Uncle Rico lives full time now in Bellingham, Washington. He came to visit me here in Cadiz back in early August so that we could ride Quads together out on the dunes and burn our Eastern European skins in the Mojave Turkey Roaster. He brought with him some of his homemade whiskey and on a hot, summer night in his Dodge Santana Campervan, we tipped back quite a few glasses of “Idaho Jockey-Box Bourbon” while playing a brisk game of Strip-Scrabble with our special ladies.
In the heat of that pregnant moment, we formulated a haphazard plan for the coming fall. We agreed it was time to make a noble sojourn to QWEST FIELD to take in a SEATTLE SEAHAWKS game together.
The time had come.
The pain had finally softened.
The news had just come down that NFL Referee, Bill Leavy, acknowledged that he had made “mistakes” in the Seahawks’ disputed loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2006 Super Bowl.
“I’ll go to my grave in regret,” Mr. Leavy said, “It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly.”
No shit, Bill? No shit?
Even though Uncle Rico and I felt somewhat vindicated by Mr. Leavy’s admission and how it correlated to what we had seen that fateful day on our TV sets, we couldn’t very well get into our time machines and go back to Detroit, back to the Jerome-Bettis-Love-Love-Bill-Cowher-Love-Love-Iron-City-Love-Love-Festival for the Fix-is-In.
We had to move forward with our lives.
Well, it just so happened that I had big plans to be in the Oregon Territories for a close friends’ 50th birthday party in late September. The news of this gave Uncle Rico a charge. Immediately, we scrutinized the Seahawks’ schedule together. The game to make would be in Week 3, when the Chargers were coming to town. Beautiful, the mighty Bolt from the south, and old hated American Football Conference foe. Perfect.
A toast then, to the vision of the two of us rejoicing as part of the 12th man on September 26th, 2010 at QWEST FIELD.
It was on like Atari Pong!
As plans go, with Uncle Rico and myself that is, things always seem to stay liquid. Therfore, by the end of August, when Uncle Rico sent me a somewhat nervous email detailing his concerns for procuring tickets, emphasizing that he had no real contacts, I began to have my doubts that this would ever happen. He asked me if we should try StubHub. So I searched the Internet link that he sent me and it only confirmed what I have come to suspect: that NFL Tickets are made solely for the Boo-Zhwha-Zee-Zee-Boob-a-lee-boob upper classes of these here United States.
Bohemian artists and Tupperware salesman be damned, you could watch games at the local Buffalo Wild Wings, if you really wanted to.
StubHub led me to conclude that $200 a ducat was the normal range.
“Screw it,” I wrote back, “We’ll scalp, and if we don’t find anything, we’ll watch it at a bar, near the stadium instead.”
And so that was where we left it, Uncle Rico agreeing half-heartily, insisting that our plans were not set in stone, but rather, that we would be “angling” to “perhaps” go see this game.
As the date grew near, I made my travel plans. In doing so, I splurged. I reserved a downtown hotel room in the Marriott on Pioneer Square, very close to QWEST FIELD. Maybe it was a way of forcing the plan into motion, but I figured what the heck, even if I didn’t go to the game, I would need a place to sleep; a place with good thread count in the sheets and a gym to stay toned.
On Friday, September 24th, before the crack of dawn, I left my sweet little home in Cadiz and drove solo in my Spaceship Toyota Prius, listening to Ross Tucker’s Football Today Podcasts on my new, 4-G IPhone (the phone provided for me by my SICKNESS.COM expense account, of course)(EDITOR’S NOTE: I gotta get me one of those.), stopping for the night in Roseburg, Oregon just in time to watch the Roseburg High Indians defeat the Thurston Colts, 35-33, and in the process see head coach, Thurman Bell, record his 300th victory, putting him first on the Oregon High School list of active coaches and third all-time behind Dayton’s Dewey Sullivan (352-84-2) and Kent Wigle (307-99-2) of Marshfield and South Umpqua. (EDITOR’S NOTE: And that is why it’s called Football Sickness.)
