Here We Go Again

Will Seattle Fans Show Up for the XFL Sea Dragons Debut?

Football fandom will soon be a near-year-round prospect. Whether the fledgling league can garner enough support to fill Lumen Field is yet to be seen.

By Taylor McKenzie Gerlach February 6, 2023


on February 19, the XFL ushers in the Sea Dragons as Jet City’s newest squad. If an off-season football league sounds familiar, that’s because it’s already launched and fizzled out before—twice.

Play in the fledgling league is supposedly faster. It nixes post-touchdown field goals in favor of cleats-on-the-turf plays worth up to three additional points. An overhauled overtime system, double forward-pass allowance, and running game clock are among other rulebook quirks designed to set the XFL apart from its star-studded NFL counterpart. But with a recent inundation of teams here, new and old—the Kraken, OL Reign, even cricket and rugby squads—Seattle’s quintessentially cacophonous fan base could be stretching mighty thin with yet another newcomer.

The rebranded Sea Dragons, which follow a 2001 flameout and a 2020
Covid casualty, return to our saturated sports landscape with flashy merch (orange and blue pool slides, anyone?) and the celebrity of head coach Jim Haslett, offensive coordinator June Jones, and new league co-owner Dwayne Johnson. Larry Stone, veteran Seattle Times sports columnist, predicts that star power ownership will help the team garner some inertia. After all, we love a good character. Take our undying devotion to Sue Bird and Ken Griffey Jr., despite trades and losing stretches. But with a largely unsung roster, the Sea Dragons can’t ride the coattails of celebrity for long. 

The league just may buy time for standout players to thaw our frozen hearts. The Kraken sure did. From the beginning, the front office, unsure if Seattle would show up in the ticket line, had their expectations “blown away,” says Kraken’s chief marketing officer Katie Townsend. Even for an expansion team still honing its product on the ice, Seattle brought raucous support: “Even when we are 5-0 down and we score a goal, the place goes nuts.” Despite the stereotype, Seattle fans are anything but fair-weather. 

The Sea Dragons have other things going for them: affordability for families priced out of the Seahawks, faster and more physical play, seats in Lumen Field. With five-game season packages going for as little as $100, the league could attract more than pigskin superfans needing an off-season diversion. 

It bodes well that Seattle fans aren’t “quite as coldhearted, win-or-else as other fan bases tend to be,” Stone says. Our love affair with underdogs is unwavering: We cheered for the Mariners during their 21-year playoff drought, donned 12th Fan jerseys throughout a dismal 2021 Seahawks season, and continually trudge through green-and-gold-tinged NBA nostalgia. 

If the XFL manages to create traditions tied to the Pacific Northwest—like the Kraken’s salmon-toss nod to Pike Place Market or Roosevelt grad and Olympic gold medalist Nevin Harrison’s 12 flag-raising—the Sea Dragons may just prove that the third time’s the charm. 

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