Seahawks Fans Look for Respect in Detroit

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are the odds-on favorite to win Super Bowl XL this Sunday in Detroit — but local fans of the Seattle Seahawks are eager for their team to finally get the respect they believe it deserves.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.

In Sunday's Super Bowl is the Pittsburgh Steelers with their storied, football legacy against the Seattle Seahawks, a team that has never been to the Super Bowl. Seattle has the NFL's most valuable player, Shawn Alexander, and a pro-bowl quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck. The team had a better record against Pittsburgh, and yet the Steelers are favored to win.

From Seattle, NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports on the team that can't get respect.

WENDY KAUFMAN, reporting:

Winning big in professional sports is not something that happens very often here. Seattle teams haven't won a major professional title since the Sonics brought home the NBA trophy in 1979. Sure, the Mariner's baseball team had a shot at it in the mid-90s, but they lost before they even got to the World Series.

As for the Seahawks, fan, Knute Berger, who happens to be editor of the Seattle Weekly, says the football team has a long history of disappointing.

Mr. KNUTE BERGER (Editor, Seattle Weekly): There's the sense in which the Seahawks, for years, have been sort of snake bit. When you look at some of their winning percentage in recent years, they haven't been that bad. But when they've gotten to the playoffs they always find a way to lose, and often very creative ways to lose. It got to the point where any close game with the Seahawks, you just knew in your heart of hearts that the story had to end up with this amazing loss.

KAUFMAN: So when the Seahawks beat the Washington Redskins in the playoffs and annihilated the Carolina Panthers in the conference championship game, even some diehard fans seemed, well, stunned, says KJR Sports Radio talk show host Mike Gastineau.

Mr. MIKE GASTINEAU (Talk Show Host, KJR Sports Radio): We did an all night post-game show. We did an all night pre-game show and then an all night post-game show. We had people calling during the all night post game show saying, I don't want to go to bed because I'm afraid I'll wake up and this never happened.

Mr. MACK STRONG (Fullback, Seattle Seahawks): I think we all feel like we're blazing a trail here.

KAUFMAN: I caught up with veteran fullback Mack Strong in the team locker room last week.

Mr. STRONG: Most of us haven't even smelled a Super Bowl, let along being in one. So this is definitely a historic moment. And the guys in this room, we have no clue, including myself, what this would mean to us; you know, years down the road. You know it won't be till after we're all done, it will be like, wow. We had the opportunity to play in the biggest game of the year.

KAUFMAN: People outside the Northwest often talk about how nice Seattleites are; how polite the fans are. But anyone who was in the stadium for the last few games knows that the thundering crowd, the so-called 12th man, played a role in helping the team go undefeated at home. Here's the final moment of the championship game courtesy of Seahawks Broadcasting.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man #1 (Sports Announcer, Seahawks): 114. And now, just listen to these fans.

Unidentified Man #2 (Sports Announcer, Seahawks): They deserve it, Steve. They have been with this team all season long, and they are reveling in it right now.

KAUFMAN: While the noise boosted the team, many Seahawks and fans believe the team has gotten a bit of the silent treatment from the rest of the country. Jim Zorn is the team's coach, and the Seahawks' very first quarterback back in 1976, puts it this way.

Mr. JIM ZORN (Coach, Seattle Seahawks): Every single game we've been in, we've been pretty much overlooked from a media standpoint. They get it wrong because they don't want to come out here and truly spend the time it takes, and do the diligence, and see what's going on and see the kind of players. For gosh sakes we got six offensive players going to the pro-bowl.

KAUFMAN: And thousands of Seattle's fans going to the super bowl. Among them Holly Sorenson(ph). She and Caroline Crichton(ph) were among those stocking up on Seahawks gear at the team store.

Unidentified Woman #1: We've got a glow necklace and a flashing pen, clings for the car window...

Unidentified Woman #2: ...hats to wear; 'cause I'm going to the Super Bowl. I am so excited I can hardly wait.

KAUFMAN: There's optimism in the air here that the team named after a bird that doesn't even exist, will finally win it all and bring home the Super Bowl trophy.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News Seattle.

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