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One million people convened in downtown Seattle on a bright, freezing Tuesday — February 4, 2014 — to celebrate the Super Bowl win of the Seahawks. The route led down 4th, and the entire way from Seattle Center to the Century Link Field was a mass of people. There were no arrests that day. Some people take weird pride in that, but maybe it does show that we can have kindergarten-style fun as adults here: we all work together and nobody gets hurt
But probably more likely, it was the fact that nobody — certainly no long-time Seahawks fan — expected to ever see this day. Those long-suffering die-hards who would never give up, and always cared, were finally rewarded for forty years of dedication. The mood was a few excitement levels higher than jubilant.
As a young high school punk in the Eighties, I was caught in a John Hughes movie, sure the jocks were my enemies. Some of them were, in fact. But unlike movies, life contains many people who are only, in small ways, part of the group you assume they belong to. I failed to recognize a truth I've come to accept as an adult — that sports fans are just nerds, like every one else. I hung out with the music nerds, and the science nerds, and the math nerds; the fashion nerds, the art nerds, the reading nerds, the comic nerds, the movie nerds, the science fiction and fantasy nerds, and the drama nerds. I didn't understand the language or culture of the sports nerds, like some of them didn't understand some of the other languages I knew so well (although, many, of course, crossed multiple nerd disciplines).
And being a sports fan, as an adult, is no indicator of anything other than that you enjoy spending your time playing and watching sports. Is there anything more precious and annoying than the person who demurs that he doesn't like sports in such a loud way as to impress on you his superiority of the fact?
Because maybe there are a lot of true blue-and-green Seahawks fans in Seattle, but there aren't a million of them. But there are a lot of people who recognized a reason to celebrate, and who wanted to step up to offer thanks and congratulations. There was this impossible team that had everything come together in an inspiring way, and they went in and dominated. Normally not a sports fan, I was a football fan that year.
And here, you can see above, was a crowd so thick you couldn't walk through it. I was there, on Columbia, waiting for the parade to start when that ambulance cut through. The crowd parted and folded around it, the ambulance moving about 10 miles an hour or so, lights and siren off, the crowd looking like it was ready to rock it, as if this were a riot. But it was moving like a fish in a stream, and the water parted so it could find its way.
I remember feeling a bit worried as it approached, but it went through the crowd like nobody's business, to wherever it was headed. And just to narrow our focus from a million people, down to the crowd here in this photo at the moment of that ambulance's passing? Just in there, I'm sure we can find five pretty interesting stories to write about. Every corner along that route had at least as many stories. Every place that was empty of people who came, every place that was full of people who couldn't come because of work, or because they were unexpectedly obligated to be somewhere they didn't want to be. All of those stories are just as good.
Sometimes, the hardest thing about writing these prompts is that there is no place in the world that you can walk which contains no stories.
"We won't get through," said the passenger. "We'll get through," said the driver. He moved slow, watching people before him nudge each other to look behind them. Only a few short honks were needed to clear the way. He kept a tight foot on the brake, keeping speed under control, worried about lurching. As they hit 4th and started to turn, the driver caught sight of the passenger, who was a bit green. "You okay?" he said, turning his attention back to the mass of people he had to navigate. "I really don't like crowds. Really don't." And then the passenger passed out.
She didn't even know the man. He was in his 70s, she guessed. Probably underdressed for the weather, in his lightweight coat and cotton Seahawks skull cap and scarf. But when he sat down on the curb, and his eyes went far, she could see he was having trouble breathing. She crouched in front of him, worried the crowd might see them and press in. Put a hand on his shoulder, and when he could barely focus on her, she called 911.
The man wasn't feeling sick that morning. Just a normal coughing fest in the shower. But dammit, he had been a season ticket holder during season one and almost every season after that. There was no way he was going to miss today's parade, like he missed the last five seasons or so. It wasn't too hard to get past the front desk at the nursing home without being seen (he did that all the time, those idiots), but he almost got made on his way to the dock. The ferry ride from Bremerton was fine. He just snuck some coffee when the cafeteria staff was busy. It was walking up the hill to 4th that he started feeling weak. He never could catch his breath again. And finally, what he wanted more than even seeing the team, was just to sit down and rest for a moment.
Why had she even come? First, it was freezing cold. Second, her husband was being a turd, just swilling vodka from a flask and screaming like he was thirty years younger than he was. And she hated coming into Seattle, and especially downtown. It was filthy, and riddled with criminals. And for some reason, the EMT had to ask someone from the crowd to assist him in helping that poor sick man onto the stretcher. It was just completely unacceptable, how these government agencies never get anything right. Sending one EMT into a crowd like this. One! Terrible planning. This city was a complete cesspool, and still it got to dictate everything that happened in the state. She resented everything about this day, and she could not wait to get the heck out of here and go back home.
She was only five people from him the whole time. She kind of saw the commotion about the man who was having trouble and watched the ambulance approach. But she was with friends celebrating. Well, and making fun of the woman next to them, who did nothing but complain to her poor husband, who was just trying to have a good time. But then when the EMT lifted the cart into the ambulance, she saw the man's face clearly, even through the oxygen mask. She cried out: "Arrest that man! Arrest that man! That's my father, and he's guilty of murdering my mother!"