Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Art of Storytelling

Please, allow me to tell you a story about one of the greatest weekends of my life.  To all those who were apart of it and to all those who helped make the memories and the good times happen, I thank you in advance.

After making the 12th Man sweat a little bit at home against the then-win less Tampa Bay Buccaneers, many thought the trip to Atlanta would be much of the same.  Most fans that I knew were predicting yet another tough, gritty victory from the Seahawks and it seemed like the right call.  With 3 of the 5 starting Offensive Linemen out due to injury, including their 2 best ones in Max Unger and Russell Okung, it was a pretty safe assumption that Russell Wilson would be harassed all day.  Well, sometimes in life you just don't know.  No matter all the analysis or time that goes in to dissecting each matchup and the matchups within the game, sometimes life just throws you a curveball to keep you guessing.  This Atlanta game was that curveball.

Prior to the voyage, there was some excellent news upon returning from Seattle to NYC.  One of the regulars at my job, a woman named Margaret, gifted me 25,000 of her Frequent Flyer Miles and got me a round-trip ticket to Seattle and back home for the game against the Vikings.  Earlier in the season, her boss who is coincidentally named Paul just like the Seahawks' boss, had blessed me with two free tickets to the game at the Meadowlands in December between the Seahawks and the Giants.  Without question, these are some of the nicest, kindest, and most generous things anyone has ever done for me.  Margaret and Paul have been my guardian angels, regularly checking in and asking about the quest and how it's shaping up and I'm eternally grateful for them and all they've done for me.  I one day hope to be able to do the same for them and pay on forward the tremendous support they've shown me.  

As you can imagine, I was on cloud nine.  After a rough week at work, this gave me the shot in the arm that I needed to get through the week and start looking forward to the upcoming trip to Atlanta for the game against the Falcons.  A special shout out goes out to my lovely lady Laura for giving me an early ride to LaGuardia Airport, even though she probably didn't really want to get out of bed.  As we entered the airport, I told her that she could drop me off anywhere and that I'd find my way to the Terminal I needed to get to.  I didn't want to keep her there any longer than she had to, seeing as how she was already going out of her way to drive me there on a Saturday morning in the first place.  I was at Terminal B and so I asked someone working at the airport where I could find US Airways departures.  I was told to head to Terminal D, and that the shuttle bus would be the most efficient way to get there.  After waiting along with another gentleman for the bus, we both realized that the shuttle bus was no safe bet.  It had been a few minutes and it hadn't arrived, and who knew how long it would take us to zig-zag around the airport to get from Point B to Point D.  We were conveniently standing right near the Taxi line, and so we both decided to get the next Taxi and split it since it turned out we were heading in the same direction.

Once we were in the cab, this man whose name was Craig (I think, I met a ton of people this past weekend and I'm already pretty bad with names.  More of a know-by-face kind of guy) and I started talking.  I asked him where he was headed and he told me that he was flying to Wisconsin for business, and that his company was putting him up in a suite to check out the Eagles/Packers game.  I let him know that I, too, was headed for a football game, only in Atlanta and not Wisconsin.  We laughed at the amazing coincidence and a few minutes later after shooting the breeze, we had arrived at Terminal D.  We split the cab and wished each other well on our respective trips and just like that we were on our way.  A brief encounter, but an interesting one nonetheless.  

When I arrived at Terminal D, I quickly found out that I was sent to the wrong terminal!  Turns out I needed to be at Terminal C, not D, and that the guy who told me I needed to go to D was wrong.  With the clock ticking in my mind I asked where C was and when another airport employee told me where it was, I took off running.  $5 and a brisk 5 minute run with a backpack later, I was finally at US Airways.  It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done.  A recurring theme so far for the Seahawks, and my life, so far this season.

Joining me on this week's journey would be my buddy Greg.  This would mark Greg's 3rd trip on the season, having previously joined me in both Houston and Indianapolis.  Greg's a great person to travel with because he knows the best places to eat and places to check out.  Not only that, but he's an extremely cool dude as well.  How many other New York Jets fans would be so down to travel the country to check out Seahawks road games?  I nominate him for honorary Seahawks fan status.  He's gone "All In" this season, for sure. 

