12th Man hits the road: Seahawks fans follow team to away games
Seahawks fans, always a formidable force at home, have been a growing presence at away games this season. Excitement is building for Sunday’s game in San Francisco.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Hawks fans San Francisco gathering
NorCal Sea Hawkers, Seahawks fan club in the San Francisco area, is organizing a Saturday evening gathering for Seahawks fans at San Francisco’s Pier 39, which has a number of restaurants. For details, see www.norcalSeahawkers.com
Some websites for traveling Seahawks fans:
Booster club: Seahawksers.org
Bay Area fan group: norcalSeahawkers.com
Fan forums: www.Seahawks.net:
Seahawks team site: www.Seahawks.com
Facebook: Seahawks Road Crew, 12th Man; Volume 12
See and hear how Seahawks fans in Arizona added their voice to an NFL Network interview of quarterback Russell Wilson.
Sequim native Tansey Allen will never forget the moment in San Diego in 2007 when she and other visiting Seahawks fans, at an exhibition game against the Chargers, found the nerve to mount a hearty “Go Seahawks” chant.
And as they were chanting, the Seahawks scored a touchdown.
“That was the day that changed my life forever,” Allen said.
Another Seahawks fan, Mark Olsen, of Bonney Lake, grew up in Eastern Utah, where, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, nearly all his friends were Denver Broncos fans.
“I wanted to be different, so I started rooting for the Seattle Seahawks because against Denver they were usually the underdogs.”
Allen and Olson are both headed this weekend to San Francisco, where they’ll be part of a growing phenomenon: Seahawks road fever.
Thousands of Seahawks fans are expected for the team’s final visit to venerable Candlestick Park (The 49ers move south to Santa Clara after this season).
While the power of the Seahawks’ “12th Man” at home is legendary, this season has seen more Seattle blue jerseys on opposing teams’ turf.
In the closing moments of a couple of games — at St. Louis and Atlanta — it has appeared even to reporters that blue-clad Seahawks boosters outnumbered the home team’s contingent.
And after the Seahawks’ Oct. 17 victory in Arizona, an NFL Network crew interviewing Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson along a sideline had to shout to be heard over the din from Hawks fans who stayed in the stadium to celebrate.
“There’s a brotherhood for everyone that attends a home game, but it’s an even stronger bond when you meet up and cheer next to other 12s at an away game,” said Olsen, owner of the online fan forum Seahawks.net. “You’ll see people in Seahawks jerseys; they’ll be waving their 12th Man flags and making themselves known.”
Every road game a project
Traveling fans are more likely to meet players and their families — before and after games — and form lasting friendships with other Seahawks fans across the country.
In San Francisco, blue-clad Hawks fans will gather Saturday evening at restaurants along San Francisco’s Pier 39 in an event organized by the fan club .
Club President Tod Gomes said backers hope to gather 1,000 Seahawks fans for a group photo at Pier 39’s Christmas tree about 7 p.m. Saturday.
And on Sunday, they’ll gather outside Candlestick before the game for a “Stompin’ at the ’Stick” tailgate session.
Interest in the game is high, as indicated by the prices asked for seats on the resale market. At midmorning Wednesday, Ticketmaster listed single tickets to the game from $258 to $1,485. Another online seller, Vivid Seats, listed seats from $246 to $1,517.
Part of the kinship among Seahawks road fans stems from the sacrifice they’ve made — in time and money — to get to away games.
No NFL city is more geographically isolated. Fans of East Coast teams can get to some opposing venues with a manageable drive. But for Seattle fans, every road game is a project.
Although each away city is different, Olsen said a typical road trip by a Seahawks fan can cost nearly $1,000 for airfare, game ticket, hotel, meals and extras. Fans can cut that if they stay just one night, or — better yet — with friends or relatives.
“It’s like a Seattle family reunion at every road game. I love it,” said Allen, who calls herself “Hollywood Hawk.” She now lives in the Los Angeles area, where she is president of a Southern California Seahawks fan club.
She’s also a co-founder of the Seahawks Road Crew, which has organized Seahawks fan events in several away cities, including some that involve downing “Seahawks shots” of vodka, lemon juice and Blue Curacao liqueur.
Allen was in Atlanta on Nov. 10 when Seahawks fans gathered at a tailgate site in the parking lot and marched into the stadium in a column.
“You could not see from the front of that line to the end,” she said.
As the Seahawks pulled away for a 33-10 victory, Atlanta fans drifted toward the exits. Seahawks fans moving into some of the choice vacant seats created a sea of blue jerseys on the stadium’s lowest level.
Seahawks players appreciate their traveling faithful.
Free safety Earl Thomas and wide receiver Golden Tate, in an article on the team website said they feed off the energy that road fans convey.
Before each away game, Thomas said, he looks in the stands to see someone wearing a Seahawks jersey with his number, 29, and draws a boost from him or her.
“When you can get ... your fans on the road going crazy, it just gives you chills,” he said.
Seahawks fans at away games typically fall into one of three categories. First are those who traveled from the Northwest for the game. Second are those who don’t live in the Northwest but have a connection to it — maybe they used to live here, or their folks still do.
And third are those who have no significant attachment to Seattle but have formed a psychological bond with the team.
Put Gomes, president of NorCal Sea Hawkers, in that third group.
He grew up in the Bay Area but felt no strong connection to the 49ers or the Oakland Raiders.
“I remember when the Seahawks were a new team (in the 1970s). I liked the colors and I liked the logo.”
But what really sold him was the fact that quarterback Jim Zorn was a fellow left-hander.
“So I thought ‘How cool is that? To have someone like me as quarterback.’ ”
In addition to working on NorCal Sea Hawkers events, Gomes is active with Fans Against Violence , a group formed in 2011 after a San Francisco baseball fan attending a game in Los Angeles was beaten and left with a severe brain injury in the parking lot after the Giants-Dodgers game.
The safety of visiting fans also has drawn attention in Seattle, where a Green Bay Packers fan was knocked unconscious at a Seahawks game last year. That incident and others prompted Seattle police to send undercover officers to some Seahawks games wearing gear of the visiting team.
Olsen said Seahawks fans in San Francisco on Sunday will be enthusiastic but not likely present in the same numbers as they were in Atlanta. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand: When teams have losing records, their season-ticket holders are much more likely to put their tickets up for resale.
An additional factor made tickets particularly easy to get for the Oct. 28 game in St. Louis. At the same time the Rams were losing to the Seahawks 14-9, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing (and losing) a World Series game a mile away.
Despite this year’s surge in Seahawks road fever, Olsen said the movement is “still in our infancy” compared to the road presence of teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose yellow “terrible towels” — waved at home and away games — have been passed down through generations.
Trudy Ferguson, a Seahawks fan in tiny Dallesport, Klickitat County, on the Columbia River, is living proof that the Seahawks road presence is rising.
She and her husband have been Seahawks season-ticket holders for more than a decade, and although he has been to several road games, Sunday will be her first.
The couple bought two seats, high in Candlestick Park, about a month ago for $260 apiece.
Ferguson, a school-district administrative assistant nearing retirement, doesn’t expect this will be her last Seahawks road trip.
“We’d go to every one if we could afford it,” she said. “My dream retirement would be to follow the Seahawks around to every game.”
Jack Broom: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-2222