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A Saints Fan in Exile

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With the Seahawks about to play in their second consecutive Super Bowl, an account of being an away fan in the Emerald City.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

When I moved from New Orleans to Tacoma, Washington in June of 2013, I had no intention of becoming a Seahawks fan (obviously, I’m spoken for), but I didn’t plan on being a hater either.  When I lived in Kansas I developed an affinity for the Chiefs and Royals, and when I married my wife, born and raised in Miami, I embraced my role as "guy who defends LeBron" in social settings.  I’m flexible, is my point, and I figured I’d find some stuff to like about my new region’s team.  That’s just not how it worked out.

Naturally, I didn’t have purely fuzzy or even indifferent feelings about the Seahawks coming in. I still can’t watch highlights of the "Beast Mode" game from 2011 without flashing back to sitting in Markey’s wanting to go full Oedipus on my eyeballs. I’ve also never thought highly of Pete Carroll’s watching Reggie Bush get raked over the coals and stripped of his Heisman without saying a word in his former player’s defense or admitting any culpability in the accusations of NCAA rule violations. Still, Russell Wilson seemed like a nice guy and at the time Richard Sherman was still kind of funny.

The first major warning signs came from casual conversations with Seahawks fans. I would do that thing where one pulls names of a team’s former greats to establish a rapport. I mentioned Shaun Alexander as a guy who was as good as anyone for that five year stretch culminating in the Super Bowl and Matt Hasselbeck as a guy who deserved more credit for his consistency. I also threw in some good-natured ribbing about them never having won the big one, and a weird pattern emerged.

When I’d praise a former Seahawk, I would be contradicted and informed that Alexander, for example, was soft and that they were glad to see him go. However, when I suggested that the Seahawks had not been successful, I was told that the referees were responsible for the team’s loss in Super Bowl XL and that the team was generally unassailable. It was an odd combination; the fans seemed to have no loyalty to the players, but had a humorless arrogance about the team.

Put off but open to the idea I’d simply conversed with a few bad eggs, I made plans to attend the regular season game between the Saints and the Seahawks. Red flags included the fact that more than one friend in my graduate program warned me not to wear visible Saints gear out of concern that I’d be violently assaulted on sight. I figured they were exaggerating; this is Seattle. Not the toughest city I’ve been to by a long stretch.

So I went to the game in my Vilma jersey and fleur-de-lis cap, excited to experience a notoriously loud and intense atmosphere.  It began basically how these things go. Road games always involve some trash talk; I’ve yelled "tiger bait" and "who dat" at strangers. It wasn’t until kickoff that things took a really dark turn. Violent, nasty "kill him" type stuff was yelled after most tackles. The first time Drew Brees was sacked, a guy a few rows behind me yelled "We’re gonna give you ALS next, Drew!"

Shocked, I turned around and asked, "Was that a Steve Gleason joke?"

The guy nodded, unperturbed. I was going to escalate the argument, but my wife noticed better than I that the entire section had heard the exchange and no one but me thought it was inappropriate. I bit my tongue and I watched the Saints get stomped in the miserable rain surrounded by people yelling in my face and the face of my wife, who was in her Army fatigues.

Shortly into the second half, when it became clear that things weren’t going our way, I started complimenting the Seahawks fans, wishing them luck in the Super Bowl. Instead of reciprocating the compliments or expressing even faux-humility, they just kept talking shit. A guy behind me kept offering me money to buy the Saints hat off my head as a kind of scalp. They all seemed incapable of just being happy with the fact that they were good; they were only sustained by being better than someone else.

Looking around the stadium, with very few exceptions, I saw people wearing jerseys with the number 12 on them. For those of y’all that don’t know, there is no player on the Seahawks with that number. The 12 represents the "12th man" and many of them say "Fan" on the back. This is the perfect distillation of why the Seahawks community is insufferable; not only are they sadists, they are massive, unchecked narcissists.

They’re not cheering for the players or the place or the culture (there is none), they are cheering only, ridiculously, for themselves. The whole thing is utterly joyless. I was in downtown Seattle when they won the Super Bowl last year and the whole city had no idea what to do. When there was no trash left to talk and all that was left to do was celebrate, they stood awkwardly in the streets in little conversation circles for a couple hours like it was a bad middle school party and then went home.

None of this is to say that the Seahawks themselves are a bad or even problematic team. Wilson is an excellent game manager, that secondary is unreal, and Marshawn Lynch (who many Seattle fans irrationally hate) is a force of nature. I’m also not telling you to cheer for the Patriots on Sunday because they are obviously the Patriots. I’m simply saying that there’s a ton of variance from one fan base to another, and I deeply miss the emphasis on community, culture, and celebration that we have in New Orleans.