They came from Germany, Scotland, England, Canada, France, Denmark — you name it. This is the global story of how 12s from outside the United States fell in love with the Seahawks.
LONDON — Brendan Clarke has been waiting for about an hour.
Give or take 30 years.
It’s 6:03 p.m. on Friday, and the bearded man in the Seahawks hat is standing in a line on a sidewalk a few feet from London Bridge. He is with his wife, Michelle Clarke, and neither has a beer, and they’re starting to regret it. But don’t expect them to leave the line. They came here for a reason.
In the mid-1980s, Brendan — who lives in Staffordshire, a bustling county in the middle of England — was introduced to his first American football game on television. He was so transfixed that he embraced a team, right there on the spot.
“The bizarre reason, because I was a 12-year-old kid, was that I thought the Seahawks had a cool helmet design,” Brendan said from the bowels of the line, surrounded by kindred spirits. “That was the simple reason why I fell for the Seahawks.”
He fell so hard, in fact, that the Clarkes opted for a honeymoon in Seattle in fall 2004. On Halloween night, they watched the Seahawks defeat the Panthers, 23-17. Shaun Alexander ran for 195 yards and a touchdown, and Josh Brown connected on three consecutive field goals in the second half to ice the game.
The Seahawks won, the stadium shook and a pair of newlyweds found a second home in a far-off city in the Pacific Northwest.
“It was pretty easy (to love the Seahawks), to be fair, because Seattle as a city is just amazing, and it’s got such a laid-back vibe,” Michelle Clarke said. “I like watching live sport, and to go to Qwest Field (now CenturyLink Field) was just unreal.
“The atmosphere was amazing. The whole experience was just awesome.”
More awesome, though, than a beach cabana in the Bahamas, or a week snorkeling in Australia or hiking volcanoes in Hawaii?
For Michelle, specifically, did a honeymoon in Seattle measure up?
“Oh God, yeah,” she said, without a hint of hesitation. “We’re desperate to get back. We want to go back and see them again.”
That’s why they’re here — unfortunately, sans beer — about 20 feet from the door to The Barrow Boy & Banker pub. On Sunday, the Seahawks will play their franchise’s first game in London, meeting the Oakland Raiders at the iconic Wembley Stadium at 10 a.m.
The Clarkes will be there, with about 86,000 friends.
“To finally see the team you followed from the mid-80s, it’s a massive deal,” Brendan said.
Adds Michelle, liberally stretching the syllables: “We’re beeeeeyond excited.”
They’re not the only ones. At the NFL-designated official Seahawks bar, there has been a line down the block all afternoon. On the pub’s windows, beside the hanging flower pots, there are photos of Tyler Lockett, Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson.
On the street, the line is littered with jerseys — from Wilson to Alexander to Matt Hasselbeck to Walter Jones to Steve Largent to Rocky Bernard. There is a big man with a blue goatee (and, because he’s sweating, the paint’s bleeding down his neck).
Wallace Watts, a United Airlines pilot who has dubbed himself “Captain Seahawk,” struts down Borough High Street with a Seahawks logo etched onto a black top hat, a blue suit coat, green pants, green shoes, green gloves, green sunglasses (in the dark, if that matters) and a red and blue Union Jack vest. Everybody’s waiting, and no one seems to care.
Every couple minutes, a “SEA-HAWKS” chant breaks out, with the words ringing — probably for the first time — up and down London Bridge.
A passerby turns to his friend, and says sincerely, “What’s a Seahawk?”
This is a spectacle some Londoners can’t begin to understand.
The 12s, though, are an unabashedly global group. In all, the Seahawks tout booster clubs in 55 locations, with more than 10,000 members. There are fans here from the United States, England, France, Scotland, Canada, Italy, Denmark, etc. The list goes on and on.
Like the Clarkes, they all found something special in a city nearly 5,000 miles from London.
They all have a Seahawks story. Here are just a few.
The Seahawks are Maximilian Lange’s hobby, not his job.
Though his girlfriend might disagree.
