When seismologists began observing that Seattle was due for an earthquake or two, there was no mention of American football. Yet the Richter scale registered just above 2.0 when 67,000 rabid fans reacted to Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn “The Beast” Lynch’s rumble for 67 yards and a decisive touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on 8 January 2011. The tremors have hardly stopped. Being part of the Seahawks horde, known collectively as the “12th Man,” is now considered the most sought after tourist attraction in the city.
Seattle has always basked in its reputation as a mellow bastion. The laissez-faire attitude can be seen on the roads, where Washington drivers assume a “no, please after you” attitude, on the sidewalks, where pedestrians routinely let others pass in front of them, and in the air, where a chorus of “excuse me’s” reverberate should two people reach the same spot at the same time. But something changes when a mellow Northwesterner enters a sports stadium.
American football is a loud, boorish sport, perfectly scripted for fan participation. The opposing team approaches the line of scrimmage, gets set and”¦ cue the mayhem. The noise has reached 137.6 decibels, louder than a Boeing 747 jet engine.
Football (or soccer) lasts from September to January. The maximum number of home games per season is ten, and tickets here rarely dip below US $150. Fortunately, travellers to Seattle can experience “Seamaniacs” first hand during the Seattle Sounders FC’s Major Soccer League season. Even if the quality of play doesn’t quite match the Barclay’s Premier League, the match skills have improved noticeably in the past few years.
Joining the Emerald City Football Supporters involves much more than rooting for the Sounders, a perennial playoff team. Pioneer Square saloons fill with supporters in the early afternoon of a 7pm match, as bars including Fado and Elysian Fields fill to the rafters with green and blue bedecked fans. Led by Sound Wave, the team’s marching band, the “March to the Match” begins in Occidental Park 60 minutes before kickoff.
The match itself carries enough flag waving, song singing and call-and-response chanting to make any European club proud. The supporter base would please any owner in the world. More than 60,000 people attended the Seattle-Portland derby in August – only Bayern Munich drew more fans that weekend. Summer friendlies against European sides, including Chelsea and Manchester United, routinely sell out the 67,000-seat stadium. Rarely are there less than 32,000 for any match, making the Sounders the most successful franchise launch in North American professional sports history.
Century Link Field, aka the “Clink,” has endured five registered earthquakes, aka “Beastquakes” this season as the Seahawks posted the best record in the NFL. More impressive, NFL commentators say the Seahawks’ home field advantage is worth three points a game, the 12th Man’s influence unprecedented historically. Lately, the two blue, green and grey clubs have begun to meld. Never before heard in professional American football, Seahawks fans now serenade quarterback Russell Wilson and other star players with song during the game.
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Have you been to a Seattle Seahawks or Sounders game? What did you make of it? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Crai Bower