Would you know a Seattle Seahawk if you saw one? I mean it. Is there a man on this Super Bowl team from the North by Northwest whose face you would recognize if he came toward you in a shopping mall? Including that of the MVP of the 2005 NFL season, Shaun Alexander?
In a few days, at a Super Bowl media day, assorted Seahawks will be gathered together in a room with ID tags set in front of them: "Mack Strong." "Chris Gray." "Robbie Tobeck." "Tom Rouen."
Their names and faces won't be familiar to a lot of people there. Which is a tad odd, inasmuch as Strong, Gray, Tobeck and Rouen have been NFL players more than a dozen years each.
Therefore, there is a strong temptation to say Seattle's football team is a total unknown beyond greater metropolitan Seattle, which basically stretches all the way from there to greater metropolitan Tacoma.
But that is not the case because in much the way the Atlanta Braves were much the baseball team for the entire Southeastern U.S. - I mean back in those years when the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Devil Rays did not exist - Seattle's team is a whole lot more than the only game in town.
"Shoot, I think it was Jimmy Johnson who said that we have the Alaska fan base, even though we don't technically play there," happy-go-lucky Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said recently with a big grin.
"I don't know that anybody knows that."
The obvious joke here is that Alaskans traditionally have been behind a pair of dog teams -the ones in the Iditarod and the Seahawks.
But it goes beyond that.
Hasselbeck has the facts. And he sounds eager to clue in the rest of the United States that there really is, believe it or not, a Seahawks Nation. And to let you know how much territory this covers, above and beyond our 48 contiguous states.
He wants you to appreciate, for example, that the Seahawks also own Oregon. That they traditionally have a big scrimmage in Portland for all of those lumberjacks and Nike employees there whose only contact with pro football is a John Madden video game.
"People talk about the Green Bay Packers, a small market team," Hasselbeck pointed out. "That's not really true. They're more like the Wisconsin Packers.
"I feel the same way for our team. We're the Seattle Seahawks, but we're all of the Pacific Northwest.
"If Hawaii doesn't have anybody they root for, we would love to have Hawaii too. The more the better."
I have been vacationing in Hawaii for a number of years and I could cover the number of Seahawks jerseys I've seen there with a single lei.
In deference to young Mr. Hasselbeck and company, however, I would have to agree that with Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana in their corner, a case could be made that the Seattle Seahawks are the football team of a 10th of America's 50 states.
Which makes Super Bowl XL the first of the 40 to have impact in an entire five-state Northwest region of this nation.
Seattle finally has put that area on the NFL's map.
"It's funny," Alexander said, "because Matt is one of those guys who always brings that to my attention, like, 'Man, we're doing something special here."'
No more losers. No more 16 games and out. No more watching the playoffs from a barstool in Yakima or Salem or Juneau or Coeur d'Alene or Great Falls and fantasizing about being able to see your own team up there on that TV, the one hanging by the moose's antlers.
"If you're a fan of NFL football, how great it is to be able to root for your own team to win the Super Bowl," Seahawks owner Paul Allen expressed it for one and all. "It just doesn't get any better than that."
So many years - close to 30 in all - have gone by with the Seahawks being just another nameless, faceless team, known only to its regulars.
It took the Seahawks 21 years simply to win a playoff game, which they did two weeks ago against the Washington Redskins.
"None of us (players) were Seattle Seahawks fans 21 years ago," Hasselbeck said. "At least I don't think any of us were."
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