“Can you pick up your media badge at the front desk?” Rich Gonzales, Seahawks communication manager asked me the other day.
“Um . . . sure.” I was both thrilled and terrified at the same time.
Thrilled because I was finally going to get a first-hand look at the Seahawks training facility that I have only seen in passing along I-405.
Kudos to Rich Gonzales who helped set our adventure in motion: the kids, grandma and I were at the Seahawks training camp to watch the Seahawks practice and to interview players.
My football experience was limited to movies like “Rudy” and “Jerry Maguire” and I recently read Paul Allen’s memoir “Idea Man.”
So I had inked a crib sheet into my palm with the names my wonderful husband had supplied.
Jackson, Trufant, Stanback.
“Yeah, Paul Allen isn’t usually around,” Rich said, as he handed me the media badge that would get me passed security guards on the field.
“Well, I had to ask,” I say, feeling a little like Goldilocks in the Big Bears house.
To that end, Rich smiles and nods as if he is often called upon to give tours to moms with four kids requesting interviews with the co-founder of Microsoft, owner of the Seattle Seahawks and billionaire philanthropist.
The feel of the reception area is epic in a Roman-Coliseum-kind-of-way: open and airy. In large blue letters above an elevator were these words:
FOOTBALL IS OUR PASSION
CHARACTER IS OUR COMMITMENT
THE 12TH MAN IS OUR FOCUS
EXCELLENCE IS OUR GOAL
The mission statement was impressive, hallowed even, like the words had been carved into existence by the football gods. The creed of excellence to be passed on like the presidential faces of Mount Rushmore. There was history here and my first indication that football was deeper than guys just “throwing around a ball.”
Anyway you want it –
That’s the way you need it
Anyway you want it
Journey croons in the background as the kids, grandma and I walk up a grassy path cut into a hill. We crested the ridge and my heart fluttered at the view.
Imagine a Van Gogh. Instead of “Starry, Starry Night” this watercolor is entitled: “Seahawks Training Camp, An American Landscape.”
The sky is a light blue with Cerulean swirls and sleek Blue Angel brush strokes, swooping and diving, serenading the audience with aeronautical delights.
Speed boats cut into the deep Lake Washington waters, leaving frothy trails in their wake. Evergreens stand approving watch over acres of once contaminated Renton lakefront reborn into living breathing beauty.
You don’t have a pulse if pride and patriotism don’t course somewhere through your veins at such a sight. For me it was the homegrown stuff rooted in childhood “Pledge of Allegiance” and “Rocket’s Red Glare.”
Something special was definitely afoot in Renton and I was grateful to be a part of it.
I set up our base camp on the grass with Baby Ty. Grandma took the little kids to the bouncy castle, a ring toss for lollipops and football tosses with Todd Anderson, Mike Dunad and Adam Schwartz, soldiers from the Washington Army National.
Sophie walked back with an armload of cheeseburgers and Coke’s. Hungry, we all settled alongside the other families as Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O” (The Banana Boat Song) floated on the breeze.
A player with “Tate” on his Jersey trotted through the crowd, happy to pose for a photo or autograph. A boy with a cowlick ran past us, carrying an autographed football in his arms like a newborn baby.
“Mommy, how do they get the grass so perfect?” Sophie asks petting the deep green grass.
I was about to answer when the crowd erupted. A player had just kicked a football into the air, where it soared up high, seemingly forever.
Amelia had just cried, “Great job!” encouraging the kicker below.
When my cell phone rang, it was Rich.
“Carolyn, if you can meet me on the field in five minutes, I have someone for you to talk to.”
“About that,” I say, looking down at Ty dead asleep in my arms.
“Where are you? I’ll send him to you.”
I was really touched that Rich would offer to send him up. It was obvious that a lot of loving care and attention went into the details of the success of the Seahawks organization and that dedication was not lost on me . . . from the players, to the management on down to the beautiful blades of grass.
“Tell him he can find me between the 30 and 40 yard lines,” I say, “I’m the 12th man.”
“We’re not just a building,” Kevin Griffin, director of Fan Development and Community Relations would say later. “Players and staff live here and are committed to building community in Renton.”
Kevin’s passion for the Seahawks was infectious as he told me about The Seahawks helping kids be active and healthy in our community—during the football season the players bring PLAY 60 activities and messaging to Renton elementary schools.
The Seahawks are also dedicated to partnerships within our community. In 2010 they partnered with The Landing for a 12k run.
The team also granted money toward a new fitness room at Nelsen Middle School.
“I am thankful for Paul Allen everyday he saved The Seahawks from leaving Seattle.”
This year our family will definitely partake in a game or two — maybe even tailgate.
As for the media badge . . . I did try getting some VIP use at the grocery store. It didn’t get me to the front of the line, but I did meet another 12th man.