Also meeting us in Atlanta would be Dale, a friend of ours from Carlow East aka New York City's official Seattle Seahawks bar.  A Seattle native, this would be Dale's 3rd road game of the season, having trekked it out to Charlotte in Week 1 and Indianapolis in Week 5 as well.  Dale's another good guy and it's been a blast meeting up with him in various US cities to help cheer on the 'Hawks.  The stage was set for a memorable weekend that would hopefully be capped off by a Seahawks victory in the ATL.  

When we got in on Saturday afternoon, I could tell that I already really liked Atlanta.  As an OutKast fan, I had heard of places like Decatur in various songs, and I was now finally surrounded by them.  It was a pretty cool feeling and no doubt the OutKast was bumpin' during the trip.  To make the trip even more "typical down South", our first meal was at a Chic-Fil-A.  I can now speak of the goodness that is the chicken at Chic-Fil-A.  It's not overrated, that's for damn sure.

Afterwards, we head on downtown for the weekend's official gathering of 12's at STATS bar.  It was a gala event, and every time you looked there were more Seahawks fans pouring in.  Not only were fans everywhere, but players parents and family were all over the place as well.  Beverly Sherman was there, as was Kam Chancellor's brother Cornell, whom I met weeks earlier in St. Louis when our flight from DC to St. Louis was delayed.  I told him I owed him a beer for the time he got me one at the airport and he responded with a resounding "you don't owe me anything!"  Truly a standup guy, with an excellent family to match.

Also in attendance was Mike Willson, Luke's father, and his buddy Shawn whom Greg and I had met in Houston.  Mr. Willson is one of the best guys you'll ever meet, and he remembered our names and was happy to see us.  The four of us talked for a while about life and the Seahawks, before Mike and I did interviews for KIRO7.  You can tell that Mike is so proud of his son, and we all are, he's coming along nicely in his development with the 'Hawks.  I'm especially excited about Luke, to the point where I'm thinking of buying his jersey, since he also played baseball for my favorite team, the Toronto Blue Jays.  It's for that reason that he was my "Adopt-A-Rookie" for this season on Seahawks.Net.  It's great seeing his father Mike, and his dad's friend Shawn, being embraced by the city of Seattle and the 12th Man.  They both deserve it with the way they treat people.

The craziest, most random part of the night was probably when two people approached me telling me that they sat two rows behind me at the Seahawks/Giants game in the Meadowlands two seasons ago.  They witnessed me nearly have to fight an entire section of Giants fans who were out for my blood.  My hair definitely makes me a target around more, shall I say, primitive fanbases like that of the Giants.  In true Seahawks fashion though, they had my back.  We all we got!  We all we need!  Other highlights of the night include meeting Albert, the proud owner of the most amazing Seahawks smoking jacket that I've ever seen, and bumping into SeaPimp aka Shannon whom most of you probably know from the CLink.  Just amazing people all around and an absolutely outstanding vibe that feels like bliss for this 12.  Thanks to everyone for making it happen!

So after just a tremendous night at STATS, which is an awesome place by the way, Greg and I called it quits and went back to the hotel to catch some shuteye before hitting the road early for some tailgating with 12's!  I had heard stories, legends in fact, about the tailgate from the Divisional Playoff game in Atlanta the season prior.  Anyone who was there speaks about it glowingly.  Well, this season's showing certainly did not disappoint!  The swarm of 12's was overwhelming and it just continued to grow.  One of my favorite parts of catching every game so far this season has been watching the 12th Man show some legendary, amazing support in these road games.  I certainly didn't expect the levels of amazing fandom that I've seen exemplified by our fan base this season.  It's unprecedented, for any team.  And for the most part, from what I can tell, it's actual traveling fans and not just bandwagoners stationed in each place, like some other teams.  I'm lookin' at you San Fran, Pittsburgh, Dallas, and the rest of ya stinkin' lot!

Speaking of bandwagon Niners fans, there was actually a "Georgia Niners Fans" group at the tailgate.  Yes, that's correct, a pack of Niners fans tailgating at a Seahawks/Falcons game, right next to us.  Ya think the 'Hawks are in their heads?  How pathetic is that?!  Luckily, for them and for us, they were pretty cool guys and didn't want any strife.  The 12's handled it with class and didn't pull out their shanks and stab them like you could imagine would happen if some Seahawks fans tried doing the opposite somewhere.  Stay classy, Seattle.  You're making me prouder and prouder with each passing week.

