By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The Seahawks’ home opener on Sept. 8 reminded me that I was there recently at CenturyLink Field on a bright summer day, meeting some of its giants, literally and figuratively. I’m not kidding. When I stood next to them, I was like an eager snail, trying to push my head high enough to ask for autographs.
The Seahawks are the most famous neighbors of the International District (ID). It took me only five minutes to walk across the bridge on 4th Avenue South, from Chinatown to CenturyLink Field. I wasn’t going there for a game or a concert, but something which occurs only once a year. It’s the first time I got invited to the 30th annual Pacific NW Football Hall of Fame.
Friends who know me would probably laugh.
“Girl, you don’t know anything about football.” Being a publisher of two small ethnic newspapers, sports are not my expertise. Thank God, my husband and sons know a lot more about sports, especially the Seahawks.
The Hall of Fame program revealed my ignorance, or weakness, depending on how you look at it. Of the five inductees, I recognized only the late Seahawks’ coach Chuck Knox, and Vice President of Community Relations, Mike Flood, the person who invited me. I must confess I didn’t know the other three reputable inductees: Seahawks’ Shaun Alexander, Huskies’ Mark Bruener, and high school football coach Tom Moore.
But I am a Seahawks fan, not because my family members are fans, but because the team is Seattle’s pride. It impacts the ID’s economy. In the past, Chinatown businesses were not thrilled as fans took away most of the parking spots in the ID during games. Patrons avoided coming to the area. Lately, the Seahawks have set up programs to invite ID restaurants to sell food inside the stadium during games.
Things changed when the Hawks won the Super Bowl in 2014, and many community members are proud fans. To my surprise, an immigrant who lives and works as a street cleaner in the ID bought his kids Seahawks jerseys that year. And oh, he wore one, too. Those jerseys are not cheap. Their outfit, including hats and scarves, would have cost the family hundreds of dollars.
But they were so excited in celebrating the Seahawks’ win. Dim Sum King and T&T Restaurant, advertised in the Northwest Asian Weekly, congratulating the Seahawks’ victory. It never happened to us before for any local sports team.
To meet the demands of hundreds of thousands of fans going to the games, Metro has organized tons of double-decker buses from all parts of town to come to the ID, before and after the games.
I have noticed a rising number of Asians going to the games. The number of fans patronizing Chinatown restaurants and other businesses have also grown immensely, especially after home games.
My husband and I were over the moon attending the Hall of Fame induction. We knew that there would be a lot of celebrities in the room. Instantly, I remember Jerry Lee’s clever plan. Lee and his wife Charlene are long-time Hawks fans and premier season ticket holders. (Lee said it costs $25,000 for the premier seats.) Whenever there were famous players in the room, Lee would bring along a couple of balls and ask for autographs, and then donate the balls at charity functions. Some of these autographed balls could fetch as much as $1,000 or more.
What an opportunity! Maybe I should buy a couple of balls and see how many of these autographs I could get. But a few days before the event, I gave up on the idea.
A graphic artist on my staff designed a congratulatory card for Flood, and I intended to ask VIPs to sign it. There wasn’t enough time (about half an hour) to accomplish both goals. Multi-tasking would take the fun out of me. I wanted to enjoy the process of meeting outstanding athletes and solely doing it for Flood.
Meeting the players
I worried what the players would think when I approached them for an autograph. Physically, they were intimidating—towering over me—big and strong like Transformers and with oversized biceps that they might burst the sleeves. Would they think I am too short? Would they test my knowledge of what year they played for the Seahawks? It would be embarrassing if they tested me and I didn’t know the answer. Would they sign and then scorn me, “Here you go, shortie.” My fear was baseless. Everyone was friendly and polite. One even said, “I would love to (sign).”
The trouble was, I didn’t know who the players were. I was lost in the room of over 200 people, with a sea of unfamiliar faces. Fortunately, teamwork emerged.
My husband cued me by whispering, “You are standing next to…,” “See the tall guy talking to Mike,” “The guy behind you…” Gliding swiftly from one football player to the next, I was having fun. My husband was working simultaneously with his camera to get all the photos of dignitaries not with us, but with Flood standing or chatting to them. My role was to line them up properly so they could all be in the photo. And smiled. And my green and blue (Seahawks colors) felt pens came in handy when asking for autographs. People these days don’t carry pens around because they rely on their phones so much.
Some including Steve Largent, Steve Raible, Jim Zorn, and Curt Warner, took their time and added a nice note for Flood. They had no idea that I needed to get many more autographs.
Sometimes, I was about to say, “Can you please hurry up?” No, I didn’t. I learned something.
Next time, I would have two cards ready so I wasted no time in waiting for signers to finish. It was fun to meet all the players face to face— they were fathers, husbands, brothers, authors, entrepreneurs and network anchors—they were warm, human, and genuine—not on television with their helmets and uniforms—but as regular folks nicely-dressed for the occasion.
Who is Mike Flood?
Flood was surprised that he was named a Hall of Famer because he isn’t a player. He was the only one who wasn’t involved on the field. But his contributions to the Seahawks were deeply felt in the room. He makes the players care about the community. That’s how they connect with fans. His community work is expansive and powerful. He organized Seahawks players to do community service, like cleaning up Nisei Vets Hall this summer. Seriously, the players got their hands dirty in cleaning up the place. The Hawks also honor Japanese and other veterans, and other unsung heroes. The players offer summer camps to disadvantaged youth, and are involved with mentoring programs.
As president of Washington Generals Association, a community service organization founded by former Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, Flood was honored as a general himself. Flood’s list of community service goes on and on.
Most might not be aware that he was a roommate of the late Paul Allen, Seahawks owner and founder of many other innovative enterprises in Seattle, when they went to school at Washington State University. Also, Flood worked tirelessly behind the scenes to build the stadium.
Above all, Flood supports many Asian organizations, including sponsoring the Northwest Asian Weekly’s December dinner for the last two decades.
Thank you, Mike, for your support. It was definitely an eye-opening experience, and the highlight of my summer.
The Seahawks beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 8 21 to 20. If that win is an indication of something major coming up, it is.
Can the team win the Super Bowl this season? I asked Flood.
“I think so,” he replied without a pause.
Fans, dream big!
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.