After an exhilarating trip to Atlanta capped off with an emphatic Seahawks victory, it was time to head back "home." While it's technically not my home, I've always been fond of the city of Seattle, the state of Washington, and the Pacific Northwest in general. This season however, it's become my "home away from home" in a more literal sense than it already was. The best part of being in and around Seattle this year has been seeing the anticipation and the love that the city and it's people have for the Seahawks. Even as far back as August, on my maiden voyage to the motherland for Seahawks Training Camp, you could tell that the city of Seattle was ready for a championship. Fast forward to the present and as you can imagine, the belief in this team is at an all-time high.
The trek to Seattle was a bit different from most of the journey's this season. I still got a ride to the airport (Kennedy this time) from my lovely girlfriend at ridiculously early hours of the AM, that much remained the same. What was different this time around was that this was a Nonstop flight from NYC to Seattle, my first of the season. As a move to save money this season, I've always gone with the cheapest flight possible. That usually means a connector somewhere whether it be Charlotte, Houston, Chicago, etc. Luckily for me, a regular at the place I work at named Margaret blessed me with 25,000 flyer miles and a free roundtrip ticket from NYC to Seattle. It, without a doubt, ranks as one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me and one of the nicest gestures I've seen in my life. Ever. And I've experienced some good fortune in my life, especially this year, so that's saying a lot.
Not having to connect flights came up big in the clutch. I hadn't slept much during the week so it was nice being able to just pass out on the plane. It wasn't the best sleep in the world, but in the words of Russell Wilson, there's no time to sleep! I landed in Seattle early in the morning on Saturday and headed down to the International District on the Light Rail. After some dumplings in Chinatown, I headed to King St. to see if anyone was out and about and watching college football. I'm still getting used to bars being crowded and games being on so early in the morning, but it's something that I could definitely get used to. With an Old Rasputin in my hand, some dumplings in my belly, and the Cougs game on multiple TV's, life was good.
It was about to get better though. Not only did the Cougs pull of an improbable upset (by WSU's standards, of course) of Arizona on the road in the Desert, but almost immediately after the game was over and I was headed to my next destination, I got a tap on the shoulder. Turns out it was James, whom I had met earlier in the season in Indianapolis when we were introduced by our friend Leif. He and his buddy were in the midst of their own Seahawks roadtrip, having come from Minnesota to check this one out. Ya just gotta love seeing someone fly from Minnesota to Seattle for a football game, and not rooting for Minnesota. I just love that kind of stuff. It helps me realize how well represented around the country the 'Hawks are. We downed a few more beers before calling it quits and heading separate ways for the night.
The next morning, gameday, I was supposed to be down at Touchdown City at 9 to meet my new friend Virgil to buy his ticket from him. Turns out the 72 bus doesn't leave Lake City where I was staying until 9:07. I knew I would be screwed by 10 because that's when the doors open and they start letting people in. Without a working phone, I would have definitely been screwed. The bus, which took the most agonizingly painful route ever and stopped at nearly every block, was sure to be the death of me on this day. I finally arrived at International District at 9:56 AM. I looked at the clock as I walked off the bus, thought about where I was in comparison to Touchdown City, and then thought about Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. The thought was that, sure, it might seem impossible to make it there on time but I absolutely had to give my best effort. Russell and Beast would do it, so damn it, I had to do it too.
As I sprinted through the parking lot, long hair and beard flowing, backpack included, I knew that I slightly resembled a terrorist. I saw some of the looks I was getting, however, I simply didn't care at all and just kept running. As I pulled up to Touchdown City at what I would assume was 10:02 or something close to that, I saw Virgil's buddy who goes by the name "Rooster." I screamed his name and luckily grabbed his attention. He was next to go in to Touchdown City, so I had gotten there just in the nick of time. Luckily, Virgil had left my ticket with him before he headed inside the WaMu Theater a few minutes earlier. My body felt like it was about to shut down on me from all of the running, but it was worth it. I had my ticket to the game and now it was time to meet up with some good people and make this day a good one. I thought to myself, "Marshawn and Russell would be proud. Or at least my little sister would be.