As everyone partied it up, especially my buddy Lon from Texas in his trademark Seahawks cowboy hat (yeah, it's as awesome as it sounds), I turned around to see that I was face to face with a guy who looked just like Marcus Trufant, just a tad bit older.  Low and behold, it was Marcus' father, Lloyd.  Greg and I introduced ourselves and I must admit, I was pretty starstruck meeting the father of one of my all-time favorite Seahawks.  It was amazing being able to tell him that both Greg and I were there at the Madison Square Garden theater on the day his son Marcus was drafted by the Seahawks.  Times had changed though, as Papa Tru was now rooting on his youngest son, Desmond, who was recently a #1 draft pick for the Atlanta Falcons.  Still, Mr. Trufant was proud of all of his sons and their accomplishments not only in football, but in life as well.  You could just see how excited he was when he was talking about being a grandfather and seeing his sons now have kids as well.  No doubt one of them will probably grow up and play Cornerback in the NFL.  That's just what happens when you've got Lloyd Trufant in your bloodlines.

Soon, it was time for the 12's to march to the stadium.  Who better to help lead the way than Branton Sherman, Richard's brother.  With Branton at the head of the pack, we all marched to the Georgia Dome chanting "We all we got!  We all we need!"  It was a massive gathering and as Greg and I drifted ahead, you could still hear the chants from blocks away.  Just amazing stuff.  Finally though, gametime was upon us, and it was now time to see if the 'Hawks could capture another first.  Their first 9-1 start in team history, as well as their first 5-1 start on the road in team history.  After seeing all the fan support from earlier in the day and the night before, I was convinced that the 'Hawks would find a way to win this one.

To help make the game even better, I was able to meet with a friend of mine from back in college at WSU named Rachel.  She used to work for the Seahawks, before joining the Ravens in 2012 and earning a Super Bowl ring in the process.  Now she works for the Redskins.  Needless to say that everyone's proud of her.  Putting that WSU degree to good use right there!  As luck (not Andrew though) would have it, the guys who were supposed to sit in the seats next to her were pretty cool and all about southern hospitality, and let Greg and I sit in the seats instead while they sat a row closer.  A win-win for everyone.  Kudos to those ultra-cool Falcons fans.  Also, I knew immediately once I saw this on the northwest side of the Georgia Dome, that some special 12th Man magic was in the air.

What we witnessed that day was sheer beauty.  Utter domination.  A lesson in the game of Futbol Americano and how to play it at it's highest level.  Don't worry, it looked just as good live as it did on TV.  From Marshawn Lynch nearly severing opponent's heads, to Golden Tate showing the body control of an elite-level gymnast, to Jermaine Kearse looking like he might be one of the best, most underrated jump-ball threats in the league, the Seattle Seahawks were firing on all cylinders.  Finally, after weeks of wondering when the 'Hawks would "put it all together" and completely outclass their opponent, we got what we wanted.  My heart was especially thankful for this one.  It needed a laugher after so many nailbiters.  And I actually bite my nails, so I've been putting in work this season!

The Seahawks simply "balled out of control" as the youngins would say.  The Jermaine Kearse jumpball on Desmond Trufant, the Golden Tate screen for 40+ yards, Golden's insane TD catch in which I'm pretty sure he levitated for the score, Beast Mode's huge run through the center of the defense, the Flea-Flicker, you see what I'm getting at here.  The Seahawks were just on fire.  Huge plays for huge gains everywhere on offense, and a defense that simply wouldn't allow anything.  When they play like they did on Sunday, it's extremely difficult to think of them NOT winning it all.

As has been the case increasingly throughout this journey, when the game was out of reach and Falcons fans headed for the exits early, the 12's took it as an opportunity to show their team some love.  A massive gathering behind the Seahawks bench that gave similar gatherings in Arizona and St. Louis a run for it's money.  We got down there and it definitely put a punctuation mark on such an outstanding performance.  Golden Tate was especially thankful for all the love, as he was the last man to leave the bench and left waving to the crowd and was clearly impressed with the passion and dedication of the fans.