The Roseburg Indians play in the highest division in the state (6A) and are the biggest show in town on a Friday night. I’m here to report in these pages that while overall the players seemed somewhat slower and undersized compared to the ones back home in Cadiz; Football—Frisbee-Football-Throw-Ball-Spread-Offense-Style, to be specific—is alive and well in the state of Oregon in the year 2010.
Don’t believe me?
Well then, just ask JIM HARBAUGH and the boys over at STANFORD, or RICK NEUHEISEL and the men of WESTWOOD for an explanation!
My guess is that every football-loving kid in Oregon who straps it up nowadays, wants so badly to go on to play for CHIP KELLY and the NIKE DEATHSTAR in Eugene that they can just taste the swoosh, even if it might get stuck going down their throats.
Whoa dog, have you seen that glistening Corporation of Higher Education on the Hill of late?
Well, I have!
Whoa nelly, Dan Fouts! That place is green! Too green to control. Eugene, Oregon is a blossom of American success and intellectual fertility if ever there was one!
The Saturday morning after leaving Roseburg, I drove north to Eugene for breakfast. When I pulled off the highway and into town, the first thing that I came face to face with was the future.
Say goodbye, folks, to the cozy confines of the once venerable Oregon Pit and say hello to the DEATHSTAR Space Station at the new Matthew Knight Sports Arena:
Holy shit, Prefontane! At first I thought I was driving past the Eugene Airport Terminal, but I quickly came to realize just where I was and that the mighty O.U. Ducks are sure to be a powerhouse in all major sports for as long as you and I are wearing Nikes, which I think will be just about forever.
So get used to the 1001 uniforms.
This is no flash in the pan.
The Oregon DIY (Do it Yourself) movement is a blazing firebrand.
And like it or not, Phil Knight is your material leader!
After breakfast on the DEATHSTAR, I made my way to Sandy, Oregon and the STARGAZER Farm, where that afternoon the darling Ms. Isabel Cruz, the best chef in these here United States of America, was turning 50.
If you don’t know much about Isabel and what she does from here to VIAND…than you really need to come west and check it out…here’s the way in.
Isabel’s STARGAZER Farm is where she grows the organic produce for her restaurant kitchens. It used to be the world famous (in certain circles) Oregon Bulb Farm. It’s the place where the world famous Stargazer Lilly was created. Hence the name as a tribute. It’s located on the Sandy River, down in this valley (right).
The next 10 hours or so at the farm were filled by old friends in new places, Zebras with French-looking showgirls riding them like ski-dos and handing out H’orderves, jugglers, planes with wing-walkers, whippets, chickens, deer, sword-swallowers, fire-eaters, dancing bears, hot-air balloon rides, harmless flirtations, chanterelle mushrooms, smoked elk, rabbit loins, butterfish, peach crisps with crème anglaise, and God only knows what else off the top of my profligate head.
Oh and of course, there was the Desolation Ale! Or what I like to call, the Beerijuana! A microbrew that came in a keg straight from Amnesia Brewing in Portland.
Forget all your worries and your cares and go there sometime, really you must.
I drank probably too much of it that night.
Because when I awoke early Sunday Morning I couldn’t feel my left arm any more, most likely on account of the sad fact I had been lying on it against the ground right where I had fallen sometime near dawn and probably hadn’t moved since. This was not far from the spot where I completed my drum dance that I had learned from the Maasai Tribe years ago back in Northern Tanzania.
The Maasai showed me how the sound and the rhythm of the drum express the mood of the people. The drum is the sign of life; its beat is the heartbeat of the community. Such is the power of the drum to evoke emotions, to touch the souls of those who hear its rhythms. In an African community, coming together in response to the beating of the drum is an opportunity to give one another a sense of belonging and of solidarity. It is a time to connect with each other, to be part of that collective rhythm of the life in which young and old, rich and poor, men and women are all invited to contribute to the society.
At the STARGAZER Farm that night, we beat the drum and came together!
Sincerely, I tell you all of this not so much so that you will wish for my lifestyle (although you probably do by now), but rather because, as background for what followed, it’s all very important to the mission.
Nevertheless, a little secret if you will… my lifestyle is the way it is, most simply put, because my dossier is always the most complete.
“Leave nothing out,” my SICKNESS editors always say.
I do my damnedest not to disappoint.
