Sleepless for Seattle
Although they live in Grand Junction, Seahawks fans still root for their team
Wim Lovell was one of the original season-ticket holders for the Seattle Seahawks. He was at the first preseason home game of the 1976 NFL expansion franchise, then the first regular-season home game.
He had season tickets for 25 years and missed a mere six home games during that span. Then, his job took him to Salt Lake City and ended the annual purchase of season tickets.
Now, as of late October, he lives in Grand Junction, a Seahawks fan in Mesa County, where Denver Broncos fans may be the only demographic that outnumbers registered Republicans.
Lovell is not alone. There are Seahawks fans among the Broncos’ faithful in the Grand Valley, and lately they’re more visible, wearing their colors, expressing their pride leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl, when the Seahawks play the Broncos.
Lovell and his wife, Paula, don’t hide their love of the Seahawks. On Sundays, they have a 5-foot-tall inflatable Seahawks player, called “Bubba,” on display on their front porch.
Wim Lovell was 23 when he bought those season tickets in 1976. He doesn’t recall what it cost, so he guesses tickets were a little less than $20 per game.
“To me, it was a lot of money back then, but it was worth it,” he said. “I’m a huge sports fan and a huge football fan to boot. I was born in Tacoma and lived there most of my life.”
When he moved to Salt Lake City, that ended his days of having season tickets, but his love of the Seahawks never waned.
He makes that clear when he says, “There aren’t very many people in this world that are as wrapped up in it as I am. I’m not a casual fan.”
Lovell said Broncos fans have been good-natured about his Seahawks fandom, even after the Super Bowl matchup materialized.
“There’s some good bantering going back and forth,” he said.
His three months in Grand Junction haven’t made him a Broncos fan, and he remembers well the NFL’s past, when Seattle and Denver were in the same division, the AFC West. Many Seahawks fans, like Broncos fans, regarded the Oakland Raiders as their most-despised rival. Lovell, however, said he always considered Denver to be Seattle’s greatest rival in those days.
He had a respect for the Broncos, in part, because of quarterback John Elway, who was born in the state of Washington.
“I don’t say this too loud around family and friends, but I kind of always had a man crush on Elway,” Lovell said.
Lovell believes the Seahawks are the better team and will win the game, and if they do it, his celebration will be simple.
“I’m not a drinking man,” he said. “There’ll be tears of joy.”
Politics of Rooting for Seattle
Janet Rowland, the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Mesa County and a former Mesa County commissioner, said she moved to Grand Junction in 1984. She came here from the state of Washington, where her family had moved when she was in the seventh grade. She went to high school in Yakima, then moved closer to Seattle to attend Northwest University in Kirkland.
She became a huge Seahawks fan during those Pacific Northwest years, and she has a Facebook page to prove she still is. And among the legions of Broncos fans in Mesa County, she has kept a sense of humor.
“Being a Seahawks fan in Colorado is kind of like being a Republican working in social services,” said Rowland, a rock-ribbed Republican who worked for Mesa County’s Department of Human Services before serving eight years on the county commission, then returning to social services with CASA.
Rowland said her father, Gerald Reed, also lives in Grand Junction and loves the Seahawks, and the two will watch the Super Bowl at a family gathering of about 15 to 20 people, where everyone else bleeds Broncos orange and blue.
“It’s a little awkward around the house these days,” she said. “I’m a little worried we’ll get kicked out (of the Super Bowl party).”
Rowland’s experience in politics will come into play, though. She also loves the Broncos. She just loves the Seahawks a little more. So, she will watch the big game while wearing a Broncos T-shirt with a Seahawks jacket over it.
“I’m a politician, I can do that,” she said.
Blue Fridays in Grand Junction
Seahawks attire gets worn on Fridays and Sundays by Shannon Sheppard, who moved from Seattle to Grand Junction eight years ago.
In Seattle, they have what’s called “Blue Fridays,” in which everyone is encouraged to wear Seahawks blue, she said, so she carries on the tradition here, and one of her two sons has joined Mom as a Seahawks fan. Eight-year-old Keigen was born in Seattle, and he roots for the Seahawks.