On a random sidenote, Bruce Irvin hurdled a man.  I'm not sure who it was on the Falcons, and I don't know if it made it to TV (probably not?  maybe?) broadcast, but after a play he came from the sideline and one of the Falcons had his back turned to him and he pushed down on the guy's shoulders and used that momentum to jump clear over the guy.  If you didn't already know that Bruce Irvin is a freak of nature, well, I can't tell you much more to make the case for him.  We actually bumped into Irvin's cousin on our way out of the game.  I told him that Seattle was proud of Bruce and that I think he'll have a great career there and he'll be bringing a ring around after this season.  He agreed.

We left the Georgia Dome feeling all kinds of victorious.  Everything had gone perfectly over the weekend.  The only thing that could make it more perfect, would be a Niners loss at home to Carolina.  I mean, yeah, the Panthers have an excellent front seven.  The Seahawks were actually the first team in the NFL to discover that this season.  However, there's no way that San Fran slips up against the Panthers, at home.  I'll tell you one thing.  You know that Colin Kaepernick and company don't want anything to do with Carolina.  If they were to meet in the playoffs, I think Carolina showed them that they can play just as tough as them.  It could have actually been worse than the stingy 10-9 score had Panthers receivers, namely Steve Smith, not had a bad case of the dropsies on that day.  

The only thing that could possibly make Kaepernick and his squad of goons failing more sweet would be to see the tears of Niners fans in the process.  Luckily, karma served up a sweet platter for Seahawks fans at STATS bar after the game.  For some reason, the same Niners fans from the tailgate were also at the Seahawks pregame bar from the night before.  Seattle is definitely in their heads.  After running their mouths in the parking lot and talking smack about how Seattle was crumbling and San Fran was on fire and ready to take back the division, it was time to eat some crow.  As Colin Kaepernick's pass was intercepted by Tuskegee's proud son, Drayton Florence, all hope for a Niners win was shattered.  I immediately ran downstairs to revel in the misfortunes of our enemy.  My brethren, I'm here to tell you that it was a beautiful thing.  "This is a damn tragedy!" is what I heard one woman yell.  "I told yall!  Kaepernick is a bum!" were some others.  My personal favorite, muttered by a dude in a Kaepernick jersey was, "I'm a survivor.  We're going to survive this."  It was a broken, deflated fanbase, much like the one we saw leaving the CLink after the Seahawks destroyed them 29-3 earlier this season.

The night was capped off by cigars and a fire pit and just talking about life and how the Seahawks have changed ours.  The positive energy coming from the roof of STATS that night would have made Pete Carroll himself proud, master of all things positive energy, as there wasn't a worry in the world.  Sharing stories, beers, and some victory cigars was exactly the perfect ending to a perfect Seahawks weekend.   

The perfect long weekend continued the next day with a Chic-Fil-A spicy chicken sandwich for breakfast and a trip to the Aquarium.  Even there we bumped into some more 12's from the weekend.  I even got to meet a 'Hawks fan from Maine, Tim.  The night before I met a dude from South Carolina named Kevin who's been a fan for over 30 years and is from the same hometown as Chartric Darby.  That's my favorite part of hitting up all these games, meeting my fellow 12th Man and hearing everyone's incredible stories about how and why they love the Seahawks.  Even at the airport on the flight home, Greg and I bumped into 2 Seahawks fans at the airport, one of whom is also attending every game this season, a Seattle native named Michael.  What makes his story even cooler is that he made it to all of the preseason games as well, so he's got me beat there.  Point is, this whole damn thing is building so much momentum, at such a fast rate, that it's starting to feel like the Seahawks can accomplish anything with us on their side.

And finally, after all that, we made it home.  Seriously, the only bad thing during the entire trip was the flight home, which was an absolute circus, but it couldn't do a damn thing to dampen such an amazing time.  The Gods of Good Fortune had smiled upon us again.  More importantly, the Seattle Seahawks stand tall at 9-1, ahead of the NFC West Division as well as the entire NFC, period.  The fun doesn't stop here though, oh no it gets better, as Russell Okung, Breno Giacomini, and Max Unger should all be returning this week, in some capacity.  Oh yeah, and some dude named Percy Harvin is going to get a little work in as well.  Don't know if you've heard of him before.  It won't always be so glorious.  This is the good life, ladies and gentlemen, and we're lucky enough to be able to witness it.  

This team has become everything I ever dreamed a sports team could be when I first got hooked on sports back when I came out the womb.  Except, I always thought I was being idealistic and unrealistic and that it would never happen.  I got news for you self, you were wrong!

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