Halloween 2004: The Seahawks were hosting the Carolina Panthers.
Matt Hasselbeck. Sean Alexander. Marcus Trufant. Ken Hamlin.
Those Seahawks. The guys who would win the next four NFC West championships.
No, I don’t want to talk about the end of the 2005 season.
My man Andy was having a party. And something smelled good on his block. I approached his house, thinking: I hope that aroma’s coming from where I’m going.
Hickory, chilies, caramelized sugar, and roast pork hung in the air. The scent intensified as I neared his door, where a sign read: “We’re in the Back”.
Seductive vapor trickled from the vents in a cinder-block smokehouse. A bunch of guys were standing around a keg.
Wearing an eye-patch and tri-corner hat, Andy was describing his secret rub:
- turbinado sugar
- sea salt
- ancho chilies
- garlic and onion powder
- star anise
- a fistful of nanya
“What’s nanya?” a zombie asked.
“Nanya damn business,” Andy replied.
We headed inside for the kickoff. The Seahawks were on a three game skid, so they got back to the basics: running behind Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson. Alexander scored twice in the first half.
They threw the ball well when they needed to. Hasselbeck completed his first nine passes.
The Seahawks led 14-7 at the half. We returned to the backyard to stand around the keg again.
“I’m verking on zee hybrid crossbreed of squid and chicken,” I was saying in a bad German accent. I wore a lab coat with a pocketful of pens and a badge that read: Doctor Strangedave. “Ten drumsticks yet tastes like calamari, yes?”
I shut up when Andy unbolted the door of the smoker. I had a new favorite color: that ruddy, woodsy mahogany of smoked pork. A werewolf held a tray in both paws while Andy piled it with ribs. We followed them inside like the veil behind a bride.
The perfume filled the house. Meat came clean off the bone. My lips tingled from the spice. My lab-coat had brick-colored handprints on it and I didn’t care.
I knew from that moment I needed to learn barbecue. It was love, everlasting and true.
Alexander finished with 195 yards but no more touchdowns. With less than two minutes to go, Muhsin Muhammad scored to bring the Panthers within six. We got nervous, but the Seahawks snuffed the clock and left with a 23-17 victory.
We were all fattened, satisfied, and toasting each other.
Except for the guy from Raleigh in the Julius Peppers jersey. At least he loved the ribs.