The ’72 Dodge Dart looked like shit. Literally.
It was mostly brown, except for the parts that were primer gray and full of Bondo, evidence of the time someone T-boned it on Aurora Avenue. It was a two-door, which made getting our family (seven kids and two adults) in and out a nightmare. Once, in an attempt to help my sister out of the back seat, my mom grabbed her arm wrong and dislocated her elbow. Six hours and three Child Protective Services interviews later, they were allowed to come home from the emergency room. The starter would go out, the back windows didn’t roll down, the brakes were only so-so. In fact the only thing that reliably worked on that Dart was the AM radio. But that was all I needed.
Sunday mornings, when the Seahawks would play east of the Mississippi, the game would crackle on to that AM radio at 10:30 sharp. This presented a problem, because that was also the time my father was delivering his sermon from the pulpit of his evangelical church—a sermon I was required to attend. Steve McQueen in The Great Escape had nothing on my system for getting out to that car to listen to my beloved Seahawks.
First, there was the slipping of the keys out of my mom’s purse. This necessitated waiting for a worship song, during which all of the adults were standing, with their arms raised to heaven, eyes closed. (“Awesome Is Our God” was pretty reliable for this. So was “As the Deer Panteth for the Water, So My Soul Longeth After Thee.”) With the keys in hand, it was time to slyly exit. This process actually started earlier in the day, before we’d even left the house, when I’d complain to my mom of a stomachache. That way, when I gave her a grimace and headed toward the bathroom during my dad’s preaching, it all seemed to make sense. Once I’d made it safely to the backyard of our ramshackle church building, it was just a matter of jumping a few fences and taking the long way back to the car.
I’d shut the creaking door behind me, turn on the radio, duck down on the vinyl seats, and lose myself in the experience. I’d stare at the dial imagining Dave Krieg launching the ball to Steve Largent or linebacker Fredd Young leveling a running back. (Young claimed his first name was spelled with two Ds because after he tackled people they stuttered, “Fred-d-d-d-d.”) On the days they won, I would do a secret dance of joy in that car, returning to the church in time for “fellowship” hour, eating Danish butter cookies and drinking soda with a giddy secret. On the days they lost, which was a much more frequent occurrence, I’d cry, punch the seats angrily, and console myself by sneaking into the church’s kitchen and drinking all the leftover communion grape juice.
Since 1982 I have never missed watching or listening to a regular-season Seahawks game. In that time I’ve lived in LA, New York, Miami, DC, and New Orleans. Let me repeat that: I have never missed a game. I even interrupted my honeymoon in Italy to watch them play the Cleveland Browns at 2am local time. The marriage eventually fell apart, but my love for the Seahawks did not. I was at
Detroit’s Ford Field in 2005 for the Seahawks’ first Super Bowl appearance, so hung over from the night before that every cheer from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ faithful made my head feel like it was going to explode. I was at last season’s NFC Championship game when Richard Sherman famously swatted away Colin Kaepernick’s last-second pass to Michael Crabtree. Afterward I walked through the delirious crowd carrying a life-size cutout of Sherman, letting a sea of drunk football bros high-five it and pose for pictures. The amount of my personal happiness that rides on the success and failure of this football team borders on very unhealthy.
When I was a kid, furtively listening to the Seahawks struggle through season after awful season, they felt like my little secret. Now they’ve won the Super Bowl and I have to share them with everyone else. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I guess it’s how it is. Now when they play, we all stop what we are doing. We crane our necks toward some ludicrously large TV somewhere. We gather.
I’m an adult now, and I don’t go to church. I don’t have to pull off any Steve McQueen–esque capers to see how the Seahawks are doing. My once-secret football team is now the best there is, and I can watch them whenever and wherever I want. But mostly I just wish I could be a kid again, face pressed against the vinyl, listening and dreaming.
Luke Burbank hosts the syndicated Live Wire Radio and the podcast Too Beautiful to Live.
This article appeared in the September 2014 issue of Seattle Met.