John Erwin’s spot was waiting for him on Sixth Avenue and South Massachusetts Street in Seattle, just as it’s been for every other Seattle Seahawks game this season.
The parking attendant there knows the drill: Erwin and his 14-seat party bus roll in hours before kickoff to serve up sacrificial specials of the day.
Saturday was no different, though the stakes were a little higher.
Erwin’s crew, all of whom were from Thurston and Pierce counties, was among 68,524 screaming fans who descended on CenturyLink Field to watch the Seahawks in closer to defending their Super Bowl title, defeating the Carolina Panthers 31-17 in the NFC divisional playoff game.
Leading up to kickoff, the streets of Seattle were blanketed with rabid fans donned in Seahawks apparel, costumes and signs calling for a “Re-Pete.” Smells of barbeque wafted through the alleyways.
“We bought it to tailgate,” Erwin, a season ticket holder for more than 15 years, said of his bus. “It’s been a work in progress for about five years.”
Stepping on board is like stepping into a mobile man cave. Seahawks themed rugs, curtains, lights and beads adorn every square inch of the vehicle. Bottle openers dangle from the ceiling.
The walls are covered in memorabilia and photographs from past games. A handcrafted table displays commemorative coins, more photos and ticket stubs – including Erwin’s pair from the Seahawks first Super Bowl appearance after the 2005 season.
Outside, the wolf-gray-colored bus is covered in flags, stickers and marked with a specialty “12BUS” license plate.
The crew, who was loud and confident before kickoff, has tailgating down to a science. They set up and start grilling less than 20 minutes after arrival.
A dry erase board at the front of the bus listed Saturday’s offering, which included Panther Balls and Panther Blood Jell-O shots.
“We started with a nice fillet of Panther,” Erwin quipped.
Outside the stadium, Tacoma residents Loretta Castillo and Janis Little Raven were busy pumping up the crowd with their cartoonish outfits and illuminated sign depicting an oversized Seahawks logo.
Fans followed the duo around to take photos with them as they hooted and hollered in poodle skirts and foam wigs that stood a foot above their heads.
What do they call their outlandish getups?
“Duh, we’re a couple of SeaGals!” Castillo said, laughing.
The ladies had no doubt the Seahawks would win, thanks to the help of the thunderous crowd.
“We’re gonna make their ears bleed!” she yelled.
Castillo said her giant Seahawks sign may be responsible for the team’s championship run last year. The longtime season ticket holder brought it to every game and to New Jersey for the Super Bowl last season. She believes the good luck charm will guarantee a bright future for the Seahawks.
“It’s going to bring us good luck,” she said. “I’m going to bring it to Phoenix (site of this year’s Super Bowl).”
Just before kickoff, fans were turning up the volume along the concourse inside CenturyLink.
The humming of excited 12s was broken up by “SEA-HAWKS!” chants.
Local fans high-fived Clem McDavid, who flew in from enemy territory Friday.
“I wanted to experience the atmosphere,” he said.
The Carolina fan said he was impressed with the dedication of Seattle’s fans.
“It’s one of the most enthusiastic fan bases of any sport I’ve ever seen,” McDavid said, adding that he was shocked that everyone he saw was wearing some sort of Seahawks attire. “It’s unbelievable to me.”
McDavid added that everyone was very friendly, despite his allegiance.
John and Roxanne Kurosky of Lake Tapps couldn’t contain their excitement as they headed to their seats. The couple have been season ticket holders since the birth of the franchise in 1976.
John Kurosky said the playoff atmosphere at CenturyLink is even better than that of the regular season.
“It’s more electrifying,” he said.
Fellow Lake Tapps resident Marla Folsom said the day was a huge party.
“Everybody’s in a great mood,” she said.
At the end of Saturday’s game, that was truer than ever.
Seattle residents Tashi Landers-Quinn and his dad, Jeff Landers, were already planning to attend next week’s NFC championship game.
Tashi, 11, had a bigger reason to smile after snagging wide receiver Ricardo Lockette’s glove.
“I think they dominated,” Tashi said of the Hawks.
Erwin and company will be at next week’s game, cheering their team all the way to another NFC title – and, they hope, all the way to Arizona. Same place, different menu.
“There’s always good food,” passenger Denise Amendala said.
Deirdre Butler of Marysville and Tania Kahlor of Mount Vernon came a long way to see the Seahawks win. Between the two of them, they’ve seen more games than they can count, but nothing like Saturday’s.
“It was amazing,” Kahlor said. “It’s the road to repeat!”
She added that if the Seahawks go to Super Bowl XLIX, she plans to use her condo in Arizona and attend.
Butler immediately corrected her friend: “When they go.”