If Smoke Clears, Seahawks Have Surrealistic Moment Ahead of Them This Sunday

Ty Gonzalez

Air quality concerns in the state of Washington - and more specifically the city of Seattle - could majorly impact Sunday night’s Week 2 affair between the Seahawks and Patriots. If the smoke clears by the weekend, however, it will be the first of at least three home games the Seahawks will play without their beloved 12s due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While seven NFL teams are allowing a small percentage of fans in their home stadiums, 25 others will not, and perhaps no other team will feel the impact of 72,000 empty blue seats more than the Seahawks. As I wrote back when a decision on fan attendance was still up in the air, the 12s have long been one of the Seahawks’ greatest weapons over the years.

But the presence of the team’s storied fanbase goes beyond inducing false start penalties and miscommunication against every opponent. It’s the atmosphere of it all. It’s the record-setting decibel levels, the raising of the 12 flag, and the occasional earthquake or two. And suddenly, for now, that’s gone. Even when fans are slowly allowed back into CenturyLink Field, it won’t be the same for quite some time.

During his press conference on Wednesday, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said playing in front of the 12s is “one of the great spectacles in sports.” It’s true. There are few sports traditions that can compare to the sight of CenturyLink Field packed to the brim with roaring 12s. It’s an iconic scene that feels like it’s been plucked straight out of a movie.

If the Seahawks play in Seattle this Sunday, it will be quite the surrealistic moment, but one the team has prepared for. Playing two mock games at CenturyLink Field during camp, players and coaches went through the motions as if it were a real game, simulating even minor details like the coin toss. They have a better idea than most in regards to how this will look and have already experienced a real game in an empty stadium in Atlanta this past weekend.

But for fans watching at home, seeing the vacant seats - in a primetime game, no less - will take a while to get used to. Ideally, we’ll see an improvement in audio from last week to this week, which would significantly help the illusion and immersion aspect once the camera pans down to the action between the hashes. Perhaps the sound crew at CenturyLink Field have taken some notes from their baseball counterparts across the street, who’ve been ahead of the curve in regards to pumped-in crowd noise this year.

While the temporary loss of the 12s will sting, the Seahawks still have the support of a city, a state, and a worldwide fanbase behind them. It’s an energy that may not translate into anything tangible on the field, but one that still means a great deal to many of the team’s players and staff. And even without the deafening noise of the 12s on their side, the Seahawks can more than make up for that with their talent and stack up against any team in the league on a neutral field or otherwise. They’ll be fine, but as a spectator, it’s going to take a little time to adjust.