Lange — who was born in Stuttgart, Germany, but lives in Switzerland — adopted the team in 2008, shortly after visiting friends on a vacation in Oregon. He enrolled at the University of Oregon in 2013 and made the 280-mile drive north multiple times to attend Seahawks games.
In 2014, right after the Super Bowl win, he founded the Seahawkers booster club in Germany. It started with 15 members paying 15 euros per year.
That number has since rose to more than a thousand.
In his free time, Lange — who works in public relations — organizes events and watch parties. This year, 30 members are flying to Seattle for the Sunday night game against San Francisco on Dec. 2. A membership also gets you a discount at the Seahawks pro shop and entry into the club’s many lucrative contests.
“You can win Skittles,” Lange said with a laugh, referencing Raider running back Marshawn Lynch’s favorite snack.
There are more than 200 German Seahawks fans in London for Sunday’s game. Lange is one of them.
Markus Bachmann is another.
Further ahead in the line, Bachmann and three friends nurse beers and try hard to stay awake. They flew here from Nuremberg at 7 a.m. on Friday. He paid 200 euros — the equivalent of $232 — for a ticket.
Bachmann has supported the team since 2012, when he watched a game with a friend “and he was a Seahawks fan, so I decided to become a Seahawks fan.” The next year, they won the Super Bowl. Now Bachmann routinely stays up until 2 a.m. to watch the games on his computer.
He’s used to sacrificing sleep for the Seahawks, so this is nothing new.
Still, not everyone sees the appeal.
“I think I spend too much time on (the booster club), and my girlfriend sometimes complains about it,” said Lange, wearing a 2013 NFC Championship Game T-shirt. “It’s just what I love doing.”
Gordon Currie didn’t choose the Seahawks.
The Seahawks chose him.
“Basically I became a Seahawks fan when I started playing Madden on PlayStation back in 2004,” said Currie, who is decked out in a blue throwback Seahawks jersey and matching hat. “In Madden ‘05 I went on career mode, and I got drafted by the Seahawks. I liked the logo. The logo was cool.”
Even now, that fact is apparent, as the Seahawks’ logo is spread across the hat pulled low over his glasses. In 2006, Currie’s father got a job at a Boeing factory in Washington, and he started sending Seahawks gear back to Scotland for his son. Gordon helps organize Scotland’s branch of the Seahawkers booster club, which proudly touts 50-60 members — “a good few,” Currie says.
He’s made the voyage to Seattle — they call it “The Motherland” — multiple times.
And now he’s here, drinking a beer, as two patrons in the pub lift a Raiders flag with red paint defacing its pirate logo. Walter Jones and general manager John Schneider are looking on from the VIP area above.
“It’s been 14 years,” Currie said, “and I’ll be a Seahawks fan the rest of my life.”
Stuart Court has a hard time sleeping.
That’s why he’s here today.
On Sept. 29, 2002, the Seahawks trounced the Minnesota Vikings, 48-23. Alexander ran for four scores and added a touchdown reception, and there was nothing else on TV in London.
Court couldn’t sleep, so he found the Seahawks. It was love at first sight.
“I’m a bit of a night owl,” Court said. “It was just something different to watch. It was just fun.
“I don’t know why Seattle, but I latched on to that right away.”
The next day, he ordered a jersey online. Sixteen years later, he hosts a Seahawks podcast and is on the committee of the UK booster club, which has 2,949 subscribers to its Facebook page (as of Saturday) and 450-500 paying members.
His first game in Seattle in 2014, which also happened to be against the Raiders, was “like no other sporting experience I’ve ever had.” Still, Sunday’s game at Wembley Stadium might just top it.
For Court, the Clarkes and everyone else, the wait is almost over.
“This is utterly bizarre,” a sweating Court said on Friday night, standing outside the pub and wearing a dazed smile. “I was here yesterday and it was like, ‘Well, this is weird.’ To be here tonight is just insane.
“We kind of knew people would come over from Seattle, because every road game is 50/50 with Seahawks fans. But this is insane. It’s cool, but it’s kind of like it’s not real life. It won’t hit me till after (the game), when you can kind of sit back and go, ‘Well that happened.’ ”