By Arlene Dennistoun
Northwest Asian Weekly
Melanie Hoshino, petite, pretty, with a golden tan, and long, light brown hair and a trim, athletic build, is dwarfed by the huge gray doors of the CenturyLink Seahawks Pro Shop she manages. Hoshino seems a bit shy at first as she peeks around the door, but warms up instantly and flashes an irresistibly brilliant and welcoming smile, as she invites you into her world of blue and green hats, bikinis, pet outfits, and everything else designed to melt the heart of a Seattle Seahawks fan.
“It’s (Seahawks gear) everywhere!” Hoshino proclaims triumphantly. She recently visited Wyoming, where she took a bunch of selfies with fans wearing Seahawks stuff. In Honolulu, she unexpectedly walked into a Seahawks bar. Her friends from Guam took Seahawks flags back with them and took pictures of the flags in their hometowns. “Really cool,” she says, flashing that smile again. She has a fan in Ireland whom she sends gear off to every year, and European clients regularly come into the store for Seahawks apparel. Seeing blue and green everywhere gives Hoshino a sense of pride and community.
As a true fan, Hoshino believes in wearing Seahawks attire all year round, and not just because she sells it. For Hoshino, there are two seasons a year — waiting for football season and football season. “It’s 24/7,” she says enthusiastically.
She’s an all-American sports fan who loves her job and delights in engaging with and building community through the spirit of Seahawk fandom.
From Korea to America with love (and sports fandom)
From sports and football to the growing community built by 12th fans, the conversation veers into Hoshino’s personal life. When asked who inspires her, she replies, “Gosh, my parents, for sure.” Nice. Then Hoshino hammers in a big nail in her inspirational foundation. “I’m adopted and I’m Korean,” she says, sounding casually awestruck by her own truth.
She was just five months old when her parents, a Japanese American couple from Bellevue, adopted her. Her older Vietnamese brother was also adopted when he was 15 months old.
Hoshino also has great admiration for her parents. Her mom and dad were both born in the Minidoka Wartime Relocation Center, a WWII internment camp in Idaho. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, her grandparents, born in America (her grandfather owned the old Fuji 10-cent store in Wallingford), were, like most Japanese Americans, forced to live in internment camps. She remembers her grandmother’s stories about how the women took turns teaching, and how the experience brought the interned community much closer together. Hoshino describes visiting Minidoka when she was in high school, and says haltingly, trying to find the right words, “It wasn’t glamorous.”
Hoshino honors her roots and goes to Bon Odori in Seattle every year. Bon Odori is a traditional Japanese summer festival to celebrate, honor, and appreciate what the ancestors have done. Even there, she says with matter-of-fact pride, more people wear Seahawks gear. With an excited catch in her voice, she says even in mid-July when there aren’t any games, she sees the 12th Man flag and people wearing hats and jerseys under yukatas (casual summer kimono). “It’s definitely everywhere now.”
Hoshino’s parents later met when they went to the University of Washington, where Hoshino and her brother also attended. Her brother is a long-time Washington state trooper, and she cheerfully explains, “He’s one of the few Asian short guys that’ll pull you over!” She laughs readily at the image.
“I’m very lucky. I have a lot of gratitude to be here in America, and working for the Seahawks organization has been amazing.”
“Life is good. Football is better.” That’s Hoshino quoting Steve Sabol on her Facebook page. Sabol, president of NFL Films, died in 2012. Without a doubt, “I definitely apply most things in my life around football,” says Hoshino. She has an 8-year-old son and she believes football can be used to teach math, memorization, and a lot of other things. “A lot of different aspects about a championship team like the Seahawks can be used to teach.”
When Hoshino looks at the roster and history of the Seahawks, “it definitely inspires.” She points out players such as Doug Baldwin (undrafted), Richard Sherman (fifth-round), and Russell Wilson (third-round). “There’s definitely something to be said about how hard they worked, and despite not being first-round picks, they aspired to be better. Other people believed in them, and look at what they’ve accomplished.”
Hoshino wants the API community to get their friends involved in their Seahawk fandom, and engage and expose their friends who are not fans. She enthusiastically believes Seahawk fandom ties the community together. Look around, she says, there are Wilson sushi rolls, 12th Fan flags, and Seahawks gear binding the community together. For her part, when her friends have baby showers, “they’re definitely getting a jersey!”
Despite working 14, 15 hour days during back-to-back home games for the Sounders and Seahawks on weekends, and rarely getting to see a home game, Hoshino loves the sense of camaraderie the Seahawks spread throughout the world.
Seahawks games bring people together, Hoshino declares. People not really interested in the game, but come to game events to socialize, get swept away and want to know what’s going on in a game. Enthusiasm carries the day and generates interest. It’s the psychology of sports fans — normally shy and reserved people may find themselves shouting, cheering, and that energy and community is infectious, bringing friends and even strangers together in a common cause.
One of Hoshino’s top tips for a true sports fan is to “be loyal to your team,” no matter what. She’s managed the pro shop for 11 years and has seen the team go to three Super Bowls. There were some years where the team didn’t even make the playoffs. She firmly encourages the 12s to be even more engaged and supportive when the Seahawks don’t make it past the regular season.
“I believe in wearing gear,” says Hoshino, with genuineness and a sparkling grin. “Wear it all year round. It gives you pride and a sense of community. Don’t give up on your team. Be positive and support the team through thick and thin.”
Hoshino talked sports, she enjoys it all — football, golf, basketball, and mixed martial arts. She’s been hooked on sports ever since her brother began playing basketball, and she started keeping statistics on his free throws, points, “all for fun,” she said, grinning. Surprisingly, Hoshino says, “I’m not very athletic,” she laughs hard, “but I do hot yoga all the time! I love it!”
Arlene Dennistoun can be reached at email@example.com.