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Bainbridge helps give thanks from the 12th Man
From all parts of Bainbridge Island, Kitsap and Western Washington they came.
The 12th Man took over Seattle Wednesday — nearly a million strong.
Jubilant fans, young and old, the longtime hopeful or brand-new bandwagon boosters, jammed the streets in Seattle’s downtown for a homecoming victory parade for their World Champion Seattle Seahawks.
Eli Tooloee caught the 8:45 a.m. ferry to Seattle to see the parade with his friend, Patrick McMenamin.
“I had season tickets with my family this year for the Seahawks, so I feel like I got to go to the parade to kind of see the end of it,” Tooloee said.
“And, it’s an excuse to have a big-ass party in the city. So why not?”
He was taking the day off from his job at Island Fitness, and he was well-dressed for the victory celebration, wearing Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s No. 3 jersey and a Seahawks flag (which he had bought from a homeless man outside CenturyLink Field before the game against the Saints) draped around his neck like a cape.
Tooloee also came prepared for long hours in the cold, with long johns, heavy boots and a bit more.
“I’m going to drink some whiskey,” he said.
McMenamin had one word for the win that gave Seattle it’s first football championship in history.
“Awesome,” McMenamin said.
“It was probably the most dominating performance I’ve ever seen in the Super Bowl,” he said of the 43-8 shellacking Seattle hung on the Broncos.
All doubts were erased that Seattle would win, he said, when Percy Harvin ran the kickoff back 87 yards for a touchdown just 12 seconds into the second half. The dash to the endzone put the Seahawks in front, 29-0.
McMenamin, who was wearing the No. 25 jersey of much-talked about cornerback Richard Sherman, was taking the day off from classes at Seattle Central Community College.
“They’ve never had a championship. I just want to share this moment with the rest of the town,” he said.
Tim Reister of Poulsbo and his family — wife Buffy and sons Jared (13), Lucas (10) and Aiden (7) — caught an early Bainbridge ferry to go to the parade.
“I wanted to create a memory for them,” he said.
The family said they were heading to the intersection of Fourth and Madison streets; friends who caught the 7:45 a.m. boat were saving them a spot.
“We’ll just see what happens and go enjoy everybody out there,” he said.
Many of those heading to the Super Bowl celebration said they were longtime Seahawks fans.
“I was born in ‘76 when the Hawks first started and have been watching them ever since. I grew up watching them with my dad,” said Dave Epperson of Kingston.
“They actually won it this year, so there was no way we were going to miss this,” he said.
Epperson said he had hoped to get tickets for the party inside CenturyLink.
“We were online all night, but that thing was just spinning. Couldn’t get them,” he said.
Epperson said the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win has become his biggest lifetime sports memory.
“This is No. 1. I was only 3 for the ‘79 Sonics championship. I didn’t get to take part in that,” he said. “The Mariners had a great season, but they never won the whole thing. This has got to be No. 1 for me.”
Duncan McCombs, an 11th-grader, was taking the day off from school at Bainbridge High to go to the parade.
He wasn’t alone; school district officials said 1,450 students didn’t come to school Wednesday. (The district has an enrollment of approximately 3,700 students).
“Over half of the school is probably going,” McCombs said of Bainbridge High.
Trent Schulte, a junior at BHS, said he would likely be sitting in his American Studies class if not for the celebration.
The Bainbridge junior said he had to be at the parade “to be a part of the 12th Man, to be part of the best fans in the country, and to celebrate the Seahawks.”
The Bainbridge students were sitting with a large group of other high schoolers, all dressed in Seahawks jerseys and garb.
“I’m not like these bandwagon fans here,” Grayson Wildsmith said of his fellow BHS students, prompting groans. “I’ve been watching since I was a little kid. The Seahawks are just really important to me. I used to wear my Shaun Alexander jersey to school, and I have been so crushed since that 2005 [Super Bowl] team, against the Steelers.”
“I’m so happy we finally won. I never doubted for a second,” Wildsmith said. “I love the team so much, and to see all the people unified like this is totally great.”
Not everyone at the school is a Seahawks fan, though. The group called out their chemistry teacher as a big Broncos fan; he has a cardboard cutout of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning standing in his classroom and a John Elway jersey hanging on one wall.
“First thing we did after the game, we came in early the next day and brought him some tissues,” Wildsmith added. “We all went in there and gave him a group hug in our Seahawks jerseys.”
There were plenty of empty seats in classrooms in schools through Puget Sound.
“Half of our school is here,” Adam Lemmon, a senior at North Kitsap High, said as he waited for the ferry to pull into Seattle.
Lemmon was with a group of 20 or so classmates.
“I’m here to support the 12th Man,” said Jillian Walkowski, a junior at the school, in reference to the Seahawks fans who have become synonymous with this spectacular 13-3 season.
Transportation to and from the event proved tricky no matter which way you chose to go.
More than 2,000 walk-on passengers boarded the 8:45 a.m. sailing from Bainbridge to Seattle alone, according to one ferry crew member.
Among them were island residents Satu and Ellie Muldrow.
Ellie, 6, admitted to missing school for the event and said she was excited about the chance to see Wilson, her favorite player.
She also added she was “not sad,” about missing classes.
Tagging along with the ladies was their dog Birch. “He’s the 12th dog,” Satu said.
Also lucky enough to find a spot on the crowded boat were Kingston residents Shane and Sway-dee Simmons.
Sway-dee, 7, even brought a giant Seahawks flag to wave on the trip over.
“He couldn’t even sleep last night,” Simmons said the young fan.
Sway-dee said he thought that the Seahawks Super Bowl victory was “the best thing in the world,” and was going to try and catch a glimpse of Sherman.
Estimates of the crowd varied, from 750,000 north to nearly a million. Some fans admitted to having been outside saving a viewing spot since before 6 a.m.
Low temperatures and biting winds did nothing to abate the carnival-like atmosphere that pervaded downtown Seattle, with expressions of fandom running the gamut from simple hats and jerseys to face paint and full-body costumes.
Dakota Roice of Kent came dressed in a green tutu, part of the costume worn by a friend of his mom’s in a 5k race last year.
“The more green and blue I have, the better,” Roice said.
The crowd along Fourth Avenue and adjoining streets swelled rapidly before the start of the parade. Curbsides were five people deep by 10 a.m., and by the delayed start of the parade just after noon, the crowds were 20 people thick along the street. Side streets were filled with people clear up to Fifth Avenue.
The cheers from the continually expanding crowd were enhanced by an ensemble of green plastic vuvuzelas, which were being sold up and down the street for $5 each until vendors quickly ran out.
When occasionally the cheering died down for a moment, somebody inevitably took it upon themselves to start things up again with a loud cry of “Sea!”
To be answered by a chorus from the other side of Fourth Avenue, “Hawks!”
And the fervor began again.
Longtime fan Danner Hinn said the Super Bowl win will add to a growing national interest in Seattle and the Evergreen State.
“It was heartbreaking when we lost in 2005. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”
“We have legal marijuana, we have gay marriage, we have a Super Bowl championship team building into a dynasty: Everyone will be moving here now,” he laughed.
It was enough to make the 59-year-old contractor from North Seattle turn philosophical.
“I love it. I think Seattle, and the energy of Seattle and Washington state, is at a very high conscious level where love is kind of a theme in this area,” he said. “We can have the spotlight on us now to show as an example of goodness and love. Groovy.”
Review writer Luciano Marano contributed to this report.