Rituals abound to help Seahawks

SARAH FREISHTAT THE SEATTLE TIMESJanuary 13, 2013 

If the Seahawks fall behind the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, Derek Tsuchida and the employees at Time Out Sports Bar in Kirkland have a foolproof way to save the game.

They will crack open a Lucille IPA, pour it into a martini glass and down the drink.

"Some people have a rally cap for baseball," Tsuchida, a software developer for Microsoft, said. "This is our rally drink."

Football fans across the state are sure their game-time rituals are responsible for the Seahawks getting to the second round of the playoffs. From special talismans to recording the entire game and watching it all during the fourth quarter, fans send a lot of luck to the team every week.

Some, like Ian Cornett, send barbecue offerings to the gods -- and his stomach -- to bring favor on his team.

Blake Snyder puts a lot of faith in his Seahawks jersey, hat and custom-made shoes. If the Seahawks are playing poorly, the hat comes off and -- just like that -- the team's problems are solved. Most important, the aspiring sports journalist cannot talk during a close game or a fourth down.

"I try to get inside the coaches' heads," Snyder said.

Superstitions have long had a place in sports. If a baseball pitcher appears headed for a no-hitter, he sits by himself when he's not on the mound. The other players avoid him, not wanting to break his streak.

Football stars worry that having their picture on the latest cover of EA Sports' video game Madden NFL will doom them to a terrible year. But middle linebacker Brian Urlacher of the Chicago Bears has found a way around that: Before each game, he eats exactly two chocolate-chip cookies.

Mark Olsen, owner of the fan website Seahawks.net, has seen a lot of superstitions described on his website. Posts about team injuries are taboo. When one person wrote about how lucky the team had been to have avoided injuries, there was a huge outcry on the site. And the next week, Chris Clemons suffered a season-ending knee injury.

For Olsen, though, it's all about getting himself and his wife, a Miami Dolphins fan, fired up for the game.

"I really honestly think fans themselves, whether by a pregame ritual or going and screaming at the game, we feel we have a place in this franchise," Olsen, who works in IT, said. "The players feel it, the team feels it."

No tradition may be more sacred than Pete Hanning's tailgate group. For 15 years, these tailgaters have grilled their burgers and drunk their beer together. The gathering grew from a few guys at the Kingdome, suffered through two years at Husky Stadium, and now has more than 100 members at CenturyLink Field.

About 45 minutes before each game, Hanning, part owner of Red Door bar and restaurant in Fremont, passes a hand-carved mahogany staff around the crowd before reading a pregame prayer.

Hanning got his love for the Seahawks and his talent for preaching from his father, a minister who moved his Sunday service from 11 a.m. to 10 a.m. this week so he could be home to watch the end of the game.

The prayers "bring hope, they bring camaraderie, they focus on if there are certain things important to call attention to," Hanning said. "That's the whole idea of what a prayer is, to focus a group effort on a sole purpose."

Hanning's tailgaters take their superstitions seriously.

One member used to wear a Koren Robinson jersey. When the former first-round pick was released for reportedly violating NFL substance-abuse policy, the tailgater, disgraced, was asked to leave the gathering for the day and his offending Robinson jersey was taken off, set on fire and then doused with a ritual beer offering to the football gods.

The tailgater was not allowed to regain possession of the charred jersey, which had been tossed into the back of a pickup, until Robinson returned to the team four years later.

But the centerpiece of the tailgate is the annual Mud Bone, an award presented to the year's best tailgater. The winner must attend every tailgate, whether they have season tickets to the games or not. They must offer up the most creative tailgate food which, in the past, has included homemade doughnuts and gourmet ham sandwiches soaked in Grand Marnier.

Most important, the winner must be willing to take responsibility for selecting the following year's Mud Bone winner.

Longtime beer distributor and tailgater Kenny Wright said he doesn't know if the tailgate brings the team luck, but it is certainly important.

"We haven't always been as fortunate," Wright said. "But fate is always there, and as the great hawk flies from the sea, we are there as the 12th Man and we are there every week."

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