I wonder why Seahawks fans are loudest in league?

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By Paula Wissel

“You can’t go out on the corner and start screaming 'I work for Microsoft, yeah!' or 'I drink Starbucks, woohoo!' What are your outlets for taking pride in a vocal manner? And, in some ways, the teams are tangible representations of the pride we take in our region," one local columnist says.

Seattle isn’t a particularly noisy place. After all, you can get a ticket for honking your horn. But, we have a reputation for having the loudest fans in the NFL. And, we wondered why and just how loud are we?

How loud is it?

During a Seahawks game in Century Link Field, formerly Qwest Field, the decibel level of more than 65,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs is deafening.

They call it volume 12, after the 12th man moniker used for Seahawks fans.

Seahawks cornerback and special teams captain Roy Lewis says it’s so loud “the ground begins to shake and the Gatorade in your cup starts shakin’.”

Lewis played his rookie year with Pittsburgh and says the crowds were never as loud as what he’s experienced with the Seahawks. He says you want the crowd as loud as possible to “create chaos” for the other team, to make it impossible for their quarterback to be heard.

Seattle has led the NFL in false-start penalties for opposing teams every year since 2005.

 

The fans make it happen

Season ticket holder Lorin “Big Lo” Sandretzky, sometimes called Seattle’s biggest sports fan – he’s 6-foot-8 and weighs more than 400 pounds – has a front row seat for every game.

Sandretzky says being in the sea of sound is like being in a car race and you’re one of the cars.

"All of sudden those engines rev up and the heart just starts pumpin’ and then down the raceway they go. The feelings so powerful because you feel the vibe of everybody around you," he said.

 

Fans cause earthquake?

On Jan. 8, 2011, Seahawks fans got so loud during an amazing touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch that they caused, not exactly an earthquake, but a seismic event. In a post, Seattle Times Seahawks blogger Danny O'Neil tracked down a picture of the blip on the Seismograph.

 

 

"We looked at the stations nearby and one station in particular just clearly showed the crowd roaring," John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, told O'Neil.

 

Why so loud?

The design of the stadium is often cited as a major reason for the over-the-top crowd noise.

Architect James Poulson says he didn’t set out to design the stadium so noise would be enhanced. Rather, he calls it “a happy accident.”

He says Seahawks owner Paul Allen wanted to re-create the feeling of attending games in the University of Washington’s Husky stadium. So, the architect designed cantilevered decks and a partial roof covering. He says when choosing between sound absorbing materials and hard surfaces they went with hard surfaces.

 

Century Link Field (Wikimedia Commons) Husky Stadium (Wikimedia Commons)

“Those hard surfaces are positioned perfectly to deflect the crowd noise back onto the field,” he said. 

But Poulson says it’s the fans who’ve figured out how to maximize the acoustic features.

“Now that the fans have discovered they can set off seismic recorders and create earthquakes (laughs) I think that’s a self-reinforcing cycle,” he said.

 

Fans have always been loud

Seahawks fans like to point out that they were extra vocal even back in the old Kingdome days.

By some accounts, the NFL’s now defunct “noise rule” penalizing crowds that were too loud was the direct result of a game in the Kingdome where Denver quarterback John Elway complained to the officials that he couldn’t relay his signals.

 

It's about making a statement

Fan Mike Shafer says he thinks the 12th man screams so loud as a way of countering “East Coast bias.”

The News Tribune of Tacoma sports columnist Dave Boling spins it a more positively. He says it’s our way of showing we’re proud of our life in the  Pacific Northwest.

“You can’t go out on the corner and start screaming 'I work for Microsoft, yeah!' or 'I drink Starbucks, woohoo!' What are your outlets for taking pride in a vocal manner? And, in some ways, the teams are tangible representations of the pride we take in our region,” Boling said.

And, he says, it isn't just Seahawks fans who wear the "we're loud and proud" label. The Seattle Sounders, who also play at CenturyLink field, yell and blow horns through entire games. And Husky stadium, now under reconstruction, is known as a very noisy college venue.