what you might think, he says that Carpenter was nervous and apprehensive about getting his first tattoo. However, J-Sick quickly pointed out that weeks later when he saw Carpenter again, he had already gotten more work done. I guess getting inked really is addictive? I don't know, I don't have any tattoos.
After the tattoo, it was on to Ivar's for some Bacon Clam Chowder and Halibut and Chips. I hadn't been to Ivar's for years, so it was great to go back and taste all that great seafood once again. Some Manny's Pale Ale to top things off and you couldn't possibly ask for much more from the meal they call dinner. We skipped dessert, but I got my own personal dessert, the delicious tears of Washington Huskies fans after getting spanked for the 10th time in a row by rivals Oregon. However, this sweet feeling would lead to quite the stomach ache, as I then watched the Cougs get humiliated (don't worry, we're used to it by now!) in the 4th quarter by Sean Mannion and the Beavers. You win this time, state of Oregon. Well played, the better teams won in both cases.
As is usually the case, I couldn't get much sleep that night as I kept thinking about how amazing tomorrow was going to be. Not only could I not stop thinking about going on the field and all of that good stuff, but I also couldn't stop thinking about how the Titans might actually give the Hawks a run for their money. Too many people were looking past Tennessee, a decent team, and that usually means things won't be that easy. At no point did I fear defeat, but I did fear the game being much tougher than people thought, and Marshawn Lynch being needed much more than you'd like with just 3 days to rest before heading to the Desert to take on the Cards on Thursday Night Football.
Another reason why I couldn't sleep well is because I had a cyst growing on my back. It's not the prettiest visual, but believe me, it was pretty painful. It made it nearly impossible to sleep, travel, or sit comfortably, but I kept thinking about how Marshawn Lynch has way worse back problems and yet he still dishes out the punishment, as well as taking it, on a weekly basis. The morning finally came around and it was time to get down to the stadium and proceed with the day. The 550 was crawling with 12's that morning and everyone was in a pretty good mood, chatting it up with strangers and talking about the team. Me and Bob made it to King Street Bar & Oven, where I took part in Bob's pregame ritual of drinking a Bloody Mary. I have to say, I might be adding it to my repertoire. We downed our drinks and just like that, we were off to CenturyLink to get on the field!
As you can tell from the picture above, Bob goes full on "Beast Mode" on Gameday. PredatorHawk is born and he's truly a fan favorite. He has fun with it, which is what this is all about anyway, and the 12th Man picks up on that and appreciates the time and effort put into it. The same good guy still remains though, even behind the face paint, and as we stood there in Touchdown City waiting to hit the field, I couldn't help but be thankful for such an incredible opportunity. To make things even more surreal, we meet Peter McLoughlin, the team's President and we chat with him for a New York minute. Classy guy, no doubt, and his wife was pleasant as well. It was definitely a huge honor and before I could collect my bearings, Chris (or DancinHawk as he's known because all he does is dance on the sidelines during warmup) rounds up all the fans who were going out there, gives us a pep talk, and just like that, we were off.
The first thing I do when I touch the field is kiss the turf. Everyone looked at me like I was a maniac, but for the Seahawks I am. With turf pellets and rubber engulfing my beard, I took in the subtle roar of the crowd. Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini are just a few feet away from me and I now see what my buddy Jon was talking about when he told me about when he went on the field. These guys are huge! Monsters! Then, out ran the players from the tunnel to warm-up for the game. Oddly enough, I didn't feel overwhelmed by the moment. It felt right, as if I belonged. I had never had this feeling before that day, but I had that feeling people talk about when they mention accomplishing something they had worked long and hard for. Here I was, on CenturyLink Field surrounded by Seahawks players and coaches on Gameday. Surely, along with the birth of my little sister, this was the greatest moment and the greatest day of my life.
All I can say is that the pace of the warmups is incredible. No wasted movement, no wasted time, everything being done with a singular purpose and that is preparing to win! Max Unger runs over to a woman next to me and gives her a hug and takes a picture, he seems like a genuinely nice guy. Everything about the experience is perfect, and as we're about to head to our seats, we bump into Beverly Sherman AKA Richard Sherman's Mama. She signs my jersey and notices that it was also signed by Doug Baldwin. She calls him "her other Stanford Son" and we talk about how he and Richard were teammates while playing for Jim Harbaugh, ironically enough. I found it fitting that I got the chance to meet her on the field before the game, after having missed the opportunity to meet her in Houston because I was instead hanging out with other 12's and Luke Willson's father.
It was a lot to take in but as we left the field for our seats, it all sank in. One of my boyhood dreams was finally complete. It took over a decade, and I had almost completely forgotten about the possibility over time, but the dream had now become my reality. What an amazing feeling.
I swear I was still in a daze for most of the first half, about up until the now-infamous Chris Maragos channeling of Garo Yepremian. As the Titans took the lead heading into the half on one of the craziest fluke plays I've ever seen in person, all the happy feelings from prior to the game started to wear off. It was obvious that our boys were in for a bit of a struggle and that this one could still go either way depending on which way the ball decided to bounce. Still, I knew deep-down inside that "my special day" would not be ruined. Well, I'm a Seahawks fan so I definitely knew that that was possible, but it was more like Ryan Fitzpatrick would not beat the Seattle Seahawks at the CLink.
Man, Earl Thomas was on fire in that game! I know it's already over a week ago, and that in this day and age a week is the equivalent of about a month with the internet always churning out "new news", but I want you to remember this game as the game Earl Thomas stood up and took charge of this defense. In fact, he's always been the silent leader back there, but I've never seen him so animated like he was in this one. Need some proof? Just ask Damian Williams of the Titans AND his own buddy, Kam Chancellor!
Earl was electric, and Richard Sherman was his usual Richard Sherman self. Is there anything prettier than a Richard Sherman INT? My girlfriend might hate this, actually, lose the word hate because she will, but the answer's gotta be no! I'm telling you, when that pass went up and everyone in the stadium realized it was Sherm in coverage, the only thing left to do was...
Celebrate. And that we did. I then had the excellent opportunity of staying in Seattle until Wednesday before finally flying to Arizona for part two of my journey. I'll get into that in a little more detail tomorrow, but I just couldn't stop thinking about what a great day it was. First and foremost, the Hawks got a W and moved to 5-1 on the season. It wasn't the prettiest win in Seahawks history, but if you've been a fan for long enough you know that any W is pretty, no matter how ugly. And that's something this team has gotten very good at, is winning ugly. Not to say they aren't capable of much more, no, we've seen in the past that they are. But there's something to be said about winning when you're not on your A game, and the Seahawks have certainly proven they can do just that.
So, as I headed to the airport with my back a mess like Marshawn, 5-1 in the rear-view mirror, and with a trip to the Desert looming, I gave one last look to the beautiful city of Seattle, thanked her and Bob once again, and set out on my next mission. To watch this team go 6-1, something that had never been done in team history. I'd already seen one first this season, the first 4-0 start in team history, could it be that I would get to witness yet another first? Well, you already know the answer to that, but I'll let you know how it all went down! Man it's a beautiful time to be a Seahawks fan, remember that my fellow 12's! GO Hawks!