In 2012, it was estimated that there are 634,535 people living in the City of Seattle at the time. Last year, the population of the entire State of Washington was estimated to be 6,971,406 people. In Downtown Seattle yesterday, it was estimated that a crowd of over 700,000 people had gathered along Fourth Avenue to celebrate what is (currently) an unprecedented event in Seattle: A Super Bowl championship. This isn’t the first time that a Seattle team has won a championship (the Sonics won an NBA championship in 1979, and the Seattle Storm have won WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010) but aside from the Seahawks’ previous appearance in Super Bowl XL (and the controversial officiating that some believe adversely impacted the outcome of the game, which has remained a sore spot with Seahawks fans for years,) an NBA Finals appearance for the Sonics in 1996 where they mostly served as the token opponent for one of the Michael Jordan dynasty Bulls championships, and a few promising Mariners seasons that ultimately fizzled out in the ALCS, Seattle hasn’t had much to cheer about in the past decade in terms of sports. The Mariners have typically been somewhere in the range of mediocre to terrible each year since the 116-win 2001 season, the Sonics are currently tearing up the league from their new home in Oklahoma City (and no, I really can’t hate the Thunder, mostly because Kevin Durant is so much fun to watch when he really gets going,) and the Seahawks have made the playoffs a few times, but have usually managed to be defeated in dramatic fashion. In recent years Sounders FC has appeared on the scene and developed a surprisingly loyal fan base, but has yet to have much success in their appearances in the MLS Cup playoffs. Back in 2004, ESPN did a feature on the 15 most tortured sports cities in America, and Seattle made the list at #7. Of course this was before they made it to Super Bowl XL in 2006, but the outcome of that particular game didn’t seem to do much to help things any.
Perhaps it is because of that history that so many people (at least double the amount of any of the estimates made prior to the parade) showed up to celebrate the Seahawks’ first ever NFL championship, won in emphatic fashion as the Seahawks blew out the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday. The parade route stretched along Fourth Avenue between Seattle Center and CenturyLink Field, and people arrived hours ahead of time to claim their spots. I kind of figured that getting into Downtown was going to be a mess regardless of how many people showed up, but even though the 550 bus from Downtown Bellevue took twice as long as it normally does to get there, I was able to avoid the long lines of people waiting to board the bus by getting on at the first stop at the Bellevue Library. The bus was completely full by the time it left the Transit Center, and ended up just bypassing almost all of its stops (each of which appeared to have a good 20-30 people waiting) due to lack of space for any more passengers. I figured that I was going to have to make the trip into Downtown to go to work whether I was attending the parade or not, so I might as well see what all the hubbub was about. And yes, I’m aware that I’m a really horrible sports fan, but if more than 10% of the entire population of the state is doing it, that probably counts as sufficient peer pressure.
To give you some idea of what kind of crowd came out for this parade in spite of freezing temperatures and semi-apocalyptic traffic, this is roughly half a block’s worth of people, looking northwest from roughly Fourth and Madison. Now picture every single block of Fourth Avenue from Seattle Center all the way to CenturyLink Field, which was also packed with people (but not full, as some sections were blocked off due to preparations for an RV show going on downstairs.) In addition to all this, Safeco Field was completely full of people watching the festivities on the big screen. To get a better idea of just what the crowds looked like, you can find a number of other photos on this post.
And this is the view looking in the other direction. Basically, any convenient ledge or patio people could watch from was jammed with as many people as would fit on to it.
It took some time for the parade to actually reach the location where I was watching from, but the crowd remained enthusiastic in spite of the delay. When the parade did finally show up, the first ones in line were some of the team buses carrying a number of team personnel, several of which had managed to open up the emergency exit in the ceiling and get up on top of the buses to wave at the crowd. Apparently safety is something that happens to Peyton Manning when you screw up the snap on the first play of the game (much to the chagrin of the Vegas bookmakers who presumably had to pay out some longshot bets on that one, I imagine.)
Elsewhere in the safety department (or lack thereof,) Marshawn Lynch decided to take in the parade from the hood of a duck full of Sea Gals where he threw Skittles toward the crowds. I actually managed to catch a couple of them; I’m not sure if I should save them or try to sell them on eBay.
As the parade passed by, the running backs had the privilege of showing off the Lombardi Trophy. I’m told that it was passed around between the various team members over the course of the parade, and these guys happened to have it at the time they were passing by. Every time a group of players went by, the cheering was incredibly loud. To be perfectly honest, the parade itself wasn’t all that exciting (I can’t imagine you can put on too much of a show on three days notice) but seeing the sheer number of people who turned out was nothing short of breathtaking. Seattle’s been waiting a long time (and has suffered through years of mediocrity, anguish and heartbreak) for one of its major sports teams to bring home a championship, and it shows. Now if only we could get the Mariners to actually do something…