Before I could make it to Temple Billiards though, I bumped into 3 guys from Minnesota that I had met the night before in downtown Seattle. I had reached into my pocket for my wallet and the wallet was upside down and thus unloaded all of it's contents on to the pavement. I scrambled to pick up the cash that had fallen out, and these 2 guys in Vikings gear and their friend stopped to help me pick everything up. As luck would have it, I bumped into them again. As I thanked them and wished them good luck during the game, one of the guys said the only thing he wanted in return for helping me the night before was a green rally towel to take home to his son. A pretty simple request considering what he had done for me the day before, so his son is now a soon-to-be-proud owner of a Seahawks rally towel. Who knows, maybe this is the moment that turns him into a lifelong Seahawks fan?
So finally, after all the running and still struggling to catch my breath, I made it to Temple Billiards. Plans of an early meetup at Triangle Pub had gone by the wayside for me, but I was just happy to be there at the moment. I had the chance to meet some great new people like Adam and Scotte, as well as some old friends in Dom and James. Now, you've probably heard about the "Seattle Freeze" if you've ever been to Seattle, or maybe you've just heard of it's legend. I would say that it's real and that I've felt it before, although it's no match for me because I just ignore it until I eventually break the person down and force them to want to engage in conversation or I just leave it alone. Some times people just need their space. However, the most amazing thing has been seeing how the Seahawks have absolutely destroyed the "Seattle Freeze." I've had some amazing times talking Seahawks and life with some great members of the 12th Man. The two go much more hand in hand than I had the perspective to even understand before this season started. Seeing people travel from Minnesota, Oklahoma City, and even Iowa for 'Hawks games has been great to witness. No matter where you're from or what you're doing, we've all got some serious love for the 'Hawks in common and seeing that love shared has been truly awesome.
It was time to leave Temple and head down to Touchdown City ourselves for an opportunity to try and get some good 12's some access to the field. I had gotten on the standby list a few weeks earlier prior to the Tennessee game, and wanted to "Hawk it Forward" for some deserving 12's. We even bumped into Luke Willson's dad, Mike, while we were down there! What an excellent, humble guy who was just hangin' around with some normal folk prior to the first time watching a game in Seattle. He and his friend were impressed with the Seahawks gameday experience already, and this is before the game even started!
Sadly, life isn't full of happy endings. Our access to the field was denied and I felt like a doctor who had just lost a patient in the ER. We didn't make it. I was pretty devastated about letting the team down. A damn good group of people that definitely deserved to be out there but sometimes thems the breaks in life. What can you do? Having Mr. Willson there to cheer me up and tell me not to be devastated was pretty cool though, further solidifying his status as a living legend.
With the taste of life-defeat firmly still in my mouth, we headed to our seats to see if the Seahawks could make it 10-1. That doesn't even seem real when I type it. God I love it though. First, I headed to a friend named Michael's seat (pictured above) to take in some of the pre-game festivities. I don't know if I've seen a more perfect seat at a sporting event. Outrageous is all I can say. Beautiful is another word that comes to mind. Michael, like me, is also going to every game this season and I had met him in Atlanta the week before. Like mostly every other 12 I've had the pleasure of meeting, he's quality people.
Finally, it was time for kickoff and it was time for me to get to my seat! The Seahawks defense wasted no time in getting to work, forcing a fumble on the opening drive of the game. Cliff Avril is the master of the forced fumble, the one last Sunday being his 3rd of the season. I still don't understand how it's possible that the Seahawks ended up with both Avril AND Michael Bennett this past offseason. Both have 6.5 sacks now through 11 games, incredible and exactly what this defense needed.
The season of firsts continued for me and the Seahawks at half time this week. Before the game, I had never seen someone receive a Purple Heart before. Those in attendance at this one got to watch as a few soldiers received their awards for injuries sustained while in the line of duty. It was definitely an inspirational moment and it gave me some perspective. While I was thinking about how bad I felt because I couldn't get people on to a football field, there's some guy getting a medal because he was injured in a rocket launcher attack. I don't think I've got anything on him when it comes to having a reason to feel bad about things. Leave it to life to give you a swift kick in the ass when it comes to times like this.
Don't let the final score fool you, this one wasn't always a laugher in the way that the Falcons game was. Minnesota did their best to hang in there and give Seattle their finest effort. That's often been the case this season, with teams like Tampa Bay and other struggling clubs mustering up their finest effort against the Seahawks. That's just what happens when you've got the target on your back. The Vikings brought a decent game, but vaunted RB Adrian Peterson could never get going and the Vikings defense struggled to slow down Russell Wilson and company.
