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Portions of this story first appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Nothing was going to stop die-hard Seattle Seahawks fan Joel McHale from seeing his team take center stage on Sunday.
Undeterred by the threat of a polar vortex or raging winds inside MetLife Stadium, The Soup host opens up to The Hollywood Reporter in an exclusive interview detailing the depth of his obsession with the team.
“Seattle has always been a great sports town,” he explains to THR, and instead of the old rivalries of the East Coast, the “sleepy little sea town” just had “good fish and these professional teams.”
“After living in L.A. for 13 years without an NFL team, my allegiance only grew for the Seahawks as they got better and better and better and now are great — really great,” reveals the Community star.
While many stars are choosing to stay home and watch from the warmth of their sofas, McHale is taking his wife, Sarah, along for the wild ride, thanks to Xbox. “Even though I work for Sony … and, you know, play a PlayStation 4,” he mumbles in jest, “it’s pretty cool that being from Seattle [they’d bring me to the game].”
The current forecast for kickoff in MetLife Stadium is in the mid-30s, which is warmer than feared but still the league’s first-ever cold-weather outdoor Super Bowl. “No one knows what the weather will be like. It could be bad, it could be good, it doesn’t matter,” McHale tells THR.
“The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl, and I’m thrilled. If I begin to freeze to death and we win, I’ll be holding up my numb finger, No. 1, then I’ll just break my finger off and throw it on the field. I should probably contact, like, North Face or some sort of arctic expedition. It could be cold, but all we know is that sportscasters will speculate about it endlessly.”
Even the prospect of possibly getting delayed on the East Coast if a storm hits doesn’t worry this strong supporter. “We tape The Soup on Wednesday mornings, so if somehow I’m not back by Wednesday, then I think it’s turned into The Day After Tomorrow,” he jokes.
Joel won’t be sitting in a luxury box for Super Bowl XLVIII and instead will be exposed to the elements. “So that’s why I should start preparing now. Maybe I should do some sort of Ed Harris move from The Abyss and start learning how to breathe liquid oxygen, and then I can wear one of those space suits and stay warm,” he says. “But I can’t imagine I’m gonna be sitting for much of it.”
Last month The Soup host interviewed one of his home team heroes, cornerback Richard Sherman, then went to see him and the rest of the team play the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field (where they clinched the top NFC seed and crucial home-field advantage with a 27-9 victory).
“The team was like, ‘Who do you want to interview?’ and I was fixated with Richard Sherman’s hair. That was why [I requested him]. It worked out great. And obviously, he’s not been in the news,” he jokes, referring to the player’s infamous Jan. 19 postgame interview with Erin Andrews, when he blasted the San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree for being a “mediocre receiver” after the Seahawks’ conference championship win.
Says McHale of his earlier encounter with Sherman: “He was really funny; he’ll definitely have a long broadcasting career if he chooses to.”
McHale has Seattle gridiron experience himself, as a tight end for the University of Washington Huskies in the 1990s. “I was a walk-on, so I played for two years. The guys who played before me went to the NFL for over a decade,” he explains. “Mark Bruener and Ernie Conwell, who were absolutely two of the best athletes I’ve ever been around. I just had a great time being on the team. I was much larger then, 243 pounds.”
When asked if he ever dreamed of going pro, he replies: “It becomes pretty clear who’s gonna be good and who’s gonna be bad. You knew the guys that were going to the NFL, and I was not one of them. I spent enough of my time just surviving.”
Given the opportunity to talk a little trash in advance of his team’s Super Bowl showdown against the Denver Broncos, McHale initially demurred, before offering:
“The Seahawks have way neater colors. Dark blue and bright electric green. Top that, orange and lighter blue!”
Earlier this week, THR caught up with some other famous sports fans to see who they are rooting for on Sunday and where they’ll be watching:
“I kind of like both teams, I think they are both great and don’t want to pick a winner. With Denver, you have a quarterback [Peyton Manning] who is fantastic — a 37-year-old — and it would be nice to see him win a Super Bowl. I am going to try, I will see. It’s always a great event, I’ve been going for a number of years, and I am looking forward to it. No [I am not worried about the weather], I grew up in Detroit.”
“I wanted the Niners to win, but I guess as they are not in it, then the Broncos. I don’t know what I am doing for it; I will probably be watching alone.”
“C’mon, Peyton, you’ve got to win this one. He beat my Patriots!”
“I am a West Coast girl. Colorado is a little too east for me, so I have to say Seattle. We have a big, big screen outdoors and my husband is going to cook up a vat of chili and we’re going to watch at home.”
“We’re going to the ESPN party and other NFL parties in New York. There’ll be a little bit of business going on obviously, but I’ll be glad to spend time with my dad. I think the Broncos are going to win just because I’m rooting for them. Peyton Manning is just really amazing. He’ll definitely take the win.”
“You can’t have my respect unless you earn it, I am the guy in the stands with my arms folded, telling both teams, ‘Show me what you got.’ “
“I will be landing in New York on Super Bowl Sunday, so I will be watching with some friends, I think. Hell no, I’m not going. It’s going to be cold! And I don’t have a ticket. I am rooting for Seattle because my husband is a Seattle fan; he’s from Washington state. That Sherman dude is pretty cool, too. I think he was just excited, there was a lot of adrenaline running from having just won the game. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.”
Kerri Walsh Jennings:
“I have to cheer on the Seahawks — even though I love Peyton Manning with all my heart — at home. We have a connection with the team, we have gotten to know [Seahawks] coach Pete Carroll a bit. The weather is off-putting for sure. Unless you are on the 50-yard line, in amazing seats in 60 degree weather, I would rather be at home.”
“I am a New York Giants fan; we had a terrible year, I love Peyton Manning, but I love Pete Carroll. I am a football fan so I can figure out a way to root for either team. I am playing in the celebrity Super Beach Bowl or something, where a group of celebs who are terrible athletes get together. The game will probably be more fun because when the Giants play I get so freaking nervous that I can’t enjoy it, so it’ll be a really fun Super Bowl. I’m excited.”
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