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On being together again

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Seattle Seahawks At Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been said about the announcement recently made by the Seahawks that Lumen Field will welcome back full capacity crowds for the 2021 season. Many have pointed to return of the 12s’ incessant noise-making as the most positive outcome of the decision, as it is known to disrupt opposing offenses. Others have noted the imminent positive economic impact for the team and the various businesses that operate within blocks of the stadium.

While both the return of the stadium’s beloved atmosphere and a much-needed economic boost for the surrounding area are undeniably excellent outcomes of the decision, there is one other result that many fans feel, but which I believe has been oft-overlooked in the coverage of the decision.

I was there for the last game the Seahawks played in front of fans before the coronavirus with my parents and my brother. Having also been lucky enough to attend the Seahawks game in Santa Clara earlier that year, I was amped up, and hoping for another classic heart-stopping Seahawks win. I remember hollering violently as Russell Wilson led the team on their second-half charge, and doing so especially loudly as the Seahawks marched towards the end zone on their final drive.

The Seahawks sat right near the goal line after the legendary John Ursua hauled in a pass. Suddenly, it seemed as if the eyes of the entire stadium’s eyes turned towards the sideline, where a fan-favorite running back was waiting in the wings. The whole stadium collectively gasped, and then erupted, as he began a slow march onto the field. “It’s Marshawn!” the woman in front of me, decked out in Seahawks-colored beads, exclaimed.

I felt my heart begin to race, anticipating the impending euphoria. This was a sensation I had not experienced for nearly seven weeks, since Jason Myers stepped up to attempt his eventual game-winning kick at Levi’s Stadium. Then, my fellow Seahawkers and I were mere islets of an action green archipelago scattered in a vast sea of red and gold. At the then-named CenturyLink Field, however, we were a gargantuan landmass of blue. Because of the Seahawks-friendly crowd’s immense size, the sense that those around me were bracing for a raucous celebration was much more palpable this time around. It seemed we were all preparing ourselves to exorcise the demons of Super Bowl 49, by watching the play that should have always taken place.

Of course, this excitement quickly turned to dismay for the more observant fans in attendance. As Beast Mode marched onto the field, the play clock was evaporating at an alarming rate. The news slowly trickled throughout the stadium, as a chorus of shouts rose to warn Coach Carroll of the danger, with my dad, the red-bearded man in front of us, and I taking our roles very seriously. As the clock expired and the referee tossed a flag onto the field for delay of game, the crowd collectively sighed. The disappointing ending many of us had suspected in the back of our minds was coming to fruition.

Before Jacob Hollister came up one yard short on fourth down, a clear hopeful energy had been drained from the stadium. Although there was noise, it was more apprehensive than passionate. Wide eyes and slightly furrowed brows could be seen throughout the crowd. As Garoppolo took the final kneel-down, fans filtered out of the stadium.

A storm cloud hung over the fans departing the stadium. There was a tacit oath of silence, as diehard supporters attempted to process the heart-wrenching loss. I attempted to speak to my brother about the game, but he was too disappointed to talk. It was his first-ever Seahawks game, making the loss that much more difficult to bear. I noticed similar interactions taking place between friends, spouses, and siblings throughout the solemn procession from CenturyLink.

I was extremely saddened by this sense of collective loss at the time (albeit just the loss of a football game), but after being separated from this feeling for over a year during the course of the pandemic, I have come to realize its value. When the Seahawks suffered their particularly devastating loss against Los Angeles in the Wild Card round, the result was an oddly lonely sadness. Perhaps this was worsened by the fact that there weren’t even fans at Lumen to live vicariously through via the television, but it was altogether different from the most recent crushing loss I had experienced as a Seahawks fan at CenturyLink.

There was no feeling that you were feeling this pain with someone else, much less a large group. Despite all the bickering amongst fans online, nothing could replace the in-person feeling. The emptiness of online interaction is a common theme for many things lost to COVID; whether it be school, birthdays, movie-viewing, or any sort of social gathering. What makes football games so unique, however, is how much sadness can be involved. We are blessed to be fans of a football team which has experienced a very enviable amount of success over the course of the last decade, yet feeling frustrated and angered by the low moments of each season is a quintessential part of fandom. Experiencing this despair together is cathartic, even though it can also be sad. Experiencing it by yourself is just plain depressing.

Of course, the in-person experience is not all sadness. The ebbs and flows of emotion and thrill are common for Seahawks viewers, but nothing can replace the in-person atmosphere, as we all know. You feel a certain kinship with the strangers around you that many of us have come to miss during the pandemic. And of course, you get to experience the spectacle that is Seahawks football with your friends and family, too.

All that being said, cheers to the first game with fans at Lumen Field, and I hope to see you all out there for a game in the near future.