Sunday morning, as I said, and this is when the mission turned most serious. The first thing that I did when I stood up off the ground was to try and wipe the dirt of my sweatshirt, which only turned it into mud.
Then I thought to myself, “Where did this sweatshirt come from?”
I could have sworn I was wearing my pink African Dashiki when the night started. Until I remembered the sequence of events, the sweatshirt was given to me at the party by some sort of souvenir vendor dude who had been working the grounds all night looking for tips. I think I traded him my Dashiki for it.
Oh well, the sweatshirt was dark green with a big, bright yellow “O” across the chest.
“Nice,” I told myself.
The next thing I did was to check my cell phone.
Apparently, at some point in the night I had received a text message, it was from Uncle Rico.
It said simply that he could not make it to the Seahawks game because he had to “travel immediately to Denver, Colorado for an emergency Counter-Jihad Conference.”
It was starting to rain. The farm was quiet. People were sleeping all over the place. It looked like a Civil War battlefield, or the day after Burning Man.
“Uncle Rico’s loss,” I thought, not so much out of anger, but certainly out of some twisted vengeful motivation.
With no further thought and with my work done on the farm, I stepped into the Prius, pressed the go button and started heading north like a salmon swimming up the Columbia, which I would cross in no time.
I don’t know why I didn’t go inside the farmhouse, find a warm place to lie down and sleep the whole day away. The game called to me, I guess, and Uncle Rico’s absence only urged me on with more determination.
The sky spit rain—surprise, surprise—from Portland to Seattle, which is about a 3-hour drive if you are moving at a good pace, translate: FAST.
Still, it was a longer drive than the time I spent sleeping the night before.
The weather did nothing to excite my desire to sit out in the wet and watch an NFL spectacle in a stupor of dehydration and exhaustion. But just north of Olympia, still a good hour from Seattle, I started seeing the cars full of drivers and passengers with Seahawk game jerseys on. This intensified with each mile that I drew closer.
By the time I reached SEATAC, the Seattle Tacoma International Airport, I must have been the only person on the highway not wearing a jersey.
It felt like something was building.
Like a wave.
QWEST FIELD is not a colossal stadium. Compared to some of the other monoliths around the country, it’s more like a jewel, built on what was once nothing but the mudflats of Elliott Bay.
Yet when you see it from a distance, it looks like a giant crown.
It’s beautiful. Alluring.
Nestled beside SAFECO FIELD in the SoDo (South of Downtown, originally South of the Dome, as in, the Kingdome) section of Seattle’s Industrial District, QWEST is easy to get to from the junction of Interstate-5 and I-90.
The I-90 dropped me right down onto South Royal Brougham, which runs east and west between the two stadiums. I investigated the crowd of people, almost all of them dressed in Seahawks jerseys. As I inched along I searched the multitudes for any possible scalpers. No sign. It was already 12:30.
I made my way to the west side and turned north onto First Avenue. If there was any tailgating going in, I never saw it.
Up First Avenue I gassed it, right on to Cherry, east to Second Ave, and voila! On the corner was my hotel, the Courtyard Marriot in the beautiful old Alaska Building, the first steel-framed skyscraper ever built in Seattle!
Quickly, I gave my keys to the valet, hurried to the front desk, asked the man there if I could check-in early. No problem, the good people of Marriott abided me and before I knew it I was entering my room, which I discovered was on the south corner of the 8th floor.
The room was huge, more like a suite really, with a couch, a coffee table and tall picture windows. I threw my luggage down and pulled open the large drapes to get my bearings.
Whoa, Jim Zorn!
Lo and behold check out what was hiding behind the curtain where Carrol Merril was standing!:
The crown jewel of the NFL!
That was it. That was the clincher. That’s all it took. Even though I did lie down on the bed just to test it, and I did feel my bones seize up and sleep just hanging at the edges my soul, I decided right then and there that there was no way that I could be this close and not try to get into the game.
It was 12:50 PM by now.
Game time was 1:05.
A splash of water on my face and off I went back down to the streets. From the hotel I followed the herd of fans back down through Klondike Park toward QWEST FIELD.
I bought a ticket from the first scalper that I saw. It was easy. He showed me the ticket. It was a $96.00 face value. He showed me where it was on a map. He asked me what I would give him for it. I told him $70.00. He said “Deal!” I said, “Thank you,” and it was done.
