Breda Report: So Close, Yet So Far Away

My wife and I recently bought one of those Honda Accord Hybrids. A part-electric Japanese wonder with a V6 and 255 horsepower to boot. It boasts upwards of 39 miles to-the-gallon. Definitely a freak of nature. A paradox on 4 wheels.

How can something have this much power yet revolve around energy-saving technology?

So it may go without saying that this was my ride of choice to make the 300+ mile annual journey from Seattle to Cheney for Seahawks Training Camp.

Did I mention the 6-disc CD changer? I’m convinced whoever came up with the idea of the multiple in-dash CD changer has made that 300+ mile journey.

300 miles is a modest trek no matter where you are headed. As the insect graveyard that used to be my windshield claimed another victim and the Eastern Washington sun attempted to peel back the first layer of paint, I knew I was finally drawing close.

Before I arrived, there was some mention in our forum community to be aware: The landscape at training camp had changed. There were new tennis courts on the north side of the practice field. I thought that was a bit odd but not extremely so since after all, the other 11 months out of the year Eastern Washington University actually had a school to run.

When I arrived it wasn’t the tennis courts that shocked me but the fencing system. In the past, fans of all ages could watch players and coaches walk in from and out towards the field with nothing more than a simple 4-foot-tall chain-link fence between them. It was easy to take pictures, say hello and even ask for an autograph. A small reward for many a Seahawks fan who had traveled hundreds, (and in some cases) thousands of miles for a small glimpse of their favorite football team.

This year, where the simple fence used to be is now a virtual tunnel system that is covered with this black material that completely blocks the fans off from the field at the Northeast and Northwest corners. In my state of bewilderment I tried to determine what on earth the purpose was for this suddenly anti-fan-friendly environment. I struggled just to find a place to hang our NET banner, as it was to be a gathering point for fellow community members in order to identify each other.

Yet, banner real-estate is not the issue here. The issue is that is seems as if someone had made a conscious effort to cut the team off from the fans. Autograph and photo opportunities were now limited to a 20-foot stretch of fencing right where the players and coaches come out from the building. Imagine 200 children and adults forced to cram into such a small area to fight for a picture and an autograph.

Did the Seahawks win the Super Bowl last year and I’ve somehow missed out on that minor detail?

The setup is a pretentious slap in the face to those fans who have driven long miles for their only chance to be this up close and personal to the players. In fact, that has always been the best part of Cheney and the one true reward for making the trip in the first place.

Certainly it can be assumed that the Seahawks aren’t trying to purposefully create a less fan-friendly environment for those who have braved the triple-digit-desert-heat. They hosted a BBQ on the day of the team scrimmage which featured a raffle prize giveaway, coach Mike Holmgren addressing those in attendance, some Sea Gals, Blitz, Blue Thunder, and for $5, some food that actually was a notch above fair eats.

It’s not the purpose of this article to suggest that the Seahawks are doing nothing to improve the fan experience and relations to the team. Since the hiring of CEO Tod Leiweke, there has been a proactive attempt to indeed try to heal the wounds and broken relationships fostered by Ken Behring and Bob Whitsitt.

It is, however, the purpose of this article to suggest that they have a long way to go.

Which brings me to the Gameday Experience.

Blue Thunder, the Seahawks marching drum group, is clearly an attempt to boost said experience. While they do absolutely nothing for me and my wife (we feel like we are at a High School game instead of an NFL football game), I think some people enjoy them and I can at least admit the attempt of Blue Thunder is to create a unique experience on gameday, so let’s call that a wash.

The “Stadium Entertainment Crew”, however, is a whole different matter.

The Stadium Entertainment Crew (let’s call them SEC for short. If you say it fast enough it sounds like “suck”) is beyond pitiful. In fact, let’s just call a spade a spade and use words like, detriment, disservice, destitution. Yes, now we are on track to illustrate the magnitude of their sucktitude.

Yeah, it’s that bad.

I will play nice and won’t even mention the PA announcer the team has had since apparently 1976. Since the new stadium opened, I have actually heard this guy call the Arizona Cardinals the St. Louis Cardinals. I won’t even mention how many times he flubs player introductions, what down it is and how many yards there are to go.

Oops.

So much for playing nice. Moving on to the SECs idea of player introductions, I have a working theory I would like to share. When SECs around the NFL on gameday are pumping out rap beats or thumping heavy metal anthems to cause a collective rising out of the seat and mass-hysteria that steadily loosens the stadiums from their foundation, the Seahawks SEC instead begins spraying out The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony from the speakers.

This song (that starts with orchestra strings…yes, orchestra strings) has about the same chance to get fans on their feet cheering wildly as does Steven Wright at a pep rally.

If it isn’t bad enough attempting to forget that an orchestra is being forced from the stadium speakers as the players are slapping their helmets and pumping their fists, it’s hard to forget the word bittersweet itself. A verbal irony not lost on even the most casual of Seahawks fans.

Indeed, Stadium Entertainment Crew, indeed.

(sigh)

Where was I? Ah yes, the mad beats of The Verve. One thing SEC is doing right is the fireworks. It sounds ridiculous. Fireworks at a football game, but it works. Lord knows I need something to get me on my feet before kickoff.

Moving right along to stand concessions. I sit in Section 126. Every single game I play a game of my own. It’s called “Let’s See If A Food Concessions Guy Makes It To My Section This Time.” I bring this up because surely Section 126 cannot be the only section in the entire stadium with this same problem, could it?

Oh sure, there’s always the beer guy and lemonade guy every other quarter or so. Where’s the Sustenance and Carb Guy? One time, back in 2002, I think I remember seeing Kettle Corn Guy. Ah, good times.

Seahawks Front Office, if you are reading this, it’s Section 126. 1-2-6.

Finally I end my reluctant vitriol with The Halftime Show.

Is it really? Is it really a show?

Now let’s get one thing straight. Watching 3 or 4 little 3-year-olds clumsily bumbling down the field having to put on over-sized jerseys, shoes and helmet is adorable. Especially if you are the parents of one of those kids.

However, seeing that the 3 or 4 little 3-year-olds clumsily bumbling down the field having to put on over-sized jerseys, shoes and helmet has been the only Seahawks Halftime Show for 3 years in a row is not so adorable.

It’s getting old. Worse, it is a prime example of the sheer lack of creativity and proactivity to prove to the fans that the team is truly trying their hearts out to improve the experience.

When CEO Tod Leiweke came to Seattle in June of 2003, he promised a much more fan-friendly organization. It’s been two years and although there has certainly been marked improvement there is still the sense that some within the organization really have no clue what kinds of things are most important to the fans, whether baking in the insatiable heat of Cheney or enduring the clumsy, blunderous player introductions on gameday.

Thankfully, with new team president Tim Ruskell running the show now, much can be temporarily set aside as precise attention to detail in all the right ways is being given to the football team for which we endure “Bittersweet Symphony” in the first place.

But let this article serve as a gentle reminder that while the team on the field seems to be getting closer…

…The organization is still so far away.

Todd Breda is the Owner and Creative Director of Seahawks.Net. If you would like to e-mail Todd, send any and all love letters, hate mail, whimsical musings or your personal dealings with little green men to: toddbreda@comcast.net.


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