Sometime during the football season of 1979, I was watching halftime highlights on Monday Night Football, called by Howard Cosell. I was ten years old, and at the time, despite growing up just ten minutes from where the New York Jets practiced every day, I was a huge football fan but had yet to choose a favorite team. Maybe it was because the Jets and Giants weren't very good back then, or that when you are a kid, you seem to gravitate to players first and there were few dynamic players on the two lousy games I could watch each week (No Direct TV yet kids) but for whatever reason, I was a fan with no team to call home.
That night, Cosell played a highlight from a Seahawk game, and as you can guess that highlight was a touchdown pass from Jim Zorn to Steve Largent; or as Cosell would say, Steevvvee Laaarrgentt.
One deep pass, a spectacular catch, and I was hooked. I've been a fan ever since.
How can I be sure of the date? Well my mom would let her football obsessed son cut school and watch the draft every year (It used to be on Tuesdays) and I remember hearing the pick and trying to figure out who Jacob Green was.
Back then, with no cable television, let alone a satellite dish, and no internet. It was to say the least difficult to follow my team. I had to resort to getting the Seahawker newsletter, which arrived about ten days after the previous game. USA today was a godsend with their NFL coverage as well. But the only time I saw my team was during their few MNF appearances and when they played the Jets and Giants and I would get them on local television.
Gradually it got better, cable came to town, and NFL Primetime, and I finally saw them in person when they played the Jets when I was in high school.
As you all know, there were many lean years back then but some great ones as well. The 1983 season is still one of my favorite years, Largent's back to back grabs to lead the game winning drive and upset the Dolphins is still a Top 5 moment for me as a fan. The next week against Oakland, not so much.
In 2005 I finally made the Pilgrimage to the Clink (Quest Field then) and saw my first game in Seattle, it was the Cowboy game when Babineaux picked off Bledsoe late to set up a game winning goal by Josh Brown. I returned for the NFC Title Game, flying out solo 3000 miles to see the 'Hawks crush Carolina, best money I ever spent.
I didn't make the Super Bowl that year and am glad for that; because despite my love for football I have never been to the Big Game as they call it, until now.
While pampered sportswriters and corporate hot shots rued the day that the NFL picked New Jersey for a Super Bowl I was ecstatic. All I could think of then was maybe, just maybe if things turn around and we keep getting better, my team will actually come to me. Without the price gouging hotels and airfares, all I would need is a ticket and my monthly rail pass to get to the game. And luckily I had a connection to get a ticket at face value, otherwise it wasn't happening.
This past week, the connection came through with one ticket to the game. Although I would have loved to bring a friend, I have the feeling that I will not be feeling alone when I take my seat at MetLife.
That's because things have a changed a lot since I was a kid and I felt like I was the only fan east of Montana. I am far from the only one of this group of displaced Seahawk fans. Whether it is Seattle expats that have moved to NY, or people that saw legends like Largent and got hooked like me, the 12th man is everywhere, including the Northeast. Manhattan has its own "Seahawk Bar", the Carlow East on the Upper East Side. Trust me I know NY bars, very few NFL teams have their own unofficial headquarters to the level of the Carlow. It is so popular that it sold out 100 dollar a head tickets for the game just a day after Seattle took out the 49ers. On the web there are Twitter pages, facebook groups and blogs all committed to the New York Seahawk fans.
We are far from a majority, but when I have a 'Hawks cap or sweatshirt on I don't get those same looks I used to get when I was a kid sporting a Largent jersey, or later on when I had my 'Tez #96 gear on; I don't hear the question "Why are you a Seahawk Fan?" so much anymore.
Success and a dynamic group of players will do that I guess.
This area is still Giant's and Jet's country for the most part. But I still see a lot of #3 jerseys at the local park when I bring my daughter to the playground, it brings a smile to my face every time.
Some die hard types may not like the influx of new fans, but that is inevitable when you have success. It's the reason I grew up with a bunch of Dallas and Pittsburgh fans. I don't mind it at all, to me, the more the merrier. I don't ask for credentials from fellow 12's, just be loud and be loyal. There is plenty of room on the Bandwaggon as far as I am concerned.
One week from today, I am going to my first Super Bowl and I couldn't have picked a better one, I don't care how cold it gets, I've got thermals. In addition to the masses that I am sure will be making the trip from the Northwest, I hope to see a bunch of my fellow New York 'Hawk fans. People who may have grown up and saw a Warner run, an Easley hit, or sack by that Green guy who turned out to be a damn good pass rusher for us. True fans that found their home and never let geography get in the way of loving their team.