SEATTLE WA - DECEMBER 19: A fan looks on during the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons at Qwest Field on December 19 2010 in Seattle Washington. The Falcons defeated the Seahawks 34-18. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
It's free to be a fan. If you have TV and live in the local area, being a fan is as simple as watching the team play each Sunday. It's free to be a fan outside the area too. Assuming one already has access to the internet, and most people in America do, being a fan is as simple as searching the team's name. One can be a very intense fan of the Seahawks and never spend much money on the team. And for all of us that follow the team, love the team and order our weeks around Sunday, the last three seasons have sucked.
People that attend Qwest are customers. Some, presumably most, are Seahawks fans. Some, presumably most, can afford tickets and transportation and food and lodging and whatever other expenses come with attending a game. It sounds romantic, but I doubt many fans are going broke to watch the Seahawks play. But affordable or not, it is very expensive to attend an NFL game.
I just Googled Seahawks ticket prices and found a site selling 300 level tickets. The prices range from $90.00 to $95.00 per ticket. I am sure someone can give an independent account of exactly how much taking the proverbial "family of four" to Qwest costs, but I wouldn't be surprised if, accounting for gas, lodging, food, tickets, parking, anything bought through the vendors, etc, it costs upwards of $500.00.
When Qwest Field erupted into a chant of "Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!" most people immediately thought of Matt Hasselbeck. The booth chattered about Hasselbeck. The camera crew zoomed on Hasselbeck for a reaction. Field Gulls game thread was full of sympathy towards Hasselbeck. And I get that it's hard to watch a great player's career limp to a close, but we're in year three of that sad story. Maybe all the paying customers at Qwest were just happy to see something new. Maybe a chant about Charlie was a chant about Charlie Whitehurst, and the football team taking the field, and the player competing for his franchise, and the flicker of excitement his short time on the field created.
A sports franchise, as interpreted as a business making a product, has an uncommon relationship with its customer base. While there is the assumption that the team is doing its best to field the best possible product, there is nothing like a free market to enforce that. Win, lose, draw; vision, incompetence, complacency; contending, rebuilding, or whatever it is the Seahawks have done the last three seasons, fans pay for more and are proud to do so.
Yesterday, the Qwest faithful watched their Seahawks lose in blowout fashion for the third time in the last four home games. In games against the Falcons, Chiefs and Giants, a significant portion of the game was not competitive. Against the Giants, the crowd was leaving before halftime. No one within the Seahawks organization offered a refund. Of course not, right? Buyer beware: Sport is unpredictable. A sports franchise will tell you that your ticket covers both the game and the experience of attending the stadium. Which is preposterous. No one pays 90 bucks to see a stadium.
I was never a big fan of Hasselbeck. I knew him as a project, then a good quarterback, then briefly a great quarterback, and then the shell of himself that he's become. I have cheered for him, and I respect him, and I appreciate his contribution to the team's success, but I have never been particularly a fan of Matt Hasselbeck. So maybe I do not understand. Maybe I didn't see the pain splashed across his face and see an old friend suffering and suffer myself. Maybe I can't relate to other Seahawks fans in that sense.
That said, I think we can all lose perspective. Hasselbeck is a young man, a millionaire, well-connected and, only 35, very close to a very comfortable retirement. His life has been a wild success. Failure finds us all one day, and few of us ever descend from the heights Hasselbeck reached. The life of Matt Hasselbeck is not a sad story. The Seahawks have absolutely no mandate to try and stab a happy ending on three seasons that have progressed like The Death of Ivan Ilyich. It's over, it's been over, and it's time some of the reverence shown towards Hasselbeck is redirected to those people that really constitute a team: the fans. Those of us that pay, that don't get paid, to wear the Blue. Those of us that have to trust, though that trust becomes embarrassingly strained. Those of us that won't retire in our mid-thirties, that make sacrifices of time and money and emotion to stand by a failing franchise. Those of us that Paul Allen, Pete Carroll and John Schneider are supposedly accountable to. Those of us that would love this team if it left us and welcome it back in heartbeat if it returned. Those of us that don't have five-year contracts or signing bonuses or performance incentives. Those of us that are fans, that will watch all those famous people that earn the honor of wearing Seahawks colors come and go.
So, with apologies to the dying embers of a great career, to Matt, to those that bought his jersey, to those that still think this team needs Matt Hasselbeck, to those with an agenda, to those too cowardly to speak the truth, to playing it safe and choking out the most pitiful of playoff berths and nostalgia and phony loyalty, with apologies to everyone I am about to piss off:
It's about time everyone remembered who the Seahawks really are. It's about time the Seahawks franchise honored the heart of the team, the Seahawks fans, and ended this protracted wake for a once-great roster. It's about time those of us suffering this miserable team are acknowledged, and respected and listened to. We want progress, not the past. We want a future, not memories. We want change, even if that change doesn't work right away. We want Charlie Whitehurst starting at quarterback, and we want Charlie Whitehurst starting this weekend.