SEATTLE (AP) — Amid the 700,000 fans who jammed downtown Seattle to celebrate the city's first Super Bowl win stood Mark Formanczyk, 57-year-old man in a Seahawks jersey and a camouflage jacket, weeping in the parking lot outside the team's stadium.
"I'm crying! I'm crying ... and I love it!" he said, pulling off his sunglasses to show the tears. "I believed in Seattle years ago when I first moved here, and they finally came through. They brought this city alive!"
Bundled in blue-and-green Seahawks gear — hats, shirts, jackets, stickers and wigs — the fans packed the sidewalks and streets along a 2-mile parade route, standing shoulder to shoulder on a freezing, clear day for a community catharsis after 35 years without a major sports title.
They roared and chanted as the team rolled by on amphibious "Ride the Ducks" vehicles usually reserved for tourists. Running back Marshawn Lynch sat on the hood of a vehicle carrying the Sea Gals cheerleaders. He tossed Skittles — his favorite treat — into the crowd.
Other Seahawks players threw jerseys and T-shirts to fans while waving blue "12" flags in honor of the 12th man, the fans.
"This is a historical event, once in a lifetime. To not show up would be blasphemy," said Jesse Lake, 36, a carpenter from Port Orchard, who stood in the packed parking lot outside CenturyLink Field to greet the team as they arrived.
Nearby, 23-year-old cook Jesse Rea, of Edmonds, watched highlights of the season on two massive screens, then bellowed loud cheers for the players as they were introduced to the crowd inside the stadium.
"It's overwhelming to see how much the city is supporting this," he said. "Finally we are able to see how much love and respect we have. What the 12th man means to me — they made me feel as much a part of this team as the players."
Thousands of students skipped school to attend. Seattle Public Schools said more than 25 percent of the district's 51,000 students were absent in the morning. By comparison, about 5 percent were absent the day before. The school district also said 565 teachers were absent, far more than usual.