Can Seahawks convert a longtime Cowboys fan into a 12th Man?
Evan Bush's love for the Cowboys is shaken on a rain-drenched night cheering for the Seahawks alongside the 12th Man.
Special to The Seattle Times
Evan Bush, 23, has cheered for the Cowboys since moving to the Dallas suburbs as a kid and once went on a date with a future Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, though he confesses, "I'm not sure she knew it was a date." He moved to Seattle in September and is an associate producer for The Seattle Times.
About three months ago, I drove through the yellowing hills of Eastern Washington on the last leg of a marathon road trip across the country to my new home in Seattle.
A burglar had broken into my car in Spokane, so I was missing a front passenger window. As a result, I listened to my first Seahawks game as a Washingtonian with wind howling through my car as my radio fought for reception in the hills. Mostly, it choked out static as the Seahawks opened their season against the Arizona Cardinals down in the desert:
"Russ...(static)...Wilson...(static)...dropsback...Lynch...."The bits of garbled announcing I could pick up seemed to indicate castoff quarterback Kevin Kolb, of all people, was leading the Cards to victory with little opposition from a feckless Seahawks offense.
Good, I remember thinking when the final score was announced. No competition to test my loyalty.
Boy, was I wrong.
Let me explain. I've been a blue-blooded Dallas Cowboys fan since about fourth grade. Since the late 1990s, I've been the guy who knew almost every name on the 53-man roster and most of the practice squad, too.
You become a 'Boys fan through osmosis. At some point, the highway billboards, Troy Aikman car-dealership commercials and Randy Galloway talk-radio chatter creep under your skin like a virus.
And you learn to accept the drama, the million-dollar tickets, the coaching carousel, the diva wide receivers, King Jerry, and the TV screen so big it's almost impossible to keep your eyes on the field.
After all, it's not a choice. It's part of living in Texas.
But then I came to Seattle. And I began to wonder, after just one season of cheering on Beast Mode and Russell Wilson's All-American golden arm, have the underdog Hawks won me over?
The Seattle Times sports editor was kind enough to let me test this idea. He scored me a press pass for the big game against the San Francisco 49ers.
So, I headed down to CenturyLink Field via light rail, which was full of Hawks fans in Santa costumes and giggling teenage girls who had just finished shopping at Westlake Center.
What I found at the stadium was quintessential Seattle: Smith Tower lurking behind the Hawks Nest, the smell of pot wafting up the Southwest ramp (a gradual hill by Seattle standards, I suppose), and just enough moisture falling early in the game to keep my notepad damp, but not run its ink.
The game turned out to be an all-out Seattle production. I started out in the press box while the Seahawks warmed up to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop," but decided to keep my head down and follow a photographer through the tunnel and to the field. After nearly running over the guy who carries the live hawk (sorry about that) and a sighting of indie rocker Ben Gibbard (or clone), I was on my way to being drenched and ready to see what the 12th Man was all about.
As a Texan, I can confirm the decibel level at the Clink compares with the other 12th Man's home in Aggieland, but less organized — more Nirvana than brass section.
The fans were just as dedicated, or crazy, as billed. Over at the Hawks Nest, I met an always shirtless 30-year-old named Bubba Carpenter who bellowed and stomped and flexed when just about anything happened, from a 2-yard gain to a touchdown. The lifelong Hawk sported a 12th Man tattoo on his biceps and a hawk design etched into his hairline.
I also happened upon "The Seahawk Rooster," who I met strutting his way through the Clink's halls. With a face painted entirely black and his head adorned with elaborate feathers (and talons?), he shared his secret to being a good Hawks fan:
"Get a little lemon juice and squirt it down the back of your throat. You can be pretty loud."
And how could I forget the Honeybucket-bonded duo? Patrick Harris and Keith Cavalier, both 47, are lifelong friends and Hawks fans who, as part of their game-day experience, seek out a decorative blue-and-green port-a-potty "back in the alley" near the Clink. You've got to go to show your Hawks colors with this rite of passage, they told me.
Good to know.
After four quarters of rain-drenched football, the Seahawks confirmed once again they were far removed from the Kolb-ing they took earlier this season by trouncing their newly cemented NFC West rival, the 49ers, 42-13. Wilson's golden arm remained intact. Seattleites shook the stadium with pounding feet and sore-throated yells.
But, most important, I'd wolfed down my first Seattle dog, climbed to the bleeders in Row NN to meet the real die-hards, and sat soaked in a sea of blue and green. As one lifelong Hawks fan put it, I'd braved enough of the rain to take my "first step" in becoming a Seattleite.
Call me a convert, Seattle. Next trip, I'm looking for that mysterious Honeybucket.