“We’re not just some harmless, damp dorks up in the corner anymore,” Seattle’s Lindy West wrote in Jezebel. “We’re winners now.”
The Seahawks’ dominating victory Sunday has trained a spotlight on Seattle that the city hasn’t seen in years, illuminating our current culture and character in ways that go way beyond football.
“And now, Macklemore will marry a Seahawk and a Bronco,” journalist Ronan Farrow tweeted after the game — to the tune of 1,343 retweets.
The Super Bowl is what’s making us blush, but Macklemore’s Grammy wins, legal pot, gay marriage and news about innovations at Amazon and changing leadership at Microsoft are not far behind in the headlines.
So what is Seattle saying about itself, now that everyone’s listening? And after today’s parade is over, and the banners come down, will any of it stick?
“This is just a feeling, but I think Seattle’s present ‘moment’ is not about being trendy/cool like back in the 90s,” Seattle Times librarian Gene Balk told me. “This to me feels more like a city coming into its own.”
Balk writes the Times’ FYI Guy blog, where he crunches numbers with an eye to local history. I asked him to elaborate.
“Seattle’s current national prominence doesn’t feel trend-driven, like we’re the ‘it’ city but next year it will be some other place,” he said. “It’s just a sense that I have, like Seattle is starting to feel like a big city, way more so than when I moved here 12 years ago.”
When people are talking about you, you want to know what they’re saying. On Monday, journalist Sally James and videographer Adam Wygle led a spontaneous Google Hangout with me, Bryan and Jen Zug of Bootstrapper Studios and What Now Exactly and GeekWire’s own Taylor Soper.
Our topic: Seattle’s brand.
There was a lot to talk about.
- The tweets on the #HowSeattleRiots hashtag, which juxtaposed sports debauchery with our reputation for being “Seattle Nice.” Paired with this Ballard video, of how we manage to protest without jaywalking, they made for a good laugh.
- The inevitable gushing, giggly listicles like this one from The Huffington Post that named 36 reasons Seattle won not just the Super Bowl, but life. Among them our coffee, our smarts, and our aversion to umbrellas (?).
- The big companies that thought it worthwhile to spend worker hours — and in Boeing’s case, lots of jet fuel — to show their Seahawks pride.
- The references to the Pot Bowl and to gay marriage that makes our city a pillar for progressive politics.
- And of course, how Richard Sherman’s rant, Macklemore’s Grammy apology, and even Microsoft’s choice of an internal CEO might challenge all those perceptions of Seattle as nice, tolerant and fresh.
“You riot first.” “No, go ahead, you riot first.” “Really? I don’t mind waiting.” “Yeah, it’s fine. Go ahead and riot.” #HowSeattleRiots
— Adam Wygle (@Wygle) February 3, 2014
But if there’s one thing I hope endures in all of this, it’s the 12th Man.
We didn’t just brand a group of fans with that name. We branded the concept of being part of a team. And this season, it’s become part of the city.
12th Man is resonating in the media. Seahawks players give credit to their fans almost as much as to each other, our fans break stadium sound records on a regular basis and everyone from ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith to David Letterman gives nods to the fact that even on the neutral territory of the New Jersey Super Bowl, the 12th Man showed up big.
But it’s resonating in other ways, too.
Lourdes Barrera Haley lives in the Los Angeles area but has family in Seattle. This season, she found herself becoming a Seahawks fan, and it changed the way she looked at our wet, weird city.
“I started thinking that if I could be a fan of the team, maybe there’s a way I could fit in to the quirky world of Seattle,” she said.
Some die-hard sports fans get territorial about fandom, but the 12th Man brand seems to apply to everyone in the city, no questions asked.
Combine that shining symbol of open collaboration with the progressive optimism of coach Pete Carroll, the surprising talent of the young, big-hearted Russell Wilson and the quiet, “all ’bout that action” work ethic of Marshawn Lynch and it starts to look like whatever the Seahawks proved about themselves at that Super Bowl, they also proved about their city.
“We work our asses off in Seattle,” said Bryan Zug, who helps run the Kickstarter funded “We Make Seattle” film project. “People need to see examples of that and find our voice.”
Seattle’s character is hardly perfect. Our niceness slows us down and our discomfort with swagger — as GeekWire’s John Cook wrote — makes it easy for others to overlook us.
But no one’s overlooking us now.
The Seahawks are just beginning to show their potential.
Maybe it’s time we seize this moment and show more of ours.