If you’re fond of the city of Detroit, which hosted Seattle’s only Super Bowl appearance to date, you might not want to read Seattle restaurateur Mick McHugh’s recollection of that 2006 pilgrimage.
“With all due respect to Detroit,” McHugh said, “it was a crummy city, crummy officiating. We had to get around in crummy, slushy weather and I barely avoided a pickpocket in the men’s room after the game.”
McHugh, proprietor of F.X. McRory’s in Pioneer Square, said what sustained him on that trip was the belief that the Seahawks would certainly be back in the following year’s Super Bowl, for which the venue would be warm, sunny Miami.
Eight years later, McHugh sees the lesson: No Super Bowl return is guaranteed. Take your best shot now, because next season is a world away.
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McHugh expects the Seahawks to be totally prepared for Super Bowl XLVIII at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium Feb. 2, partly because of the energy the team has absorbed from the community.
“The 12th Man is so alive,” McHugh said. “You see it on the streets, in the neighborhoods, in businesses and workplaces. At the stadium, they totally get into the spirit. You stand. You cheer. You go home hoarse. You leave it all out there, just like the players do.”
A little history may be in order: Although the 2005-06 Seahawks went 13-3 in the regular season, the team hadn’t won a playoff game in more than 20 years.
Despite impressive playoff victories against Washington and Carolina, the Seahawks entered Super Bowl XL four-point underdogs to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won, 21-10.
“It was like we were the new kids on the block,” said Mark Olsen, of Bonney Lake, Pierce County, who was at the game. “I don’t think we were confident that we were a better team and would win that game.”
Olsen, owner of the fan forum Seahawks.net, will be at this year’s Super Bowl and is convinced Seattle is the better team.
Marge Mink, of Olympia, a longtime Seahawks fan who grew up in Pennsylvania, remembers calling some of her Pennsylvania friends and relatives in the days leading up to the 2006 Super Bowl.
“I’d tell them, ‘We’re going to kick your butts,’ but deep inside I really didn’t think we’d be able to pull it off,” said Mink, who attended Friday’s Seahawks fan rally at Westlake Park.
“Everybody has their time, and our time is now,” she said.
Like McHugh, Mink was upset about “terrible calls” made by the referees in the Seattle-Pittsburgh game, and her complaints are not simply sour grapes.
In interviews years later, referee Bill Leavy acknowledged he blew a couple of key calls late in the game, impacting the outcome.
The 2005-06 Seahawks may have sneaked up on the sports world, but this year’s team has been talked about as a legitimate Super Bowl contender since last summer.
One indicator of the confidence of Seattle fans: A representative of
PrimeSport, a travel-services company handling Super Bowl packages for both teams, said Monday that bookings from Seattle fans were running 20 percent higher than for Denver fans.
Several oddsmakers Monday listed Denver as a two-point favorite. Betting odds aren’t actual predictions of the outcome, but a device sports books use to try to make the two sides equally attractive to bettors.
And Seattle fans who’d feel flattered if the Seahawks were listed as the favorite should be careful what they wish for. Underdogs have won four of the last six Super Bowls.
Setting aside the questionable calls in the 2006 game, the Seahawks also missed some opportunities that could have made the game closer.
This year’s Seahawks have focused on seizing opportunities, said Sean Rhodes, a Seattle chef and longtime fan, who was at Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
He said coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson set the tone: “It starts with life lessons,“ Rhodes said.
“It’s about weathering the storm. Weather the storm, and winning will happen.”
Seattle Times researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.
Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org