On February 5, 2014, hundreds of thousands of fans pack a 2.5-mile parade route through downtown Seattle in sunny, sub-freezing weather to celebrate the Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. The event is joyous, with the only problems being overloads of the area's transportation and communications systems. Estimates of the crowd size vary, but the turnout generally is considered to be the biggest gathering in Seattle's history.
Reasons to Celebrate
The Seahawks had won the National Football League (NFL) championship three days earlier, beating the Denver Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J. It was the first title for the Seahawks franchise, which entered the league in 1976; the city's first professional sports championship since the Seattle Storm won a second Women's National Basketball Association title in 2010; and the first by a men's team since the Sonics won the National Basketball Association crown in 1979.
Shortly after the Sunday game, city and team officials announced there would be a victory parade Wednesday in Seattle, starting at 11 a.m. near the Space Needle, proceeding along Fourth Avenue and ending at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks' home stadium, about two and a half hours later.
Fans started arriving early, some even staking out spaces the night before and many others showing up several hours before the parade's scheduled start. The morning commute was overwhelmed by increased traffic. Sound Transit's Link light rail from SeaTac to downtown carried 71,000 one-way passengers -- 41,300 more than usual. Sounder commuter trains carried 38,000 passengers, more than three times the normal number. King County Metro Transit and the Washington State Ferries routes serving Colman Dock also reported volumes much higher than typical.
It was a workday and a school day, but that didn't matter much to the 12th Man, the name given to Seattle's loyal and exuberant fan base. School districts in Seattle, Renton and Kent said they would allow absences. More than 13,000 students were reported absent from Seattle Public Schools, roughly a quarter of the total enrollment. People lined Fourth Avenue a dozen deep or more in some places -- as many as 125 feet deep on cross streets -- and filled open spaces such as Westlake Center and the area outside the stadium. Most were wearing team jerseys or other Seahawks apparel, creating a massive ribbon of blue and green along the route.
Here They Come!
The parade was late getting started, because it took the buses carrying the Seahawks longer than expected to reach the city from the team's headquarters in Renton. Finally, around noon, the procession began to roll. Team staff members and politicians rode in buses. The players were mostly atop "Ducks," World War II amphibious landing crafts converted into touring vehicles. Owner Paul Allen (b. 1954), head coach Pete Carroll (b. 1951), and general manager John Schneider (b. 1971) rode in open-topped military Humvees.
One of the first vehicles, a Duck holding the team's cheerleaders, had an unexpected crowd-pleaser. Media-shy running back Marshawn Lynch (b. 1986) was perched on the hood of the Duck, wearing a knit cap and partial ski mask, tossing his favorite game-day snack, Skittles candies, into the crowd.
As fans pressed in from both sides of the street, the buses and trucks crept along Fourth Avenue. The players waved, danced, and took photos or videos of the massive turnout. Quarterback Russell Wilson (b. 1988), dressed for the cold in knit cap and down parka, drew big cheers, as did the famous "Legion of Boom" defensive backs, who were riding at the end of the procession. Initially, star cornerback Richard Sherman (b. 1988) was holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy, a crowd-pleasing sight signifying the league championship. He later passed it around, and the trophy worked its way up the line of vehicles, where other players showed it off to the crowd.
So many fans were trying to text and call friends, or upload photos or videos onto social media websites, that by about 1:30 the Seattle Emergency Operations Center asked people to stay off their phones and computers to help keep 911 lines open.
One More Party
The parade ended amid a packed throng in the stadium parking lot, with more people watching from elevated spots beside King Street Station. Another 27,000 people were in Safeco Field, the neighboring baseball stadium, and about 50,000 were inside CenturyLink, watching the parade on big video screens. Four Seattle TV stations each broadcast three hours of live coverage. Flying overhead were a Boeing jet with "GO HAWKS!" painted on its belly, and a small plane pulling a 100-foot-long "12" banner made by Pemco Insurance and signed by more than 15,000 fans.
A victory rally inside the football stadium started with video highlights of the National Football Conference championship game, a 23-17 win over archrival San Francisco that had been played there, and of the Super Bowl. The players were then introduced, wearing game jerseys over their street clothes. They came out of the tunnel one by one, starting with the highest number and counting down. Following No. 4, kicker Steven Hauschka (b. 1985), was Carroll, waving in response to big cheers. Then, finally, emerging with the Lombardi Trophy was No. 3, Wilson, the precocious second-year quarterback. As the crowd roared at the sight, Lynch ambushed Wilson with a spray of champagne.
The players gathered on a temporary stage, and fidgeted and grinned through a series of speakers that included Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (b. 1955), owner Allen and other team officials. Carroll told the crowd, "We'll be back again," referring to the Super Bowl, and said of his players, "They have come together to do something special, and it's not just one year. ... We are just getting warmed up, if you know what I'm talking about" (Condotta, "Victory Parade"). Wilson added, "To win multiple Super Bowls, you've got to win the first one first. ... our plan is to hopefully win another one for you next year" (Condotta, "Victory Parade").
The rally ended with Allen raising the championship trophy and the players passing it around while fireworks exploded overhead and blue and green confetti rained down on the stage.
Hundreds of Thousands of 'Twelves'
The immense crowd was reported during the parade by multiple media sources as about 700,000 -- a number greater than the city's population, and nearly one-fifth the combined population of King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties. But experts who studied aerial photos later expressed doubt about that figure. They said outdoor crowd-size estimates are notoriously inaccurate, and tend to be inflated by civic pride. A more realistic number, in their view, was closer to 450,000. That still would make it the biggest gathering in the city's history, easily eclipsing the Sonics victory parade in 1979.
Whatever the exact turnout, it was further evidence of the extraordinary support from the team's fans, or "Twelves" as they were called. There had been sellout crowds at CenturyLink Field for 95 consecutive games, and 12,000 customers had paid to be on a waiting list for season tickets, even though the average price was $99 and scheduled to go up. Another measure came in the form of team-merchandise sales. As reported by the NFL a month after the Super Bowl, Seahawks gear had outsold all other teams' merchandise for the period from April 1, 2013, to February 28, 2014, and Wilson's No. 3 was the league's best-selling jersey. For the month of February, the third-most popular in sales was the Seahawks jersey with No. 12 and the name "Fan" on the back.
Seattle fan support even got a prominent role in the championship team's season-highlights film, which debuted on March 3, 2014, to a boisterous crowd at the Cinerama Theatre. NFL Films does season-highlights films every year, but veteran producer David Plaut said this one was different: "There are probably more fan shots in this Seahawks Super Bowl champions film than any of the 28 I've done ... It's because they are so much a part of it. These fans insinuated themselves into the game" (Jenks).