WASHINGTON — Dan Towle, owner of R+E Cycles in Seattle, received a call on a Thursday afternoon last January as the Seahawks were preparing for their Super Bowl match against the Denver Broncos.
Rosalind Brazel, then-press secretary for Mayor Ed Murray, was on the line: Would Towle like to donate a bike for the mayor’s wager with Michael Hancock, his Denver counterpart?
“They just called right out of the blue,” Towle, 50, recalled. He answered yes, confident that a Seahawks win would keep him from having to fork over a custom-built Rodriguez bike worth several thousand dollars.
By the following Monday, Towle had the bike ready for Murray’s news conference, but only after sharp thinking (and football crazy) employees talked him out of donating a Rainier model right off the floor and let them hustle through the weekend to repaint it in Seahawks blue and green.
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Towle’s shop in Ravenna is among two dozen Washington businesses whose products have enjoyed the spotlight as political bartering chips during the Seahawks’ playoff runs, which continue with Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers.
The products have ranged from such iconic Pacific Northwest names as Oh Boy! Oberto, Almond Roca and Dale Chihuly to lesser-known brands as Bluewater Distilling gin from Everett and Amy’s Decadent Chocolates in Bremerton.
Items wagered are chosen less for any ties to pigskin than to electoral maps (see reefnet-caught salmon off Lummi Island in U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene’s 1st Congressional District). Lawmakers’ staff say companies haven’t lobbied for publicity.
Aides usually concoct the merchandise mix, which is announced in news releases filled with mock trash talk.
On Thursday, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell joined Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin in staking respective local beer and cheese for Sunday’s match: Rainier and Redhook beer v. New Glarus Spotted Cow beer and Sprecher root beer; Cougar Gold cheese vs. Renard’s cheese curds.
Even after a year, Murray’s aides fondly remember feasting on New Orleans beer and charbroiled oysters former Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., had to deliver after the Saints were eliminated by the Seahawks during the playoffs.
For Sunday, Mayor Murray is also putting up suds and cheese, specifically Beecher’s Handmade Cheese and craft beers from Fremont Brewing. If the Seahawks advance to the Super Bowl, Murray’s spokesman Jason Kelly said more extravagant wagers will need to be negotiated because “there needs to be parity between the two cities.”
DelBene, a Democrat from Medina and a Seahawks season-ticket holder for at least 11 years, kicked off the intra-Congress wager this year by putting up a basket of goodies for last week’s victory against the Carolina Panthers. That bet, which was joined by Reps. Jim McDermott of Seattle and Adam Smith of Bellevue, netted the trio Bojangles chicken and Krispy Kreme doughnuts from North Carolina.
Now DelBene has a one-on-one bet with Rep. Reid Ribble of Green Bay that could potentially cost her some smoke salmon and a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle wine from Woodinville. If that were to happen, her spokesman said, DelBene has always planned to pay for it with her own money.
“But in the last two years, she hasn’t had to,” Viet Shelton said.