Of course, I only needed to walk about 25 yards further down the block, closer to the stadium, when a couple walking with a third dude appeared, all dressed in their Seahawk jerseys, full regalia.
The third dude held out a ticket and he asked me if I wanted it. I asked him what he meant. He said I could have it for $10.00; that it was his wife’s but that she couldn’t make it the game this week.
I stopped, I looked at the ticket, it also had a $96.00 face value on it, and the seat was in roughly the same location as mine. In a flash, I started playing the savage businessman in my mind. I would buy this ticket from them and then I would turn around and sell it to the next chump and I would get my money back and go to the game for free.
But before I could even get the thought completed, some other, smarter, more eager, nimble-minded businessman appeared and he jumped like a hungry wolf at the beautiful offer.
Oh well, I already had a ticket of my own at least, and I was still coming in under budget, so I let this little setback go and I moved on.
The closer I got to the Stadium, the more people I saw selling tickets. 30, 40, 50, maybe more, all plying their Sunday trade.
Where do all these dudes come from with all these tickets?
They’re just movin’ product out there on the streets like it’s popcorn.
Is it really profitable, I wondered?
How do I buy a $96.00 ticket for $70.00 and someone makes money from that?
This must be an inside job by the team, by the league.
You gotta know it is.
The crowd was swelling as I walked down Occidental Avenue and neared the gates at the north plaza. Game time was fast approaching now. As if the Gods of Abundance didn’t have enough fun with me, a Youngman—he was northwest blonde, big and burly, in his early 20s—dropped his ticket on the ground right in front of me and just kept on walking. No one else seemed to notice this. I knelt down and picked the ticket up and almost got run over by the surge behind me. By the time I was walking forward again, the Youngman was a good ten yards ahead of me. I looked at his ticket more closely. $140.00 face value. An upgrade!
Don’t think that the thought didn’t cross my mind to turn around and sell it to the next schmuck coming by, but it was too late for that, we were very close to the entrance gate and the security was now dividing us by gender (not sure why) and checking our belongings and metal wanding us, and besides, it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. It sounds so noble now to hear it, but really that negative shit always comes back to me somehow.
So I moved through the crowd and when I reached burly blonde, I tapped him on his shoulder and handed his ticket back to him and then faded out of view before he could even thank me. Not that I was looking for a reward, but Karma is supposed to work that way, if there is such thing as Karma…even I know that much.
I didn’t wait for his thank you. Instead, I waited for the Karma.
My Karma came to in the next 3 and one half hours of mega theatre football!
Now I’m not gonna sit here and go into every detail of the game. I hate that kind of reporting. If you want to know the details, the story about San Diego’s too many fumbles, Seattle’s scholgg-soupy offense, Leon Washington’s explosive, record breaking two kickoff returns for touchdowns, Phillip Rivers’ 4 million yards passing, Earl Thomas’s two interceptions, the second one sealing the victory, than you can read all about it…and you can even watch the highlights on the .com:
What I will tell you is that my ticket, the actual seat, was not so bad at all, as far as the view was concerned. It was in the corner of the end zone, right above the Seahawks’ locker-room tunnel, close to the action and with a great view of the north plaza and part of downtown. See for yourself:
I took this photo during the pregame ceremonies, when the team was first coming out of the tunnel. Little did I know what was about to follow.
Look at the woman next to me, she could have told me all I needed to know about what was to come… for Chuck Knox sake, she’s already holding her ears.
The roar, the incessant screaming and yelling had begun!
At this point, I must say, I wasn’t too concerned about the volume, it actually seemed pretty tolerable.
However, right before the opening kickoff is when that all would change for good. Holy Bennie Blades! It suddenly got insufferably, bone-chillingly loud in there. The top blew off the place as a special, perfectly timed, ceremony ensued in which one lucky individual gets to raise the giant #12 flag and bask in the glory as the honorary 12th Man for a day.
I want to ask you now to turn your speaker volume to the highest setting, it’s the only way that you will really know and I want you to watch this video, because that’s exactly what it sounded like on that day.
