MUNICH—A bunch of Germans, a Scot, an American journalist, a stuffed owl and a handful of former NFL players walk into a bar…
No, this isn't a setup for a joke; it's just the type of thing that happens when the Seahawks travel overseas.
And on a Thursday night in Munich's old town, Augustiner Stammhaus Restaurant and Beerhall is packed with Seahawks fans, as it will be all weekend as the official headquarters for 12s during the week.
As was the case when Seattle played in London four years ago, Seahawks fans are everywhere in Munich this week. Seahawk fans travel well every week, and plenty of the blue and action green-wearing folks around Munich did indeed make the trip from the Seattle area this week, but a big part of the Seahawks takeover here is the fact that the team has a huge fanbase in Germany, one that exploded last decade when NFL games first started being televised in Germany on ProSieben Maxx. As former German SeaHawkers president Maximilian Länge explained in London four years ago, because the Seahawks and Patriots were two of the top teams in the NFL last decade, a lot of their games ended up on TV, leading to both of those teams building a large following.
Länge is one of the Germans at Augustiner Stammhaus, as is Lukas Spiess, who replaced Länge as president of the German Seahawks, and several other German fans sitting together at a table that also includes Harry, who heads up the Scottish chapter of the UK Seahawkers, and for a while, a fan from Kenmore, Washington, who is eager to show off her German skills with some locals.
As for Frieda, the aforementioned stuffed owl, well, there’s a heartbreaking but beautiful story behind that, which can read in this outstanding piece in The Athletic by Michael-Shawn Dugar, the journalist who was at the table with the Germans and a Scot.
And while the growth of the Seahawks fanbase in Germany occurred pretty organically, it was a pretty major undertaking to make Munich feel like a home away from home for 12s in town for the game, one that started with members of the team's marketing department making multiple trips to Munich in the months leading up to the game. This week, 10 or so staff members are in Munich to handle events around town that are happening away from what the team is doing.
Seahawks-centric touches at the Augustiner include rally towels, appearances by Blitz, DJ Supa Sam and various Seahawks Legends—Lofa Tatupu and Jordan Babineaux on Thursday, to name a couple—and live Seattle Sports 710AM radio broadcasts, which with the time difference meant working in rowdy bar until 11 p.m. for Michael Bumpus and Dave Wyman.
And one of the coolest features at the bar this week is a large map of the world in which fans can put a pin representing their hometown. It's something the Seahawks did in London four years ago that has been adopted by other teams when they play overseas, and by Friday the map was already full of pins from all over the U.S., U.K. and Germany, but also from Iceland, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.
"Not just in Seattle, we're an international brand," said receiver DK Metcalf. "We're thankful that 12s aren't just in Seattle, they're also in Munich, so thank you everybody for traveling as far as they did just to see us play."
As Geno Smith explained a day earlier, the Seahawks aren't in Munich this week to play a game, even if that is priority No. 1. They're also here to represent their team and their sport on a continent and in country where American football is rapidly growing in popularity. It's a responsibility the Seahawks are happy to take on this week, from doing events in the community to pausing practice for photo ops with FC Bayern Munich, which was practicing on a field right next to the Seahawks.
"I particularly think it's a cool thing that we get a chance to do that, and that's why we're working hard to respect the opportunity and connect where we can," Carroll said.
While the Seahawks aren't around the city as much as fans are to witness the 12s takeover of Munich, they're well aware of what's taking place, and it's something Carroll couldn't have imagined happening in the last decade since German fans started getting NFL games on TV on a regular basis.
"No, I couldn't have dreamed that would happen," he said. "I'm anxious to see what it feels like when we connect at the stadium too. Maybe there is some chemistry there. I hope there is."
Said receiver Tyler Lockett, "I think it's pretty cool just being able to come here to a different country. You learn the culture, you get to meet people, we get a chance to play in front of everybody—I'm hearing there's a lot of Seahawks fans here. Not too many of us get the chance to go overseas and meet new people, experience different things, so I think it's pretty cool to be able to do that.
"I really says a lot about the NFL, but also just the Seahawks in general. We're a fun, entertaining team… Just to be able to see that there's so many people outside of the country that watch us, that even message us and tell us how great we are, how they love watching us, it just shows that this game is expanding outside of the United States."
The party at Augustiner Stammhaus will continue all weekend—and in all likelihood just get bigger—with appearances by Seahawks Legends, a rally on Saturday at 5 p.m., and following that rally, an appearance from local rock band Just in Case.
"We're really continuing what we learned in London," said Ryan Madayag, the team's director of game entertainment and special events. "The pub was packed and it felt like a home game. We hope to do that here and make it feel like a home game even though we're the away team."
It remains to be seen what the crowd will look like at Allianz Stadium, which sold out almost immediately with hundreds of thousands of fans queued up looking to buy tickets for the first regular season NFL game in Germany, but based off the scenes in Munich so far, there's a good chance the Seahawks once again feel at home in Europe.