As a bar owner, Joel Starr knows a lot about the importance of location. But last Monday night, he learned another valuable lesson about the business.
“My timing got me in trouble,” the owner of The Flying Pig Brewing Company in downtown Everett admitted. “My 36-inch Mitsubishi (television) was under repair.”
As timing goes, that’s like having the electricity go out just before a Broadway show. Monday was, after all, another Seattle Seahawks game. And when the Seahawks are on TV, the Puget Sound has been putting everything on hold lately.
“I equate it to the Mariners’ 116-win season,” said Joe Ziskovsky, owner of Sporty’s Beef and Brew on Evergreen Way. “Once they got on that roll, we just started getting busier and busier and busier. That’s the way it’s been lately with the Seahawks.”
With the longest winning streak in 21 years (eight games) and the best record in the NFC (10-2), the Seahawks are the talk of the town. Even in Snohomish County, Seahawks football has become the center of the sports world.
“It’s great to have the business, but it’s also fun just as a sports fan,” Ziskovsky said. “What I really love is the chatter you hear at the bar. People are becoming more educated about (the Seahawks) every week.”
Like Starr, Ziskovsky had to disappoint a few thirsty sports fans on Monday. While he expected a big crowd for the Seahawks-Philadelphia Eagles game, he couldn’t have imagined the non-stop flow of fans.
Ziskovsky estimated that 150 people were packed into Sporty’s – or about 100 more than show up for a typical Monday Night Football broadcast. To accommodate the crowd, he covered the pool tables and provided extra seating.
Still, there wasn’t enough room for everyone.
“We anticipated big business,” Ziskovsky said, “but it was Super Bowl busy. We were turning people away.”
The Seahawks’ popularity has been building all season, and as of Nov. 21, the team’s final three home games were sold out. That means that anyone who doesn’t already have tickets for today’s Seahawks-San Francisco 49ers game will have to watch from home or head to the closest sports bar.
The coaches and players have been appreciative of all the attention. Head coach Mike Holmgren went as far as giving the Qwest Field crowd credit for Seattle’s last home victory, a 24-21 overtime win against the New York Giants two weeks ago that saw the visiting team get flagged for 11 false-start penalties.
“No one gets that many penalties,” Holmgren said last Wednesday. “Nobody. And a big part of that was the noise.”
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said he has noticed a different energy in the fans, both at the stadium and even when he’s gone out in public.
“They talk about the 12th Man, and what it was like in the Kingdome, and I had no idea,” said Hasselbeck, who came to Seattle when the Seahawks were in their final transition year at Husky Stadium in 2001. “That is incredible. We play on the road, and we don’t hear that kind of crowd noise and that kind of excitement during a game.
” (The crowd noise at the Giants game) was the story of the week. You go around town, and that is what people are talking about: the fans and how great they were. It’s a cool thing, especially if we can accomplish our next goal here and have homefield advantage for the playoffs.”
In order to secure homefield advantage, the Seahawks need to maintain their lead over Chicago (9-3), Carolina (9-3), the Giants (8-4) and Tampa Bay (8-4) through the final four weeks of the season. With a remaining schedule that includes three opponents with losing records, Seattle is in prime position to secure, at the very least, a first-round bye for the first time since the playoff format was expanded in 1990.
“It’s about homefield,” said defensive tackle Chartric Darby, who played in Super Bowl XXXVII as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “We’ve got one goal accomplished, and that was to win the division. But now we’re looking at the big dance.
“There’s nothing like it. Lights, camera, action. That Super Bowl, boy, there’s nothing like it. That’s going to be one of the biggest games ever.”
Not that Darby needs to get any of the fans excited. His team has already done that, and now there’s no turning them away.
Unless, of course, you happen to be a bar owner whose big screen is on the fritz.