There was no dampening of the enthusiasm of Seattle Seahawks football fans last week, even if the skies over the northwest city were gray and rainy.
Their team is going to Super Bowl XLVIII, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Seahawks and Denver Broncos will tee it up.
Hearts were pounding, however, just two weeks ago, when the Seahawks had to come from behind and then hold off the visiting San Francisco 49ers in a tense playoff game that went down to the wire. The 23-17 win earned the Seattle team its second-ever trip to the Super Bowl.
The excitement created by that playoff game and the anticipation of today’s game has radiated well beyond the Seattle suburbs. Hearts will be pounding again all over the Pacific Northwest.
Bruce Pettengill of Sutherlin said he’s been a Seahawks fan since the team was established in 1976. He was in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Seattle at that time. He said he and his family are die-hard Seahawks fans.
“I don’t have any fingernails,” he said of Seattle’s recent win that put his favorite team in the NFL finale. “I almost exposed bone.
“When that interception happened in the end zone for the win over the 49ers, that was a moment of elation,” the Seahawk fan added. “We’re going to the Super Bowl.”
Doug Agee of Winston said he been a fan of the Seahawks since he was about 5 years old. In the late 1980s, as a young teenager, he had a blue-and-green Boz cut, similar to the hairstyle of controversial Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth. Blue and green are the team’s colors.
“All my friends at a young age were (Oakland) Raiders fans, but I’ve never wavered from the Seahawks, not even once,” Agee said.
At a more mature age, Agee traded in his blue-and-green hair for a Seahawk-decorated bathroom in his Winston home.
Brian Prawitz of Roseburg is another enthusiastic Seattle fan. He grew up in Washington and worked for KIRO, the Seahawks’ flagship radio station, from 1999 to 2002. He attended three Seahawks training camps, providing radio reports for his employer. He said he’s still not over the Seahawks’ loss in their first Super Bowl, a 21-10 defeat to Pittsburgh in 2006.
“I’m absolutely an avid fan,” he said. “I knew their defense was good enough this year to contend, but I wasn’t sure about their offense. It’s so easy to have a heartbreak at any moment in the playoffs and lose.
“When the Seahawks play, pretty much everything else is canceled and pretty much everything stops in our house,” he added. “The dogs leave the area because I’m usually very vocal and I can be extremely active during the game, jumping up and down. If I’m not home, then I (record) the game.”
Joe Newton of Roseburg was a member of the Seahawks practice squad in 2007 and 2008. He retired from football in 2009 and moved back to his hometown, where he starred in sports for Roseburg High School.
He said he grew up a 49er fan, but after his association with the Seahawks, his idolization of professional sports teams has faded away. Now he just likes to watch the game.
“I’m definitely a fan of Northwest teams, of West Coast teams, but I don’t have a huge loyalty toward any team,” Newton said. “I just think it’s going to be a great game.”
Some former Roseburg residents who are now Seattle residents are enjoying the excitement up close and personal. Matt McLaughlin, a 1998 Roseburg High School graduate, has been to several Seahawks games since moving there four years ago.
Suzanne McLaughlin, Matt’s wife and also a 1998 RHS grad, said Seattle has been “pretty crazy” this season.
“Expectations were high this season after (quarterback) Russell Wilson did so well in his first season,” she said. “Everybody was crossing their fingers, hoping this could be it. It turned out that way and it’s been fun.”
Matt McLaughlin said several buildings are lit up at night in blue and green. The lights on the side of one building are designed in a “12,” recognizing the fans who are known as the team’s 12th man.
When the team bused from its practice facility at Renton to the Seattle airport Sunday, thousands of people lined the route, wishing the team well on its Super Bowl trip.
Liz Vernon, another 1998 Roseburg grad and a Seattle resident for 15 years, said it has been cool to see the entire city get behind the team. She said numerous billboards around the city spotlight the Seahawks.
Bill Reader, a sports reporter for The News-Review from 1984 to ’86 and now the deputy sports editor for the Seattle Times, said it’s been a crazy scene in Seattle.
“In all my time here (since 1990), this is by far the most excitement I’ve seen in this area for a sporting event,” he said. “The Mariners in 1995 and in 2001 were exciting, but it’s different with this Seahawks team. Everybody kind of expected this could be the time. Really, anything less than going to the Super Bowl was going to be a disappointment for the fans.
“In the 2005 season, that Seahawks team kind of snuck up on people and then it was ‘Oh, wow, they made it to the Super Bowl,’” he added. “There’s a huge base of Seahawk fans here and they expected this all season.”
Reader said the Times sent 16 staff members — reporters, editors, photographers and photo editors — to the game.
The Seahawks fans expressed confidence in their team, but understand it won’t be easy going up against Denver and its veteran quarterback, Peyton Manning.
“Peyton Manning has been unstoppable and I thought all season long if there was one guy who could tear apart the Seahawk defense, it would be Manning,” Prawitz said. “And now here we are.”
Pettengill remembers being devastated by the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss in 2006. The defeat was especially hard on the Pettengill family because Keith, Bruce’s younger brother, was losing his fight against cancer at the time. Keith had a Seahawk tattooed on his shoulder. He died six months after that Seahawks loss, so isn’t here to enjoy today’s game. Bruce Pettengill said, however, his brother will be remembered. He said he’s ready to celebrate a Seahawks Super Bowl victory for both himself and his brother.
“The elation will be awesome,” Pettengill said of a Seahawks win.
Vernon said a win would probably mean a lot of Seattle area residents wouldn’t go to work Monday morning.
“I think people would probably go crazy,” she said of a win. “There would be a victory parade, lots of fireworks, lots of noisemakers ...”
In anticipation of a win, Matt McLaughlin rearranged his travel schedule for his work this week to be home for a celebratory parade.
Reader said if the Seahawks win, the Times will publish a book on the season. A victory would make it a season Seahawks fans would especially remember.
• News-Review Features Editor Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at email@example.com.