DKS sports writer cheers on Seahawks in a flock of Falcons fans


The Seattle Seahawks line up for a kickoff during the second half in their NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The Falcons won, advancing to the NFC National Championship. Photo by Grant Engle .

Grant Engle

I grew up a Seahawks fan living in northeast Ohio. It started when I was five years old. My brother would be out with his friends, and I would sneak into his room and play Tecmo Bowl for the Nintendo.

There was just something about the team colors, the roster and the logo I liked. I decided they would be my team. I still like the Browns, and I’ll always root for them to do well, but my first NFL love will always be the Hawks.

To this day, my sister will do her impression of me at five years old:

“I like the S-S-Seattle Seahawks.”

The stuttering is gone, but my support for the team is alive and well. I sweated every play of the Seahawks vs. Washington Redskins playoff game on Jan. 6. The Seahawks were down early, but as they’ve done a few times this season, they came back and won the game in exhilarating fashion.

I was in the press box at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. watching the game on one of the press box televisions while preparing to live-blog the Bowl for KentWired. I breathed a sigh of relief when the clock hit zeros, and the Seahawks’ dream season was guaranteed another game.

It was on to the next round for my boys. They were set to take on the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. I thought I’d have about an hour to bask in the glow of the victory before the Bowl, but then I got a text from my best friend, Jordan.

“I know you’re at the [bowl game], but do you want to go to ATL?”

I laughed to myself and texted him my standard reply when he says something dumb.

“Go home, you’re drunk,” I texted back.

Sure enough, I opened my email and there was a message from Orbitz. I was flying from Cleveland to Charlotte, then from Charlotte to Atlanta. Then I got a picture message from him of the three game tickets he printed. It was real.

We arrived in Atlanta with tempered expectations. We were nervous about the Falcons’ explosive passing attack, and how well Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson would fare in a raucous Georgia Dome.

One thing we didn’t expect, however, was the mostly congenial nature of Falcons fans. When we arrived Sunday morning to tailgate, we heard our fair share of boos, hisses and snide comments about the Seahawks, but people did it in a non-threatening way.

I’ve heard horror stories of Browns fans pouring beer on Steelers fans at Municipal Stadium, or Pittsburghers spitting on Clevelanders at Three Rivers Stadium. So, I was prepared for the worst.

We got some foul looks in the stadium, but people mostly left us alone when the game started. That was probably because the Falcons led 20-0 at halftime. Then the rally started.

As the Seahawks came charging back, so did Jordan, his wife and my cheering. We couldn’t hold back every time Seattle shrunk the lead. That’s when some fans forgot their southern hospitality.

“Ya’ll still suck,” said one Georgian after the Seahawks cut the lead to six points in the fourth quarter. We chuckled and said, “Thanks, bro.”

Later in the final quarter, the seemingly impossible happened. The Seahawks drove down the field and took a 28-27 lead when running back Marshawn Lynch went into the endzone with 31 seconds remaining.

The stadium fell almost completely silent. Even Seahawks fans, including myself, were quiet. I’ve seen my share of meltdowns. Even though I’m not a huge Cleveland sports fan – I know my history. Plenty of teams can choke in the final minute of any game.

And that’s exactly what happened.

The Seahawks gave up a few big pass plays and the Falcons were able to kick a field goal in the final seconds to pull ahead 30-28. I’ve never been in such a loud stadium. It felt like the ground shook when the ball cleared the uprights, and the explosion of cheers had me slightly disoriented.

On the walk back to hail a cab, a few Falcons fans heckled us, but many more people came and told us it was a great game.

Overall, I’ll give the majority of Falcons fans credit for being classy in victory. Although, I would have much rather watched them be classy in defeat.

Grant Engle at [email protected].