Speaking of #3, what a stellar performance from the young man. Between the picture-perfect threading of the needle to find Doug Baldwin in the endzone for 6 right before the end of the first half and the poetic underhanded flip to Marshawn Lynch, Russell had one of "THOSE games." You know, the ones that guys like Bill Polian and Mel Kiper said that he'd never have in the NFL. Well, he's having THOSE kinds of games at an alarmingly high level right now. Life's moving in slow motion out there for Russell. I'm honored to be able to witness it.
And how could I forget Percy Harvin? I've had the sneaking feeling for a while now that people are underestimating the return of Harvin and the impact that he will have on the Seahawks as they get ready to make their playoff push. I don't think anyone will be sleeping on Percy anymore though. What an introduction to the team! First, a breathtaking catch to keep the chains moving on a key 3rd and 10 with the game tied at 10. What concentration, such focus! Expect more top-notch stuff like that from #11 in the very near future. Also, expect more kick returns like Percy's first with the team. The speed he showed when he hit that massive hole was jaw-dropping. I was drooling thinking about the possibilities of getting to see that every game. Whether the team uses Harvin sparingly as a Kick Returner, or if he becomes "THE GUY" back there much like Golden is on Punt Returns, he's going to make plays when he gets the ball in his hands back there. However often that may be.
As much as I can talk about the offense, and there's plenty more to talk about especially with the return of Russell Okung, Max Unger, and Breno Giacomini, it was the defense who salted this one away. It just wasn't a good day for Vikings QB's. Things started decently for Christian Ponder, even beating Richard Sherman for a TD to tie the game at 10 early on, but things went to hell shortly thereafter.
You know the rest. The Seahawks turned it on late and only turned it off when they pulled their starters and let the backups get some work to finish things off. I love it when I see Tarvaris Jackson in there. You know things went really well if you turn on the TV and #7's doing his thing by game's end. Finally, the game clock struck zero's all around and the Seahawks had finally done it. 10-1 and only beginning to start to scratch the surface of their potential dominance.
What could make the day more perfect you ask? How about stopping in the middle of the street on Occidental Ave. to watch the Saints beat the 49ers from outside of a bar with a bunch of 12's? That was the scene last Sunday, as everyone had their fingers crossed as Garrett Hartley stepped up to give the 49ers another defeat. A roar let out as the kick went through the uprights. Luckily, I was standing next to a guy from New York City who happened to be a Saints fan. Dressed in his Jimmy Graham jersey, we wished each other good luck in preparation for the battle that will take place on Monday, December 2nd. It figures to be a great one.
The troops gathered one last time at Temple Billiards for the night. Jordan and Scotte joined James and his buddies and I as we celebrated a huge win while watching the Chiefs try and knock off the Broncos. It didn't work out for them but that also meant some good news for the 'Hawks. They were now a top of the NFL as the best team in the league in the standings. A truly amazing accomplishment for this organization when you consider how far they've come since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over 4 short years ago.
The bizarre coincidence of the night came when I was at the bar and was thinking about the #33. It was the number of the aisle I was in on my flight to Seattle and it was also the number of the avenue of the house where I stayed. I'm not big into coincidences and stuff like that, but for some reason I was thinking Christine Michael was going to have a big game. He ended up with 1 carry in garbage time. Then, it happened. Right when I was trying to piece things together, this appeared in front of me at the bar.
After watching the Broncos do away with Kansas City, it was time to head to the airport to do away with the weekend. The Seahawks were 10-1, life was good, and a great time was had. As I headed to the Stadium station for the Light Rail, I looked back at CenturyLink one last time and just thought about how lucky I've been. A giant poster of Marshawn Lynch stares back at me, as if to tell me that Beast Mode already exists inside of each of us, we just have to be prepared to earn everything. To put an exclamation point on the weekend for me, a young man at JFK Airport sees my Seahawks jacket and starts chatting with me. His name is David too, and he wanted to tell me that even though he's a Cowboys fan, he thinks CenturyLink is the best stadium in the NFL. It might not have the giant big screen that Jerry Jones built in Texas, but he says it more than makes up for it with fan experience. "Everything is about football in Seattle", he says. He tells me that even though he was only a 12 for a day, it's going to be hard for him to go back to the drudgery of being a Cowboys fan.
Enjoy the bye week, everyone. The team has earned the rest and hell, the fans have too. Some of these games haven't been easy to watch but they make the ride that much sweeter. I'm so incredibly proud of this team and it's fans that I can't even begin to express it in words at the moment. I won't try. All I'll say is 10 and 1 and GO Hawks!