Checking out the NFL buzz south of the 49th

Russell Wilson | Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. (Photo: Mark Runyon | Pro Football Schedules)

When you’re in the downtown core of Seattle, you know it’s Seahawks game day. The blocks surrounding Century Link Field are filled with people tailgating before the big game. Everybody’s wearing a jersey. The atmosphere outshines the hype of an early season Vancouver Canucks game.

Every Sunday for 16 weeks, thousands of Canadians head south of the border to watch NFL football. Being Canadian, I’ve always been all about hockey, convinced NHL hockey is the best sport. I wondered why Americans weren’t as big of fans of the sport and such big fans of football.

This year, I decided to learn more about the NFL. I wanted to see for myself if the three-hour drive from Vancouver to Seattle was worth it for football fans in Canada. Being a die-hard Canucks fan for the last 20 years, I figured a mid-September regular season NFL game couldn’t be any different then the production the NHL puts on here in Vancouver.

But on the way to Seattle, you can feel the buzz of game day as soon as you get to the border. In the border line-up, you will see tons of Seahawks jerseys and flags on the windows of cars.

Once through the border, you head straight down the I-5 and eventually see the exit signs for Century Link Field, just after you drive past the iconic Space Needle. The stadium is right beside Safeco Field, where the Seattle Mariners play.

The great thing about parking a few blocks away is the walk to the stadium. Every pub is filled with fans having pre-game beers and watching early NFL games. The pre-game atmosphere is as enjoyable as the action inside the stadium. We stopped at a pub about two blocks from the stadium, called Cowgirls: your stereotypical American sports bar with Bud-Lite and burgers served by girls in football jerseys, while the play-by-play blasted over the speakers.

About an hour before kick-off, it’s time to head to the entrance of the stadium. The closer you get to the venue, the more action there is going on outside. Hotdog trucks and merchandise shops cover the area surrounding the building. There is nothing like an authentic tailgate hotdog and you’ll pay half the price you would inside.

The most popular jerseys on the tailgaters surrounding the stadium were #3, starting quarterback Russell Wilson, or #24, running back Marshawn Lynch. I noticed a jersey with #12 and “Fan” on the back. The Seahawks have officially retired the number 12, because there are 11 players on the field during the game and the fans are referred to as the 12th player because of their intensity and passion for their team.

I had already bought my Wilson jersey because the line up to get in the doors at any of the team shops is out the door. We still went inside to check it out and they have everything from Seahawks baby jerseys to shot glasses and piggy banks. You see people inside, already wearing jerseys, buying a second one. Remember, this was a week-three game against Jacksonville, the team projected to be worst in the NFL. This should be like to a mid-October weekday Canucks game against the Florida Panthers, which wouldn’t have this fan intensity.

Once you’ve filled up on draft beer and unhealthy foot-long hotdogs, and you have your Seahawks jersey and hat, you are ready to enter the stadium.

Once inside the stadium they have:

  • big screen TV’s playing all the games around the league
  • mini-games
  • face painting
  • beer gardens

With only 16 regular season games a year, they go all out each week.

One of the first things you notice is the angle of the seats. My seats were in Row CC (29). To put that in perspective, Rogers arena in Vancouver only has 15 rows in the upper deck. (Once you’ve got your first beer, you have already finished it by the time you are at your seat, so it’s better off to grab two. The only problem with grabbing two is that by the time you’ve sat down for five minutes, you have to make the 30-row, 75-degree angle hike back back down the stairs to the bathroom.)

The Seahawks stadium is known to be one of the loudest in sports, designed to echo sound. During the game a week earlier to the one I attended, they set a Guinness World Record for loudest stadium sound at 136.6 decibels. Once you weave through the main concourse and get to your section, you feel an immediate buzz of sound before the opening kick off has taken place.

The sound really picks up when the national anthem is played and the teams charge out onto the field for the coin toss. This game was expected to be a blowout, so I expected the intensity of the game to be less than a division rival game but it still had the feel of any playoff game I’ve been to.

The Seahawks got off to a big start and by the end of the first half it was 24-0 for Seattle. Every time the Seahawks were on defence, the crowd erupted. The opposing team can barely call their plays over the sound of the stadium. That helps explain why the Seahawks are such a presence at home finishing with a perfect 8-0-0 home record last season.

The experience is better live, but as for knowing what’s going on in the game, sometimes television is easier because they mark the first down lines and the line of scrimmage. From the back row of the stadium, it’s hard to tell if they got the first down or if they’re doing a running play.

The Seahawks dominated the second half, extending the lead to 45-17. Wilson tied his career high for touchdown passes (four) and the team improved its record to a perfect 3-0-0. Even after the game was well out of reach, many fans sat in their seats until the final play of the game.

After the game, the pubs filled up for the dinner rush, the post game show and the Sunday night game. Football in American is an all-day affair every Sunday. Talking to some fans at the game, it was clear their week revolves around Sundays. For 16 weeks a year, the show the NFL puts on is impressive. It’s a sight to see and a trip every Canadian sports fan should make.


  • Getting there: Give yourself lots of time to get to Seattle, particularly at the border. I’d recommend you leave Vancouver at least five hours before kickoff. I arrived at the border at 7:30 a.m. for a 1:30 p.m. start time.
  • Parking in Seattle: There is overpriced parking close to the stadium for $30-40.  My recommendation is to go down a few blocks: you can find a parking garage in the $10-15 range.
  • Getting tickets: Ticket prices depend on which team the Seahawks are playing. They usually sell out quickly on Ticketmaster but usually has them a little above face value. I got mine, in the second to last row of the stadium, off stubhub for $100 each.  There are scalpers at the game if you want to risk waiting until before the game to buy tickets. I went to the game against the worst team in the league, so nosebleed seats to a game against a big-name team would be upwards of $200-250.
  • Concessions: Stadium food is expensive. For $10.25 you can get “fish and chips,” which resemble a cheap frozen fish stick. I recommend filling up on food before the game outside of the stadium instead. Inside, the line-ups are long.
  • Beer: Inside the stadium, the beer is a little more expensive then outside. The Seahawks beer prices rank in the top 10 most expensive among the 32 NFL teams at $8 each.
Alex Clipsham

Alex Clipsham is a second year Journalism & Communications student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C.

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