Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's something to shout about

Seattle teams seldom give fans as much joy as the Seahawks

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SEATTLE -- Standing in the middle of the locker-room, nodding his head to the beat of music bumping with bone-shaking bass, Ben Haggerty absorbed the scene.

As he shook hands with players and coaches who, for the most part, lacked association to Seattle other than employment as members of the Seahawks, Haggerty watched the chaos around him with special appreciation as a hometown guy.

Better than most, Haggerty knew how special the moment was as the Seahawks celebrated winning an NFC title and getting to the Super Bowl, because these things happen so infrequently in Seattle.

"This is the team. At the beginning of the year, pre-season, it was like this was the team to do it," said Haggerty, a Seattle native better known to his millions of fans as Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist Macklemore. "All these guys -- the defence, Russ, Pete, everybody -- it's been an amazing year to watch. We deserve to be there."

The last sentence Macklemore uttered is the one that is so rare in Seattle. This is the region of jets and technology, of guitar riffs and coffee. It's not a place where expecting championships is the norm, because there's been so much disappointment in the past.

The last time one of Seattle's major franchises had a parade to celebrate a title came in 1979 when the SuperSonics won the NBA title and no one on the Seahawks current roster was born. To call Seattle's championship history thin is an understatement. The crushing losses along the way have become so plentiful that disappointment has become the default expectation for most fans in these parts.

But this group is different. And maybe that's why there is so much support behind these Super Bowl-bound Seahawks.

Seattle fans are not ones to puff out their chest with swagger and bravado, because there's so little substance beyond the front. It's hard to brag on a national scale when the only professional titles won over the past 30-plus years came from your WNBA franchise.

That's not to belittle what the Seattle Storm accomplished, winning championships in 2004 and 2010. But it's not something that registers.

Even the success of the Seattle Sounders, winning two U.S. Open Cup championships and becoming the model for expansion success doesn't resonate beyond a select audience. Creating a world-respected soccer atmosphere is an achievement in which Seattle fans take great pride, yet it remains a blip on a broader scale.

That's why this group of Seahawks has taken hold of Seattle and the entire Pacific Northwest. They have fun, they dance, they brag. They ride the thin border between confident and cocky and their coach encourages all those traits.

They are the antithesis of what Seattle has been. And because of that, their legions have grown exponentially. The "12th Man" is real -- sometimes overly so -- and has engulfed far more than just Seattle and the Puget Sound region.

"We have the best sports fans in America, and to be able to give them this opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, possibly win a Super Bowl, that would be huge for this whole state," said Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, one of two Washington natives on the roster.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2014 B7

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