BY CLINTON PAWLICK
Kansas City met us with the austerity of an early cold front and a quiet unexpected for a place prideful of its sound. Perhaps it was too cold to be loud. Or, maybe, the fans were more mindful of the Chiefs’ last playoff win.
That was in 1993. So we heard a restrained silence more menacing as we explored the town last Saturday, the day before the game.
“So you came in all the way from Seattle?” strangers asked. Their intonation suggested a mixture of perplexity, admiration, and latent disdain — a good-natured kind associated with fans, who would love to see their team knock off the reigning Super Bowl champions. “Is it your first time in Kansas City?” was often their second question.
Melissa was quick with an answer. “Oh, no. Chuck grew up here,” she said with a nod toward her husband, who glowered underneath a Seahawks’ knit cap. Rule of Engagement No. 1 — When in enemy territory, try not to give up the turncoats. Just saying. It made for some animated spousal conversation, the likes of which all good married couples know.
As we drove to the stadium, the landscape spread low in the distance, small undulations on top of one another, layers of the same dun-colored flatness. In the back seat, I was all “Dances with Wolves,” imagining a war party in the distance, just out of my sight.
When I looked up, Arrowhead Stadium appeared. A large, throw-backish, looming venue with row after row of red seats in the upper decks, which were visible from the car. All around the place, on any piece of available frozen prairie, committed fans set up tail-gating plots, the likes of which I had never seen. Wood smoke and charcoal permeated the atmosphere in a collective middle finger to the environment. “Burn ban? What? That’s for sissy tree-huggers. We hug wood here when we’re carrying it to the fire.” I’m serious. There must have been about 20,000 individual fires burning in the circle of parking lots around the stadium. 20,001 if you count the smoking dumpster we saw on the way out.
So, the noise. Arrowhead isn’t that loud. Not in the consistent way CenturyLink is. The Kansas City fans save up for third-down situations before they begin to bellow and slap the seat backs in front of them. It’s not the “Oh-you’re-on-offense” strident yells we have on every down back home. Ignore the record books. Seattle is definitely louder.
Seattle had a nice turnout of fans. Some from Issaquah and others from Iowa, and it was nice to see that even in a difficult year the base of support is there. Braving the hostility and the cold to yell out: “SEA …HAWKS!!!!”
We played a decent game, and it was nice to keep the score close, but the frustration was palpable. From the collective gasp at Max Unger’s injury to Doug Baldwin’s disbelief at the officials’ lack of a call for pass interference on the Kansas City defense. Hearing Earl Thomas’s postgame interview brought it all together for me. The weight is too much. We have a talented team, beleaguered with injuries, trying to carry the expectations of an adoring public and themselves.
Admittedly, I miss last year. The swagger. The play. The magic. We might be thinking too much, and that can get in the way. No one expected the Hawks to win the Super Bowl last year. And that’s the difference. We played well, one game at a time, with an eye on what might be possible and no presumption. The improbable became the reality.
As crazy as it sounds, I want us to start playing for the moment again. Without a thought toward the playoffs, quarterback ratings, or Marshawn’s future. The future is then. We, as a team and as a city, need the now.
Clinton Pawlick and his wife, Jen, live in North Seattle. They love the Seahawks, good friends, Washington reds, and their two cats, Malcolm and Ink Pot Pie.
Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.