Just make sure you are home alone and that no one is sleeping next door:
Okay, that was good, no problem.
The 12th Man, what a brilliant idea!
Just another of the many great ideas coming from the mind of owner Paul Allen, I reckon.
And it works like magic.
I’ve never been to a pro football game where the visiting quarterback kept having to run to the sidelines and get the play calls from his coach directly because he couldn’t hear him in his high-tech walkie-talkie helmet.
Until this day, that is.
After the opening kickoff, on the Chargers’ very first play from scrimmage, as Phillip Rivers walked up to the line, the screaming began in earnest. It was shocking! I knew then that I was in trouble. I looked around at the architecture, tried to grab onto something in my mind to hold onto.
It was so loud that my eyes were bugging. All day long the field looked like it was shaking, like my old Conoco electric football set. I had trouble following the plays. I had to look away at times, like an epileptic has to look away from flashing lights.
I feared a seizure of the mind.
I spent the first quarter in my seat, near agony. What I was surmising was that, due to the construction details—specifically, the cantilevered roof—all the noise was angling back into the corners, therefore, I was getting the very worst of it.
To counter this, I decided to go on the move. And even though at first I felt better not staying in one place, I would soon discover that no matter where I went, the sound was deafening. This too, I would learn in the echo of many conversations with people, was a Paul Allen masterpiece.
Apparently, the stadium was designed to deflect the noise back in on itself.
Sort of like a star collapses inward from the pressures of its own gasses, I guess.
In this case, making the energy from the noise lethally explosive.
I think it is safe to say that I spent that afternoon inside a beating drum.
What was it the Maasai said about the collectivity of the village?
Let me put it to you another way, if you enjoy spending Sunday afternoons beneath an apple tree, eating cold chicken and reading the Upanishads, I would not recommend a trip to QWEST FIELD.
If, on the other hand, you didn’t miss a midnight Friday trip to see ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW in last 20 years, you will do just fine in Seattle.
You could even hang out with some of these guys:
While I am busy dispensing advice on visiting QWEST FIELD, I would like to take this opportunity to also let you know that I STRONGLY—I say STRONGLY—caution you to NOT ever wear anything that even intimates OREGON…not even a simple, possibly ambiguous “O.”
Nothing bright yellow or dark green, for that matter.
Because like me, if you do, simply put, you’re gonna pay the price big time.
Apparently, you can dress like an idiot, just not that big of an idiot.
Let me explain.
After leaving my seat, I wandered around on the concourse for the rest of the game. The concourse is about midway up and a perfect place to view the action, if you don’t mind standing the whole time, which most people seem to do there anyways. As long as you stay off of the railing and keep the concourse clear for foot traffic, the ushers don’t bother you at all.
Here was my view:
This is the happy place where I found the Incredible Hulk and the Bird Man from the earlier photos.
It’s also where I found about every other sodden, crazy-as-shit ‘Hawks fan who just so happens, it turns out, to utterly despise the great state of Oregon.
I think “Fuck Oregon,” was the most common thing that I heard all day, although, not the most profane.
I mean to say, I heard more derogatory comments made toward my “O” shirt than the Seahawks gained in yards from scrimmage that day. Including enough obscene “quacks” to kill a duck.
Apparently people in Washington State do not care for the DEATHSTAR!
I’m pretty certain I was the only one wearing an Oregon shirt in the crowd of over 67,000 strong.
But who knew?
I guess I didn’t, duh.
I mean really, I went to college at the University of Cadiz at Boob-a-lee-boob. The shirt was just a souvenir from a great, world-class party. But how could I explain that to someone struggling with their sobriety in the midst of deep scream therapy?
Was it really only a few hours before all this that I was back at heavenly, peaceful Stargazer Farm sitting next to the famous food critic, Maria Hunt—the Bubbly Girl—tasting chanterelles as she blogged and tweeted my observations to her adoring fans?
Oh, how far we can travel through this world in less than a day!
To think that you could turn around from this global position and drive south only 1000 miles or so in your Prius Spacecraft and come across gruesome public displays of horrifying violence, things like decapitations, and dismemberment, and corpses hanging from bridges, and piles of bodies with their tongues cut out, daylight shootings with automatic weapons, kidnappings for ransom; in short, the wild west of Terrible Mexico.
