A Seahawks fan club based in Charlotte, N.C., is planning a Saturday evening rally for Hawks fans traveling to Sunday Seahawks-Panthers playoff game.
Amanda McDonald tells the story of how her husband, Jack, a South Carolina native, was just 7 years old when he became a Seahawks fan. He hadn’t been to Seattle and didn’t know anyone there.
“He saw a game on TV and he really liked their helmets. And then he got to like watching Steve Largent,” she said.
But it wasn’t until 2002, when she surprised him with a trip from their home in the Charlotte area to Seattle to see a game, that she, too, got hooked — even though the Seahawks lost to the 49ers that day.
Seahawks fan rally in Charlotte, N.C.
6 p.m. Saturday, Whisky River, 210 East Trade Street, EpiCentre mall, Charlotte.The $5 cover charge goes to charities.
“Everyone was so nice to us, and so passionate about the team,” she said. “I just fell in love with that city and the people.”
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Now Amanda McDonald is immersed in Seahawks mania, working on preparations for a Saturday evening rally she hopes will welcome some 1,000 Seahawks fans to Charlotte’s EpiCentre mall the night before the divisional playoff against the Carolina Panthers.
“We’ll go from 6 p.m. to whenever” at the rally, she said. And by 9 a.m. Sunday, fans will be tailgating near the NASCAR Hall of Fame, about four blocks from Bank of America Stadium.
Amanda McDonald is president of the 2-year-old Carolina Sea Hawkers, one of the newer chapters of the Seahawks’ team-affiliated fan-club network that has more than 50 chapters across the U.S. and as far away as Europe.
The Seahawks’ success in recent years has swollen the ranks of their admirers. Total membership in the clubs has risen from just more than 2,000 in 2010 to 8,400 in 2014 to 11,600 currently.
McDonald wants Seahawks fans to feel welcome in Charlotte, even though they might face some heckling from locals.
Just the other day, a passing driver gave her a thumbs-down sign when he noticed the “12” flags on her car.
“I think it’s because they are nervous. They were hoping they wouldn’t have to face the Seahawks in the playoffs,” said McDonald, a marketing rep for CenturyLink.
Of the 150 members of the Carolina Sea Hawkers, maybe two-thirds once lived in Washington, she said.
That would include Jerome Lindsey, who attended the University of Washington from 2006 to 2010, and his wife, Marisa, who grew up in Almira, Lincoln County, 70 miles west of Spokane.
“The camaraderie of the 12s really grew on me when I was in Seattle, and this is a way of still being connected to Seattle when you are so far away,” he said.
It will be particularly nice to be among Seahawks fans Sunday if the team squeezes past Carolina, the outcome Lindsey said he is expecting.
“It will be close, but we (the Seahawks) are the better team with more playoff experience and a more resilient and creative quarterback,” he said.
Lindsey, a “financial mathematician” for a securities firm, said he draws heckles when he wears his Seahawks jersey around Charlotte, “but it’s just verbal.”
Members of Sea Hawkers chapters hold get-togethers, tailgates at games, attend events with Seahawks staff and players, and help on a variety of charitable projects, sometimes with Seahawks personnel.
Paul Gates, president of the Sea Hawkers Central Council, said he expects interest in the clubs to continue to increase with the team’s national attention.
Amanda McDonald said the Carolina chapter owes its existence in part to Ian Robert Smith of London, founder of the U.K. Sea Hawkers, who died early this month following a stroke.
Several years ago, McDonald went online before a Seahawks game in Charlotte to connect with other “12s” coming for the game. Smith, flying over for the game, was one of the first to respond. And as they got to know one another, he suggested she and her friends had the nucleus of a successful Sea Hawkers chapter.
The $5 cover charge of the event Saturday night will be donated to charities in Smith’s honor, she said.
Amanda said she and her husband usually travel to Seattle for a couple of games each year. And about 50 members of the Charlotte-based club gather each weekend at Fox & Hound Ballantyne in Charlotte to see Seahawks games on television.