Six-year-old Kolby, however, was born in Grand Junction, and he’s a Broncos fan. Sheppard bought him a Seahawks shirt just in case, but he doesn’t wear it, she said.
Aside from the Seahawks’ 2005 season, which ended in a February 2006 Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle sports fans in general haven’t had much to celebrate in the past decade.
“Seattle fans, we finally have something to cheer for,” she said.
Sheppard added she likes the Broncos, saying, “If they weren’t playing the Seahawks, I’d root for them in heartbeat.”
Instead, she will root for Seattle to win its first Super Bowl, and she thinks the Seahawks will do it.
“We have the defense,” she said. “Our offense, I’m a little worried.”
Winning feeling for ‘Hawks
With plenty of out-of-state students, especially scholarship athletes, it makes sense that Colorado Mesa University has a few who hail from the state of Washington.
Dave Jahnke, an assistant sports information director for the Mavericks, had no problem coming up with three names from Mesa’s baseball team, plus a member of the men’s basketball team.
But first, there’s Jahnke, who himself came to Grand Junction 10 years ago to attend then-Mesa State College. Jahnke, 31, hails from Renton, Wash., a Seattle suburb.
“The Seahawks’ training facility is a mile-and-a-half from my parents’ home,” he said.
Jahnke said he’s more than a casual Seahawks fan, but not hard-core. Rather, “I follow the team pretty close,” he said, adding he was at Seattle’s home game against St. Louis this season.
Jahnke thinks there’s something different this time around as the Seahawks prepare for their second Super Bowl.
When Seattle lost to Pittsburgh, “I got a sense it was more a relief that we made it,” he said. “It was tough (to lose), but it wasn’t heartbreaking.
“This year, I feel the players expect to win. ... Definitely I’d take a loss harder this year.”
Jahnke will watch the game with a group of about 20 friends who know he’s a Seattle fan — friends who are die-hard Broncos fans.
“I’m a little nervous,” he admitted.
Seahawks’ TV-watching trio
If Jahnke wanted to enjoy the game with like-minded fans, he could go to Derek Benham’s apartment. Benham, a former Colorado Mesa baseball player and now an assistant coach for the Mavs, grew up in West Seattle.
Joining Benham on Sundays to watch the Seahawks play this past season were current Mesa baseball players Tyler Dunnington, a senior pitcher, and Colton Schoelkopf, a senior catcher. Both hail from cities about 90 minutes south of Seattle.
“We watch the games together. It gets pretty crazy,” Dunnington said.
Sunday they’ll watch the game sans Broncos fans because “it could get a little heated,” Dunnington said.
None of them are shy about their Seattle allegiance, as Schoelkopf said, “People are very aware.”
Anyone watching TV at Benham’s place will get a year-round reminder about his favorite football team.
“I have a 12th Man flag hanging above my TV,” he said.
All three predict a Seahawks win Sunday against an opponent they expected.
“We’ve been talking since Week 3 it was going to be a Seahawks-Broncos Super Bowl,” Benham said.
They have fun with their Broncos-loving teammates, too. If Seattle defeats Denver, all three plan to remind the rest of the baseball team at every turn.
“I’m wearing my jersey around everywhere,” Benham said.
And if Denver wins?
“That’s going to be terrible,” Benham said.
“We’re going to get a lot of guff,” Schoelkopf added.
Confident Seattle will win
Colorado Mesa men’s basketball player Jerry Duckworth doesn’t think Seahawks fans need to worry about a loss.
“I have 150 percent confidence they’re going to win,” he said. “I have respect for the Broncos, don’t get me wrong, but I have a lot of confidence.”
Duckworth, who grew up in Federal Way, Wash., a suburb of Seattle, said he’s always been a Seahawks fan, but it was probably around the seventh grade, when Seattle reached the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh, that he considered himself to be part of the 12th Man.
The junior guard came to Colorado Mesa this season after playing basketball at Cochise (Ariz.) College, and he enjoys being a Seahawks fan in Broncos country.
“It’s great. Actually, I love it,” he said.
And if the Seahawks follow through on Duckworth’s belief and win the Super Bowl, he said his teammates “won’t hear the end of it. All year long, even through next year, even if we’re losing next season, we’re still the champs.”