Meanwhile, up here in the placid Northwest, the worst they will do to you is cut you with their eyes and slash you with their tongues for wearing an Oregon sweatshirt.
So be it.
I accepted my mistake, my sorry fate, because really it was an otherwise civilized mass that weighed down upon me in Seattle.
And “mass” is the right word here.
For this surely was a religious event that I attended.
And the God of it all was the God of Football, the Holy bearer of controlled violence and imminent glory.
Hallowed be thy name.
In Kingdom come it will be done.
In Seattle I have learned that you can go to church on eight Sundays of the football year at a cathedral called QWEST FIELD.
And there you can abolish all of your sins just by screaming and yelling over your beer and into the gray sky of perpetual gloom.
And you will be healed from this and you may even be saved and it will certainly be good!
But, like the animated fan said to me when I was leaving, “Hey man, you better take 3 Tylenol and some whiskey before you enter into this next time.”
And may I again suggest, that you please not wear anything that says “Ducks” or “Oregon” on it, because it seems that everyone at the game is fantastically drunk and everyone takes to yelling for the sake of yelling and you will be the target of great scrutiny.
I recommend instead that you wear a game jersey.
Please choose from the list below, as they are provided for you in the order of which I believe, from my observations, to be the most popular:
A. #12 (the 12th man, of which we all are!).
B. #80 (Steve Largent, the greatest Seahawk ever).
C. #8 (Matt Hasselbeck, the greatest active Seahawk on the roster).
D. #37 (Shaun Alexander, the second greatest Seahawk ever).
E. #51 (Lofa Tatupu, the second greatest active Seahawk on the roster).
F. #29 (Earl F. Thomas, the dude that saved the day for the Seahawks when it mattered most against the Chargers!).
See for yourself, if you haven’t already, or watch it again, with pleasure.
But you have to turn up the volume up as loud as it goes to watch this hero worship in it’s natural state…Truly, I dare ya!
Ah, was I really there in the crowd somewhere to see it all, and to hear it, and to topple my brain cells in the process?
Yes, and I will never forget it!
It was worth the bullet-hole headache it gave me as I conjured up the last of my internal forces to propel me back to the Marriott.
Nice play, Earl!
I descended into the West Field Plaza toward the exit and passed a large art piece that hangs from a wall. It is called The State of Football and it pays tribute to high school football in the state of Washington by displaying every Washington high school football team’s helmet, laid out in the shape of the State.
I stopped and stared at all its glory.
What museum quality!
How very, very Bitchin’.
I tried to take a picture of this masterpiece, but it came out too dark for publication.
Which I guess means you have to go see it for yourself.
It’s waiting there for you.
In a place somewhere between righteousness and the sound barrier.
Near this mosaic is the massive Seahawk Team Store, where I quickly ducked in, knowing full well that there was an exit to the street on the other side, but also hoping to find me some chartreuse green gloves like the kind that you see many of the Seahawks players wearing down on the field. I could just picture myself gardening in them, pausing from my roses periodically to look off into the Cadiz sky and relive this epic day.
No such luck though.
It seems the store only sells some silly green mitten-like replicas. Cheesey at best. The real gloves are only available from the team equipment managers and they are currently not making them accessible to the public. I let it be known to the Team Store manager that this is a situation that needs to somehow be rectified immediately.
In the meantime, if anyone finds a pair, or possesses an extra set—I’m talking to you Deion Branch—please, please send them to me ASAP, Cabeza de Vaca, care of FOOTBALL SICKNESS.com.
Back out on the street, into the real world I landed, suddenly feeling the desire to fill my belly with oysters and clam chowder. And since I was having such great luck acting out all my fantasies it only figures that I had no trouble at all living out this final desire as I was informed by a passer by, wearing a number 80-Steve Largent jersey, that the best place in town for oysters was the Metropolitan Grill, only a short walk up 2nd Avenue from my wonderful hotel!
Off I trudged.
I sat in the bar, at a table near the entrance, my head still pounding from the non-stop percussion, the jersey-wearing game crowd filling up the joint like gravy pouring over biscuits, pushing the edges of the room outward and keeping the bursting volume at high.
