The year was 1981. We had just moved from sunny San Diego, CA to rainy Hilo, HI. I was 10 years old and a new San Diego Charger fan. My dad would take Chris and I outside to throw the ball around. We were still learning about the game.
There are no professional sports teams in Hawaii so typically the locals will root for whatever team has the most Hawaiians on the team…or the team that wins the most. (There were a lot of 49er fans growing up on the Big Island).
Chris and I would wear our yellow Charger shirts to school. The Chargers QB was Dan Fouts a hall of famer who loved to throw the deep ball. The Chargers were explosive on offense yet never winning or going to the Super Bowl but boy were they fun to watch.
One day I was in the Keaau Elementary School library and was looking for some Charger pictures in the NFL picture book. I stopped turning the pages when an image jumped out at me.
The picture showed two Seattle Seahawks with their head down walking off the field after a loss. In the background was a celebrating San Diego Charger.
My heart broke at that very moment.
Who were these players dressed in white and why were they so sad? There wasn’t an internet in those days so it was looking through more NFL books to find out who this team was. (Probably one of the few times I’ve ever been interested in researching books at the library).
I found out these were the Seattle Seahawks.
Their color was silver, blue and green. My new favorite colors.
They were losers, kind of like what I felt like being fair skinned, skinny, and religious growing up on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The more I researched the more I fell in love with this team. The more I played football the more I fell in love with the game. I was the only one in the Ritchie household that didn’t fit the mold of everyone else and their Chargers. I was a Seahawk fan now. Not just a fan, a fanatic.
Every year, I read the NFL preview magazines. After the 1984 season, the Seahawks were predicted to face the Giants in the Super Bowl by Dr. Z.
With each season came a schedule that I would monitor, after each Sunday I would write the score down next to my print out from my dad’s Tandy 1000 personal computer. (Remember those?) Sometimes the Seahawks would be on Monday Night Football. Usually against the Raiders and we usually beat them.
We drafted my favorite college player, The Boz, who although didn’t like going there, I knew would fall in love with my team.
I drew a Seahawks Logo on poster paper that stretched over six feet and taped it to my bedroom wall.
In 1987 I wore a Seattle Seahawks sweatshirt at a Bible camp when the preacher pointed to me in a crowd of about 400 and said “The Seattle Seahawks practice at Northwest College.”
Hold on. What?
What did he say?
When preachers preached I kind of tuned them out. My dad was a preacher and I had pretty much heard every sermon in the world. But what did he say?
I approached the preacher after his sermon. He confirmed the Seahawks practice at Northwest College. In fact you could work for them as a student.
In my mind I was moving to Seattle and going to Northwest College.
In 1991, three local kids from Hawaii boarded a plane headed to Seattle. I convinced my brother and his best friend to join me in this journey to the big city. I was 20 and the others were 17.
We arrived at school and surprisingly people here teased my beloved Seahawks. I didn’t care. I was a true fan.
In 1992, the three local boys from Hawaii returned to Hawaii for a few weeks in the summer and convinced three more locals to join us in Seattle. After the dust settled we had a total of 8 small town locals from Hawaii in Seattle. All because of the Seahawks.
If you remember, 1992 was the year that the Seahawks were awful, awful, awful. What did that mean? Tickets!
I attended six of the eight home games, put the tickets in a safe place (of course I can’t find them now) and cherished every moment. There were some games I went by myself, cheering on my team, one game me and another Hawaiian buddy got to the 100 level, against the Bengals. They spanked us. So what, what a feeling, I was in Seattle, in the Kingdome cheering on my Seahawks.
The years continued and I followed my team just like I did growing up in Hawaii. The Seahawks almost left Seattle, as if a thief came in the night. Paul Allen swooped in and saved the team eventually bringing in the Big Show, Mike Holmgren.
2005 brought a Super Bowl, but really, I wasn’t sure we could beat the Steelers. They were tougher than us and showed it on the field beating us with some questionable calls.
Years later Pete Carroll got hired. I knew very little of this guy except he seemed kind of rah rah in his on field post game interviews at USC. At his first Seahawk press conference Pete referenced John Wooden. I was hooked. Pete was so fresh and different from the other coaches that were in the league. As a long time Seahawk fan something was different with the hiring of Pete Carroll.
The first year was awesome. Beast Quake! Man, what a ride that year was. You may even remember that the Chicago Bears beat us in the second round but after the Bears got a big lead we ALMOST came back to win. Crazy. These new Seahawks were cr a a z e e.
A couple of years later Russell Wilson was drafted. Ok, cool, he has a Levi commercial, and kind of sounds like Pete Carroll. But really, this was Matt Flynn’s team, surely Pete wouldn’t start the short guy.
Then came our second preseason game that year. It was against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver. Russell Wilson came in and was doing his thing. On his first drive he was sacked by one of the defenders – wait – hold on – did Russell get that pass off? What???? Surely his knee was down.
How did he do that and the pass was on a rope to the far side line while he was being tackled.
Could he be the guy? What about Flynn?
I turned. Just like dropping the San Diego Chargers after seeing a couple of defeated Seahawks, I had dropped Matt Flynn from my mind and jumped on the Russell Wilson band wagon.
My friends and I ordered 20 Seahawk jerseys that year and only two of us bought the #3 jersey. We knew then what everyone knows now.
Russell Wilson has started every game since. He has never been blown out. EVER. Russell Wilson has never lost a game by more than a score. Unheard of.
Russell Wilson loves Jesus, he’s a Seahawk and an overall great guy. (Did you know you can love Jesus and not be a good guy? Yeah, there are some jerk Christians out there but that’s another blog).
When the Seahawks beat the 49ers I looked at Lindsay and said, ‘remember Buffalo last season?’ She said, ‘no.’ I reminded her that we smoked the Buffalo Bills last season because they had no idea of what was coming. Denver, I believed, would suffer the same feat. I had no doubt we would blow them out. Originally, my score was 34-10. Then after hearing the talking heads over two weeks I chickened out and gave Denver 13 more points in my prediction. I knew though we would win by at least 10 points.
Super Bowl night finally came. And on that night as I watched with 500+ Seahawk dressed, bible believing Jesus loving freaks, chills came down my spine. The team that has meant so much to me for so long finally won a Super Bowl.
I looked to my left and saw my wife screaming like a little girl, I would have never met her if I wasn’t a Seahawk fan. My daughters Lorelai and Taya stood clapping with everyone else. My boys Lukas and Colt, all there with me, all because I was a Seahawk fan from the Big Island of Hawaii.
There stood my senior pastor throwing skittles to the crowd after Marshawn Lynch scored.
Some youth were running from each side of the sanctuary leading everyone in the wave.
At first I was a little leery about cheering for the Seahawks in our church sanctuary. My uneasy feeling went away when I saw how joyful everyone was. It was surreal man, never experienced anything like it. I expect us to be that joyful for Jesus. 🙂
Take a look for yourself
Tomorrow Lindsay and I are taking the day off from work, we are keeping our kids out of school and heading to downtown Seattle to watch with what’s estimated at 500,000 people cheering on our Seahawks for their victory parade.
Next year the Seahawks will win their second title in franchise history, who knows who they will beat but we’ll be back to back champions. I’ll think about that later. For now I’m going to enjoy the celebration.