Snowball missiles at Qwest Field were an embarrassment
Snowballs rained like missiles from the lower bowl of Qwest Field as coach Mike Holmgren made his farewell lap around the stadium, after...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Snowballs rained like missiles from the lower bowl of Qwest Field as coach Mike Holmgren made his farewell lap around the stadium, after his last win in his last home game.
Most of the missiles thrown by the many idiot inebriates were no more accurate that Brett Favre's Sunday passes, but all of them were thrown with bad intentions and some were headed directly for the head of Holmgren.
It was an embarrassing sight. Another black-eye in this shiner sports year of 2008 for Seattle.
Fortunately for the Seahawks coach, his longtime security man, Seattle policeman David Duty, was making like goalkeeper Kasey Keller batting away some of the more accurate icy balls. He kept Holmgren from getting hit and hurt.
Marty Lyons wasn't as lucky. Wearing a green-and-white New York Jets winter jacket that might as well have had a bull's-eye on it, Lyons was pelted viciously, as the entire stadium erupted in cheers as if the Seahawks had just clinched a playoff berth.
Lyons, a former Jets defensive end, a member of the "New York Sack Exchange," and now a respected member of the broadcast network, was hit in the face, head and shoulders. By the time he reached safety underneath the stands, he was cut and bruised.
He was assaulted. There should have been arrests, but none of the bums who threw the snowballs will be punished for their actions, because apparently much of the stadium's security force couldn't make it to the game and those who did were helpless to stop the ruckus.
Holmgren and Lyons, certainly two of the classiest men in the NFL, weren't the only victims of snow-throwing anarchists.
At the end of the game, as photographers and reporters gathered on the Seahawk sidelines to watch and record Holmgren's last moments, they dodged the ice missiles. Several Sea Gals also were targets and whenever one of the snowballs hit its mark, there were cheers.
This was Seattle at its worst. These were small-time acts by the several immature thousand fans who thought they were on some unsupervised playground and they were back in third grade.
It was humiliating to the real fans, who mushed through the snow and sat in the subfreezing weather to pay tribute to Holmgren one last time.
"The situation in the stadium in general was not a very safe situation for anyone involved," Jets' coach Eric Mangini understated to New York writers on Monday.
At some point in those final five minutes, some Seahawks official should have grabbed a microphone and done something like former Cincinnati coach Sam Wyche did when Bengals fans got out of hand.
During a game, Wyche found a mic and shouted to the home fans: "We're not Cleveland. We're better than that." Those fans listened.
Some member of the Hawks' front office could have calmed the drunken masses with a similar plea for civility.
The game's officials were targeted in the final minutes and danced around as snowballs landed at their feet.
The Jets players also were pelted, and they had every right to be angry in those final moments as the insult of the loss was compounded by the potential for injury from the snowballs.
"It was kind of like a little battlefield out there," one Jets player was quoted after the game.
And at the end of the game, as he was running into the south end tunnel, Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis grabbed a chunk of snow, roughly the size of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic, and tossed it into the stands.
It was a stupid thing to do. He could have hurt someone, but his anger and his reaction were understandable to anyone who was on the field with him.
Rightfully, Ellis was fined $10,000 by the NFL for imitating a snowblower.
The Seahawks also should have been fined for not providing enough security to the players and officials who were sitting ducks at the end of the game.
"It was all in fun," Ellis said of the incident.
But it wasn't. It isn't fun when a Seattle cop has to defend Mike Holmgren from an attack. It isn't fun when visiting team officials are battered by hometown fans.
"I never thought I'd enjoy getting snowballs thrown at me," Holmgren joked after the game.
He was lucky. He had David Duty making World Cup-caliber saves. Marty Lyons only had his face.
After his final home game, an emotional Holmgren praised the passion of the Seahawks fans. He, of course, was talking about the real fans.
The real fans who drove from as far away as Montana to offer their final goodbyes. The real fans who did their best, even in this 4-11 season, to make Qwest Field an uncomfortable caldron for visiting teams.
Some 50,000 people showed up on this miserable day at the end of a miserable season, to root one last time for Holmgren and the Hawks.
But another couple of thousand thugs showed up trying to spoil the party. And too many people were left unprotected. The team and the league that was responsible for their safety failed them.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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UPDATE - 9:02 PM
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