Every aspect of the NFL intrigues me.
It’s not just the visceral, competitive aspects of it, either. It’s the culture surrounding it, and the fan bases that support each team. I have an appreciation for fans of football in general, and I think there should be a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood among fans of the NFL, regardless of your favorite team. So, I decided to set a life goal for myself, and combine my love of in football with my love of travel, and make a wholehearted attempt at seeing every team play in person on their home turf.
Now that The Second Draft has come along, I felt these adventures would make for a fine series, which I’ve dubbed Visitors Section. I’m not sure how frequent new articles will be (as of now, I’ve been visiting one stadium a year), but come along on this journey with me! Our first stop is deep in the heart of Seattle, Washington’s original neighborhood, Pioneer Square. I’m speaking of course of the Home of the 12th Man — CenturyLink Field.
First of all, set aside bias you might have against Seattle’s fans.
Yeah, there was a bit of a bandwagon during their two Super Bowl runs, but the fans in the heart of Seattle are a whole other animal. Walking through downtown Seattle on game day is electric. On every street corner, there’s more than one person wearing a jersey. Businesses, restaurants and ground-level apartments all sport 12 banners and signs of support in their windows. And the entire block around CenturyLink Field and the adjacent Safeco Field (home of the Mariners) turns into a gigantic rally.
There’s face-painters, food vendors, people playing music and dancing. It felt like visiting a festival, but it was just another Sunday during NFL season. You can wander the crowds – and there’s lots to see – or you can head over to Safeco Field where the lower level is open to the public for a $1 donation. Inside, they had the jumbo screen over the field on, airing the morning games on NFL Redzone. For a couple more bucks, you can snag yourself a beer and a slice of pizza, and watch until the gates to CenturyLink Field open. That’s cool, folks. The sense of community I experienced in Seattle was strong.
The excitement of entering CenturyLink Field is palpable.
The stadium is gorgeous. Seeing it on TV doesn’t do it justice, despite the efforts of wide helicopter shots. The tall, sweeping grandstands on either side of the field are imposing, even though it’s an open-air stadium. It was designed to be imposing: the high sides with steep seating and covers over both are designed to deflect crowd noise down towards the field. And it works — it’s loud as hell.
The rest of CenturyLink Field is beautiful. The interior hallways aren’t much to speak of, but they’re not a priority for a stadium intended to be so open. The architecture and coloring of the stadium accents the Seattle skyline beautifully, and the structure itself sports artwork and flourishes that pay homage to the culture and history of the city, as well.
Gametime rolls around, and the experience turns into an explosive celebration of Football.
All the quiet reflection on CenturyLink’s architecture and gentle conversation among fans gives way. What replaces them is pyrotechnics, a deafening and thunderous crowd of 67,000 people and an air of confidence surrounding a team at its all-time peak. I visited CenturyLink field in 2014, after their staggering Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. While growing pains and drama have since crept into the hallowed halls of the Home of the 12, my visit there was at a perfect time. Super Bowl champions well on their way to a second visit, and dominating the league.
Marshawn Lynch (who was announced onto the field to a cacophony of “Boo boo!” chants – which was admittedly confusing at first to an outsider such as myself) commanded the field and ran for a career-best 4 touchdowns. Russell Wilson threw two picks, but otherwise had a solid game. The Seahawks would best the New York Giants 38-17 and the entire game was drowned out by the tumultuous, electrifying crowd. At peak volume, CenturyLink is every bit as deafening as it’s hyped to be. You literally cannot have a conversation with the person next to you because you cannot hear them. It’s incredible.
The party doesn’t stop when the game clock hits zero.
Walking out of CenturyLink Field after a Seahawks victory is nearly as charged as attending the game itself. Like I said before, Seahawks fans know how to do Sunday football. Marching out in droves, the 12th Man fills the streets like a Navy, Green and Grey tidal wave. 67,000 people all dispersing in every direction, chanting “SEA! HAWKS!” is something to behold. If given the opportunity to attend a Seahawks game in Seattle, I have to recommend experiencing it, regardless of who you root for.
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