Ups and downs for Seahawks fans

The Hawks held a 10-point lead. Then it all went wrong.
The Hawks held a 10-point lead. Then it all went wrong.

Watching the scene unfold in Pioneer Square, it seemed as if the defeat of the Seahawks at the hands of the Patriots would never need to be recapped, never need to be summed up or explained for anyone. The anguish seemed bound to overflow the rooms and the sidewalks, spilling even into the rooms of those sleeping, those ignoring the game, those outside the city, to become a green-and-blue fiber in Seattle lore instantantly.

In the last seconds of a rocky first half, Seattle evened the score, breaking with a tie. In the second half, they went ahead, slipped behind but seemed ready to score a last-minute triumph. After a tease of a down a yard from the endzone, the game was over, defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

The doubled-up reversals came so quickly that it was almost as if no one had time to begin to feel the win was really ours, before it had been taken away. Instead, fate had simply played a cruel joke. There was no uproar, no rage — instead people put there hands on their heads, or stared off into  space. They argued with waiters. They swore abruptly.

Sean Foster and his friend Brandon Esbensen had driven 10 hours from Idaho to watch the game in Seattle.

After, the pair sat on the sidewalk, a Hawks flag draped over Foster, Esbensen wrapping as head in a green-and-blue scarf.

Even in the game's rough first half, Foster said, "I always had faith."

When he saw the Patriots take it back, he said, "I was speechless."

"I hope that nobody wearing red and blue says anything right now," he said. "Because I am a very emotional person right now."

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Brandon Esbensen, left, and his friend Sean Foster. All photos by Tom James

Chris Storer, from Edmonds, had his camera out, ready to film the clebration.

"It was a series of miracles," Storer said. "There was something special going on. And then..."

He trailed off. He couldn't be too angry with the Patriots, he said.

"It was a clean game."

The police, who had been visible parked or circling in unmarked SUVs and Metro Vanpool vans, and waiting on bikes at almost every corner in Pioneer Square, lined up like a net outside the busiest bars. Whether they meant to be or not, they were the first thing the dismayed fans saw as they emptied into the streets.

A small march formed. Someone pulled a boombox on a wagon, others waived "12" flags, and a kind of parade made its way north along First Avenue. By the time it reached the Federal Building it had swelled to a hundred or so, but marchers kept to the sidewalk,  the police boxing them out of the street using the bikes-as-barriers tactics vetted at recent years' protests. 

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Just after 8 p.m., the march had reached Westlake Center, where it stopped. By 8:30 it had turned into a dance party in the square, flags still waving, the Legion of Boom's call-and-respone rendition of the team's name ringing off the surrounding buildings.

A Patriots fan wandered by and started to yell at the crowd. He turned to nearby Police and was about to say something when one of the officers called out.

"Get out of here."

The man looked surprised. After a short back-and-forth, he walked away. Soon after, others began to drift away, too.

No arrests were immediately reported anywhere in the city, said SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb, reached by phone as the square cleared out. While people were on the street, he said, the commotion was similar to any busy weekend night. 

"Couches and debris" had been stacked in the street on Greek Row in the University District, but officers cleared it away before the game started, Whitcomb said.

"We've got a lot of disappointed people out there."

By 9:00, the square was empty except for a line of Police officers leaning on their bicycles.

Earlier Scenes from Pioneer Square during the second half of watching, which started promisingly but ended in defeat for Seattle.

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It all looked good for much of the half, but the tension grew in the fourth quarter.

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Earlier The Seahawks' fans had their ups and downs as the game went back and forth in the first half.

It was a long first quarter. Before the Seahawks made their comeback early in the second, people paced outside bars, some of them swearing.

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"It's a slow start," one man said to nobody, "it's just a slow start."

With the Patriots up by seven, the crowd in one standing-room-only pub had stopped cheering for touchdowns and started going wild every time the Hawks gained ground -— or even stopped almost any Patriots drive.

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When the Seahawks brought it back with a touchdown, the crowd was jubilant — then, a Patriots recovery, with half a minute left on the first half. 

"That's it," a man said outside, "it's over."

On the corners, packs of bicycle police — a favorite crowd control method of the Seattle Police Department — stood watching, staying warm. Back from the main drag, here and there black SUVs roll slowly, sitting low on their suspension. They are unmarked, but police officers can be seen in the front seats.

Back inside, the crowds are looking for a reason to cheer. With six seconds on the clock, the Hawks take a penalty flag, but it doesn't matter — we howl for ground gained. 

Number 13, Chris Matthews, makes the catch in the end zone, tying it up to close out the first half. In the streets, in the bars, people scream. We aren't winning yet — but we're back in the game.

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About the Authors & Contributors

Tom James

Tom James

Tom James is a feature writer and photographer from Kingston, Washington, who has reported from Seattle, Olympia, Guatemala, Jordan, and the Olympic Peninsula on topics ranging from drug use in the Navy to the silent epidemic of PTSD among refugees and what happens when fathers are deported. You can find his contact information at