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Seahawks fans recognize another big window of opportunity

It’s a rare day when a customer walks into Pat Beach’s dive shop in Oak Harbor and recognizes his name or his face.

And that’s the way Beach prefers it.

“Being recognized is not my thing,” Beach said.

After retiring from football in 1993 after a 12-year NFL career, Beach decided three years later to open Whidbey Island Dive Center and retreat about as far away from the game as he could.

But ultimately, his interest resurfaced and he found himself paying closer attention to the NFL again, particularly the Seattle Seahawks.

Just like when he was a kid.

“I was a Seahawk fan before I went to the NFL,” said Beach, who grew up in Pullman, played for Washington State University, then spent 10 of his NFL seasons as a tight end with the Colts organization, first in Baltimore then in Indianapolis.

“I’m still a Seahawk fan. After a while, I got excited about it again.”

Beach, now 54, will be among a large contingent of Whidbey Island Seahawks fans watching with keen interest Sunday when Seattle takes on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J.

He’s watched excitement build on the island and the region for this game. Never having reached the Super Bowl himself as a player, he knows how rare an opportunity it is for the Seahawks, who are seeking their first title.

“We have a chance to be good for several years before we have to break up this thing,” he said of the Seahawks, who rank as one of the youngest teams in the NFL.

Still, Beach is torn.

Although he said he loves Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, he’s an even bigger fan of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

Beach’s allegiances are strong to the Colts organization, where he and Manning spent most of their careers and where Manning took the team to two Super Bowls. Beach was drafted in 1982 by the Colts, 16 years before they drafted Manning, and their careers didn’t overlap.

Some of Beach’s fondest NFL memories are the interactions he’d have on the field before games with some of the game’s legends and notable figures.

He remembers one such chat with Archie Manning on a trip to New Orleans in the early 1990s. By then, Archie Manning was covering the Saints as a color commentator.

“He told me he had sons in high school he thought were pretty good,” Beach said.

It’s a laughable moment now for Beach as he thinks of Sunday’s game and the careers of Peyton Manning and his brother Eli.

As a fan of opposing forces, he really can’t lose Sunday. Still, his heart is rooting for the Seahawks.

Beach’s passion, however, can’t compare to fellow Oak Harbor resident Richard Voit.

A step inside Voit’s Farmers Insurance office on Midway Boulevard is like walking into a Seahawks shrine.

Decorating his office are a sea of blue and green items, including a Seahawks helmet, signed Russell Wilson jersey, rugs and pillows, even a wreath attached to his door.

“It’s still up,” he said, admitting he’s superstitious. “I haven’t taken it down.”

Voit, a longtime season-ticket holder, had his name drawn in a lottery for Super Bowl tickets and is taking his wife to the game.

He loves the matchup pitting Seattle’s No. 1 ranked defense against Denver’s No. 1 rated offense and hopes cold weather might adversely impact Manning’s passing.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good chance, actually,” Voit said. “It’s hard to tell, depending on which team decides to play. Sometimes, I think there are two different teams for us.”

Voit, who’s lived in Oak Harbor since 1995, couldn’t imagine the impact a Seahawks’ victory in the Super Bowl might have on the state of Washington.

“I think it would be huge,” he said. “We’re way up here in the corner of the country. I think people forget we’re here sometimes. I think it’s going to bring national attention to Washington.”

Scott Dudley, mayor of Oak Harbor, also is a diehard Seahawks fan. He believes the Seahawks, in the NFL since 1976, will win their first championship Sunday.

He feels like it’s time.

A major professional sports championship has eluded the Pacific Northwest since the former Seattle SuperSonics won an NBA title in 1979.

Other teams came close: The Seahawks lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl following the 2005 season.

The Seattle Mariners appeared on the brink of a World Series for a six-year stretch starting in 1995.

The SuperSonics lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games in the 1996 NBA Finals.

The Seattle Storm did win WNBA titles in 2004 and 2010.

“I think we’re overdue,” said Dudley, who is attending the Super Bowl and won’t be at a Seahawks rally at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at Wildcat Memorial Stadium at Oak Harbor High School. “Our time has come with the attitude that we’re not going be complacent and accept second anymore.”

Dudley can envision the impact of a Seahawks championship.

“Look at the Seahawks gear flying off the shelves,” Dudley said. “Not only does it help economically from a retail standpoint but look at the euphoria that’s happening. People are talking about the Seahawks.

“You look at the atmosphere it’s already created. I can’t imagine what it would be like afterward.”

 

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