By Leon Espinoza
Leon Espinoza, an assistant managing editor at The Seattle Times, landed in Seattle at the end of the Dave Krieg era and takes pride in surviving the Kelly Stouffer, Dan McGwire and Rick Mirer years. Though his Pop Warner and high-school glory days are long past, Leon remains passionate about football, journalism, family, and, of course, the home team.
Back from family fun in the land of sunshine, I can report two things:
The 12th Man shines quite brightly in Southern California – at least judging from all the friendly waves and frequent exchanges of “Go Hawks” from complete strangers everywhere we went.
That included a San Diego Chargers game. The tailgating faithful for both the Chargers and Raiders expressed genuine affection for this year’s Seattle club, my Seahawks T-shirt a dead giveaway of my loyalties. And a family excursion to the Magic Kingdom at times resembled a Seahawks home game, with many a passerby donning Russell Wilson’s No. 3 or Richard Sherman’s No. 25 jersey. Proudly wearing our own Seahawk attire, we felt a kinship with these fellow travelers.
The other thing our vacationing family quickly learned: Pete Carroll is both loved and hated in his old stomping grounds. Around holiday meals with our Southern California clans, we heard everything from “Oh, I love your coach” and “You guys are lucky to have him” to “I can’t stand Cheatey Petey!” Must be residue from his complicated days as the coach of USC.
Yet even some of the harshest Carroll critics seemed to have a soft spot for the Seahawks, and their fast, fun and fearless style of play. “I would like your team if you had a different coach” was a common refrain.
As a newly minted 50-year-old, I must confess to the Seattle faithful that I did my best – and worst – to represent the 12th Man at the Chargers game. A fan zone just outside the stadium featured a course of football dummies to maneuver and oversized balls to collect, while racing against the clock and other street-clothes competitors. When the emcee asked me who I was and where I was from, I proudly announced that I was Marshawn Lynch from Seattle. Hey, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
His incredulous response: “You don’t look like Marshawn Lynch.” Moments later, as I sped slowly through the course, he chimed: “You don’t run like Marshawn Lynch.” I huffed across the finish line with a growl, and several onlookers roared – in laughter – I think.
Even in jest, it was and is a good time to be a Seahawks fan.
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