The day before Tuesday’s opening of the “We are 12” exhibit, visitors at the EMP Museum were drawn to the windows, trying to sneak a peek at what was inside.
Some tried walking in. Others snapped photos through the glass.
It’s exactly the type of reaction Jasen Emmons, EMP’s curatorial director, expected when he assembled the tribute to the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl championship.
“It’s like filings to a magnet,” Emmons said. “It’s amazing how people are drawn to it.”
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That magnet is the centerpiece of the exhibit: The 22-inch-tall, 7-pound sterling silver Lombardi Trophy glistens under the lights, allowing fans to get as close as they likely ever will to professional football’s ultimate prize.
Also in the glass case, on either side of the trophy, are a football used during the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, a 43-8 Seahawks win over Denver, and a diamond encrusted championship ring. The artifacts sit on confetti collected from the turf at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium after the post-game celebration.
“It’s really exciting to have that (trophy) here because it’s the thing everybody wants to see,” Emmons said.
But, as the name implies, “We are 12” isn’t just an opportunity to give fans an up-close look at the spoils of winning an NFL title. It’s also about celebrating the fans’ place in pop culture and celebrating those who built the team, especially coach Pete Carroll.
The exhibit is staged in an approximately 1,000-square-foot room near the EMP lobby and is planned to be in place through 2016.
Artifacts are somewhat scarce once visitors step past the trophy case. A pair of helmets — one the original silver, the other the modern blue style selected by fans — hangs on one wall. The ceremonial plunger team owner Paul Allen pushed at the opening of what’s now called Century Link Field and a hunk of the stadium’s turf are displayed on another wall.
Toward the back of the exhibit sits a copy of the speech Carroll gave the team before the NFC championship game against the San Francisco 49ers. It’s handwritten on a manila folder and sits next to one of Carroll’s whistles, the gloves he used while playing catch before the game, and a few packs of his favorite chewing gum (original flavor Bubble Yum).
More artifacts are coming soon, however. The plan, Emmons says, is to add something new from each home game during the season — although he says they’re not likely to add anything from Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
There’s no shortage of Seahawks knowledge to be gleaned from a “We are 12” visit.
Short documentary films can be watched at stations around the room. The stories include running back Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Quake Run,” a behind-the-scenes look at the raising of the 12th Man flag, the hiring of Carroll and general manager John Schneider, and Paul Allen discussing his decision to buy the team in 1997.
There’s not much in the exhibit that predates the Paul Allen era — and not because he founded the museum and loaned his personal Lombardi Trophy (each team gets two when they win the title) to the exhibit.
It was simply a matter of space. Streamlining the focus to the fans and how the Seahawks became a championship team seemed like an obvious choice, Emmons said. “Then we go deeper into what’s happened,” he said.
Pre-Allen Seahawks legends are still there to be found, however. Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent appears in at least one of the videos. And, like so much in the exhibit, he praises the fans.
“It reminds me of a scene you would find in ancient Roman times, when the emperor comes in and all the people are going crazy,” Largent said, describing the raising of the 12th Man flag before a game.
A stat wall made out of football leather allows fans to explore Seahawks facts and compare their hand size to that of quarterback Russell Wilson and their leaping ability to that of cornerback Richard Sherman.
A fan wall of fame pays tribute to some of the Seahawks’ most die-hard fans, including Gary Buchanan of Bonney Lake. Buchanan, a season ticket holder since the first game in 1976, has a second identity as the Sea Pope under which he leads pregame prayers, delivers sermons and even converts fans of opposing teams.
For EMP visitors wondering why exactly the Seahawks’ rabid fans are treated as if they’re a part of the team, they need look no further than the booth in the middle of the exhibit. Visitors can enter the booth and try to call a play as the opposing quarterback.
Emmons says the volume in the booth reaches about 90 decibels. Loud, but not nearly as loud as the 137.6 decibels the fans reached during a game last season against New Orleans.
“It’s loud enough to give them an idea,” Emmons said. “We don’t want to damage their eardrums.”