It was like the crowd didn’t want the good times to ever end.
They went on filling themselves with more of it.
As they did so merrily, I noticed that the walls of the Bar were full of photos of famous celebrities who have dined at the Metropolitan over the years. It was a plethora of who’s who in American Popular culture. Too many to list here…Political dignitaries, journalists, ball players, movie stars…and…
…And then there was one more face that you could now add to that wall of fame, a man who just came waltzing through the front door of the place. A man who in another, less self-conscious era, would have been toasted heartily with rounds of drinks and whom we would have lifted on our shoulders and sung songs to.
Enter the hero.
One Earl F. Thomas himself!
Numero 29, who dedicated this game to his seventeen-year old friend, Reggie Garrett, who inexplicably died a little over a week before when he collapsed on the sidelines of his West Orange high school football game in Texas just minutes after throwing a touchdown pass.
Thomas was a senior when Garrett was a freshman at West Orange. The two became friends, working out together in the summers. They became so close that Thomas asked that Garrett be allowed to wear his number – 12 – which had been retired at West Orange.
Garret died in that jersey.
I recognized Earl from his headshot, from the picture that was flashed on the big screen back at the stadium after his second interception sealed the victory.
You saw it, right?
Earl has long, natty-dreadlocks and that night in the Metropolitan he wore a lovely pinstripe suit. He came in with a somewhat manic, skinny white dude by his side, a man dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and who looked to me like someone straight out of Entourage, the television show satire. I could only speculate on this man’s identity.
Wanker, wannabe maybe?
For several minutes Mr. Thomas stood there, waiting patiently for his table. All 5 foot 9 non-descript physical inches of him. No one even noticed him with his regal head standing there in such complete anonymity.
Not even the idiot guy at the bar who it just so happens was wearing Thomas’ number 29 replica jersey. How perfectly ironic. How strange.
Strange goings on, to tell you the truth.
A strange ending to a very loud and very strange day.
Alas, being strange, that is what it was all about, I think, if you were to ask me what I saw in all that yelling on that absurdly loud and unrestrained day.
I swear to you, in the end, it was all about the strangeness.
Specifically, the strangeness of pouring forth, and the strangeness of letting go.
These people who congregated in front of grown men playing a grown man’s game just wanted a reason, and a place where they could be strange…for a few short hours on a Sunday afternoon they just wanted to act differently than they did during the rest of their hum-drum, otherwise zombie lives.
They wanted a reason to scream.
They needed one.
They could really care less who it was that they yelled for, not really, not in the literal sense.
They just wanted to yell.
Free the beast that enslaves their souls to sleep and otherwise sucks their bones dry.
The jerseys that they wore in the act were merely a façade, a prop.
Just part of the ritual. A uniform. Church clothes. Sunday Best.
I got it now!
I realized this all in the instant when the future shooting star, Earl F. Thomas—car number 29—turned and looked into the bar and our eyes met, and I smiled at him and lightly nodded, and he smiled back, and I thought to myself that if Uncle Rico were here now he would probably walk right up to the real number 29—not the fake dude in the bar, but the cool and very real number 29 dude, all dressed up in his Draft Day pinstripe suit and waiting for a table—and how Uncle Rico, would probably, right to his face, remark on how much bigger he was than Earl F. Thomas and how he could for sure throw a football much further than him, all the way over Mount Rainier in fact, which when I thought of it made me very glad that Uncle Rico hadn’t come with me after all.
And just then, for no reason at all, I thought of the Kingdome—in all its lameness and its drabness, and its frightful, lifeless memory, and I thought of how in March of the year 2000 it came crashing to the ground in a wondrously beautiful implosion that I saw on my television set; demolished to make way for the new magical, province known throughout the land as QWEST FIELD!
Glory be thy name.
And then I thought of how I had heard that 97 percent of the Kingdome’s concrete was recycled back into this material world, and that 35 percent of it was used to build the new stadium where all the sublimely magnificent yelling now takes place.
And I thought of how beautiful it all really is.
How beautiful this world is, this crazy mixed-up human kaleidoscope of a world?
A world made better with Football.
And then I thought, if only I could get some pain relievers so I could be glad again to be a part of it all.