How popular are the Seahawks?
Popular enough for commercial airline pilot Robert Zerbe to stand in line starting on the hottest day in Seattle’s year past 1 a.m. Monday outside CenturyLink Field – while in his full duty uniform and pulling his wheeled bags fresh from SeaTac.
He tweeted me when I mentioned him when I passed him walking to the lone bathroom for the 2,000 waiters: the family restroom next to the closed-Sunday Seahawks team shop on the stadium’s west side.
"Didn’t have time to change after work!" Zerbe said.
The NFC champions the last two seasons are popular enough for a mom from Spanaway, one with five little kids including three girls in cheerleading outfits, to join pilot Zerbe and 2,000 others in a queue that didn’t move for two hours in Sunday’s 97-degree heat. Two of her kids were asleep with dad in the car while mom waited past midnight.
"Three more to go," she said wearily just as Sunday was becoming Monday in downtown Seattle.
She meant her kids, not her place in line. She was 1,800 Seahawks fans back -- but 200 ahead of the last wristband the team was issuing from 8 p.m. through about 1:30 a.m.
If that doesn’t sound long to you, you weren’t in the line. And you definitely weren’t in the front of the line; those folks started lining up Saturday night.
The wristbands entitled the recipients to come back to wait again from 10 a.m. past 3 on Monday afternoon to actually purchase for a well-below-market $62 each up to four tickets to any of the team’s 10 home games this coming season. The team set that price after figuring the averages of the NFL’s lowest-priced, face-value tickets.
The Seahawks took 4,000 tickets back from brokers this offseason, leaving them with more to sell to the public than is usual in what is annually an essentially sold-house (except for what those scalpers have, of course).
More is a relative term, of course.
There were 1,700 seats in the corners of the stadium’s upper deck available per game. You can do the math on what kind of premium that put on having a lower wristband number.
Or I can help:
Wristband numbers 1-425 guaranteed those people the choice of any game on the 2015 home schedule of the NFC champions the last two seasons. That includes popular, marquee foes such as the Pittsburgh Steelers in a rare Seattle date Thanksgiving weekend, the Detroit Lions that were a playoff team last season in a primetime, marquee game on Sunday in October, plus NFC West rivals Arizona and San Francisco.
Numbers above 1,300 meant the possibility of at last half the eight-game regular-season home schedule already being sold before those wristband holders could buy on Monday.
And wristbands above 1,800? Well, there was a lot of comedy as dark as the night got in that part of the line early Monday morning about being relegated to paying to watch the recently woeful Cleveland Browns. Or – ugh – only having the August preseason games against Denver or Oakland from which to choose.
That’s why Bernie Jones, wristband recipient No. 1, plopped down to claim the first spot in line on Saturday night. That was almost 22 hours before the Seahawks had said they were going to allow folks to be on the stadium’s premises.
That’s why a family from Vancouver, Washington, drove up to stand in line for seven hours, get a few hours of sleep in a Seattle hotel, then rise to wait again for hours on Monday to buy tickets.
And that’s why there were rumors throughout the line of the homeless people offering to hold places in lane early Sunday for $50.
Yes, it was an eclectic, at-times entertaining and other times hot, frustrated and doubting cross-section of Seahawks fans in these Sunday and Monday Lines That Never Seemed to Move.]
If I had a dollar for every time I heard "We’re not going to make 2,000" … well, I wouldn’t have been in this line Sunday night.
They were too many Sherman jerseys in the crowd to count. Many Wilsons and number 12s. Throwback Tutupus, Largents and Alexanders. Jones was wearing a white, Shaun Alexander 37 jersey from a decade ago when he purchased the maximum four tickets for $248 to the Steelers game on Monday.
The night before, two 20-somethings in full Pittsburgh gear, even a Steelers backpack, almost skipped by when the sky was still light. They were giddy at being one of the first 100 to get wristbands, which didn’t exactly raise their already flat-lined popularity with this Seattle crowd still bitter over Super Bowl 40 a decade ago.
Or over still being waaaaaay down the west side of C-Link, in a line that was five or so people wide and started at the northeast ticket office then spanned the width of the stadium’s north side before turning south down Occidental Avenue past the team shop to the southwest entrance.
"You going to the Steelers game?" someone in the back of the line asked the two black-and-gold guys.
"HELL, yeah!" one of them shot back.
"Pffft," one young woman said with much disdain; she had a Seahawks logo stenciled on her cheek for this most-unique convocation. "Steelers fans."
So why was I there – for seven hours, until 1 a.m.?
My 12-year-old son loves the Steelers; might have a thing or three to do with where his Pops grew up. They last played here in 2003 when he was six months old and not even living here. So he was not only willing but excited to stand with me, though he was three years too young to get his own wristband that would have allowed us to hoard four more tickets for Nov. 29.
His mom, my wife, used maternal intuition – or just plan common sense – when she arrived in the stadium’s north parking lot just before 11. Against his loud protest, she took him home to bed.
So it went into early Monday. The guy a few spots behind me, half-standing because he his right leg was bent, casted and propped into a push cart, had to leave at 9:45 for an appointment. A young woman directly behind me bailed just after 10 because she had to go to work at KIRO television on an overnight shift. We hadn’t even inched around the right turn in the mammoth line off the stadium’s west side yet by 10.
Ten o’clock was a crucial time in line. That was closing time for the only sandwich shop nearby that was open and delivered. Hungry people at the back of the line who showed up at the Seahawks-appointed time of 6 p.m. Sunday, unprepared while expected a couple hours’ endeavor at the most, began a spate of cell-phone orders to the JimmyJohns that is a few blocks north in Pioneer Square. At 9:20, one of the sub shop’s stream of carriers pedaled up the queue carrying what looked like a toddler trailer-full of sandwiches attached to his bike.
About a deep post pattern to his right, a young woman was doing a cartwheel and then a front handstand over getting her coveted wristband.
She must have been choosing the Steelers’ game, too. By noon on Monday, just two hours into the actual sale and with just 700 of the 2,000 wristband wearers having been called to purchase, that game was just about sold out.