Under ordinary circumstances, when Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson scrambles for a first down in his opponent’s territory, something almost supernatural would happen.
A sea of spectators in blue and green would explode in howls of delight, which would spread quickly through the bleachers at CenturyLink Field. The raucous wave of energy would spill onto the field and engulf the 11-man offense, galvanizing their spirit as they continue their drive toward the end zone — leading to another tsunami of jubilation from the 12s in attendance.
Instead, due to the pandemic, the Seahawks will play to an empty stadium for at least its first three home games this season. That includes Sunday’s home opener against New England, and games on Sept. 27 against Dallas and Oct. 11 versus Minnesota. (A limited number of fans may be allowed into later games, depending on guidance from public health officials.)
Is an NFL game even possible without the unique synergy between athletes and audience? Let’s not even try to answer that.
Instead, let’s explore ways that fans can pump some energy and excitement into the protective confines of their gameday “bubble.” It’s time to don your Seahawks face paint, line up 2 yards (or 6 feet) apart and get ready for some football.
Let the feasting begin
Potato chips and a beer is fine, but a Seahawks watch party during a pandemic is your chance to take advantage of the best our foodie town has to offer and raise the bar on your snack standards. Think Top Pot doughnuts. Think Dough Zone. Think El Camion. Think Lil Woody’s. Think Trophy Cupcakes — and get a Seahawks-themed dozen.
Remember, empty seats at CenturyLink don’t negate the existence of french fries, shrimp sandwiches, Ezell’s chicken, Beecher’s mac and cheese, and loaded baked potatoes. Those pleasures are all available to you. The only difference is you won’t need to balance the load in one hand while you smile apologetically and jostle your way toward your seat.
A city’s worth of restaurants wants to serve you, too. If you put your delivery order in at kickoff, you can be feasting by halftime.
Remember your goal and be mindful of the experience you’re creating. This is more than just another Sunday afternoon sitting around the TV set. This is an event.
The Seahawks are known throughout the league for explosive, come-from-behind rallies that snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, often in the final minutes. Heck, it’s practically a custom.
As long as you’re going to be on the edge of your seat, you might as well do it like you’re sitting at CenturyLink Field: on foam, stadium-style cushions. They come with nonslip bottoms, a carrying strap and the distinctive Seahawks logo. Find them for $15 at NFL Shop and other sources.
Make a little noise
The Seahawks have been testing “piped in” stadium noise in recent weeks, but the NFL requires that any artificial crowd noise be consistent throughout the game, out of fairness to both teams.
Still, with no fans in the stadium seats, TV viewers might prefer to supply their own ambient crowd noise. A YouTube search for “stadium noise” yields a few options that allow home spectators to turn the cheering of the teeming masses up or down to their hearts’ delight.
Similarly, Archie McPhee sells the handheld Instant Audience Soundmaker ($10), which plays a few different crowd reactions at the press of a button. However, be prepared for the mayhem you might unleash if there are divided team loyalties in your household.
The earth-shaking ruckus of the crowd at CenturyLink Field has become a point of pride for Seahawks fans, because it makes play-calling next to impossible for visiting opponents. When asked how he thought his team would fare without that advantage, Coach Pete Carroll was circumspect, telling reporters that fans could “yell out the window … and we’d still be relatively really good.”
Create a sonic boom
While the internal speakers on the average TV set are adequate for run-of-the-mill viewing, adding a surround-sound home audio system can turn the game into a fully immersive audio event.
You know you’ve been wanting one, so here’s your chance.
Home theater sound systems get much of their oomph from subwoofers, which are designed to play the deep, low end of the sounds that register in the human ear. A subwoofer alone doesn’t sound like much of anything, but when it’s partnered with midrange and high-frequency tweeters, the combo reproduces sound with startling crispness and presence.
A beefed-up audio system doesn’t just immerse you in the game. It puts you right on the line of scrimmage. You’ll hear with greater clarity every quarterback audible, every snap of the ball, every defensive blitz and every collision between 300-pound linemen with biceps the size of Thanksgiving turkeys.
Remember, you’re creating an event, so if you already have the hardware in the house, why not add secondary screens? While the live action airs on screen No. 1, you can also relive the glory days of the legendary 2013 season that culminated with the Seahawks thrashing the Broncos, 43-8, in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Several different DVD retrospectives are available from NFL Films, Amazon and other suppliers, including a six-hour DVD set that revisits the Seahawks’ 2013 playoff campaign, and includes the Super Bowl win in its entirety. It’ll be like a sports bar in your living room, and the highlight discs will be a welcome diversion during lulls in the action.
Share the love
Video-conferencing software such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts is essential for working remotely, but why not use it for pure recreational purposes and invite your friends and family to share the excitement by dialing in together?
Station a laptop in front of the room and watch your friends’ festivities in gallery mode on the laptop screen, while they watch your party on theirs. Better yet, broadcast the laptop screen to yet another TV, and it’ll feel like you’re all together, even though you’re apart.
That’s the 2020 way to turn a restriction on gatherings into a virtual reunion of friends and loved ones.
Go the extra yard
Food, TV, seating — you’re all set for indoor viewing of the big game with your bubble-mates. If you’d like to add to the fun, consider taking things outside and try these stadium-like touches at a social distance.
• Hand out “admission tickets” that can be a keepsake of this strange but memorable game day.
• Rent or buy a popcorn wagon or cotton-candy maker.
• Create a “selfie zone” for a celebratory photo.
• Enjoy refreshments that suit the time of day — mimosas and brunchy things for morning games, steaming hot chocolate for the late afternoon.
• Nothing says fun like helium balloons. But why splurge on fancy Mylar inflatables when simple green and blue balloons from a party store give you more bang for your buck? Besides, latex balloons are much better suited to celebratory popping.