D.C. Fans Endure Slings and Arrows Of Seattle Crowd

By Nick Miroff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 6, 2008

SEATTLE, Jan. 5 -- When the Seattle Seahawks scored their last touchdown last night, it was so loud at Qwest Field that the bitter words of Nick Gamache were buried under an avalanche of noise.

The Seahawks had run up the score to 35-14 with another interception return for a touchdown, and Gamache, a Raleigh, N.C., resident who grew up in Silver Spring, was crushed. "The dagger already happened a while ago," he said. "That was the nail."

The game was just like Washington's up-and-down season as the Redskins started slow, then rallied but ultimately fizzled.

"I really thought we were going to win. I felt it in my bones. And that's why it hurts so much," said Gamache's friend, Michael Fitzmaurice, a District resident who flew out for the game.

For the fans who braved the elements and the beery hordes at Qwest Field, the loss was an emotional injury to the insults they'd been suffering all day from Seahawks fans.

And just like the noise, the hostile conditions were partly a product of the stadium's design. Unlike FedEx Field, where the sprawling suburban parking lot provides ample room for tailgating, Qwest Field is set in far more cramped downtown quarters. Throngs of Seahawk fans jam into a narrow strip of asphalt between a freeway overpass and the stadium, creating a warrenlike cluster of blue tents and jerseys.

These were the hostile environs where one brave group of Washington fans set up before the game, and they were quickly besieged.

Although Seattle fans have a reputation for civility, the hissing vandals that Washington fans faced yesterday were as bad-mannered a bunch as any in the league. Anyone who arrived in a Redskins jersey had to walk through a rioting gantlet of screaming blue meanies who pushed them, bumped them and even stole their beer.

"They were throwing stuff at us: chicken wings, cans. It was terrible," said Dino Russo, 42, a Stafford resident whose Redskins rain poncho made him a ripe target.

"I expected the crowd to be docile, and this was the opposite," said his friend Bruce May, 51, also of Stafford. "Philly is supposed to be the worst, but this doesn't compare."

One well-traveled, battle-scarred Redskins fan, Ted Abela of the District, said he'd never seen so much unnecessary roughness from hometown fans. He likened walking into the stadium to entering the Colosseum in the movie "Gladiator," surrounded by packs of foaming Romans. "I went to Philly and New York this year, and this is worse," said Abela, 28.

No one was immune. Even Ashleigh Miller, a junior at Loudoun Valley High School, wasn't spared from the onslaught, enduring a nasty encounter with one particularly boorish Seahawks fan. "He was right up in my face," she said, her blond braid tucked under a burgundy No. 21 hat honoring the late Sean Taylor, "and I'm only 16!"

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