AZ Good AZ it Gets
SPONSORED – Phoenix was the place where the rest of the country found out that Seattle fans took their enthusiasm on the road with them. That was 2013.
It’s also the place where I discovered how restorative a desert vacation can be. That was 2015.
Let’s start with the screaming. That’s what caught everyone’s attention on a Thursday night game in 2013, and by everyone, I mean the nation-wide audience that was watching Seattle’s prime-time matchup against Arizona. After it was over – and Seattle had worn its all-grey alternative uniforms in a 34-22 victory over Arizona – the fans who headed south for the game stayed behind and shouted themselves hoarse while the league’s official network hosted a post-game show on the field.
It was a national showcase for the enthusiasm that has come to define this franchise’s following during Russell Wilson’s 10 years as the team’s quarterback. And as the Chief Football Officer at Alaska Airlines, Russell knows just how many of those fans have followed the team on the road through that decade of success. If Seattle’s playoff loss in Atlanta to end the 2012 season showed just how close Seattle was to greatness, that regular-season win in Arizona was a showcase for just how many people from Seattle were coming along for the ride.
Two seasons and one title later, I saw a different side of Phoenix. A whole lot quieter and even a little prickly, but only because the scenery included cacti.
My wife and I spent New Year’s in Phoenix that year at the Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. She was in the midst of a two-year graduate program that was incredibly intensive, and I was traveling to Arizona to cover the final regular-season game of Seattle’s football schedule. We turned it into a long weekend, which included spa visits (for her) and desert hiking (for me). I had been to Phoenix at least once a year for the previous decade. I had come to town regularly back when I was in college at the University of Washington as one of my roommates was from the area.
I knew Phoenix as a place to warm up during the winter and dry out during the spring. It was where you came to watch spring-training baseball and eat lunch at a sidewalk café in October. That year, I found out how nice it could be to trek through the dry, arid landscape. Since then, I’ve been to Sedona and am planning to head to New Mexico, too. There’s a beauty in the scraggly landscape that you’ll find there, the red and copper tones of the soil and deep canyons providing a relaxing contrast to the bushy and lush landscape of the Pacific Northwest.
And if it ever gets too quiet? You can always go and find a Seattle team to shout for. They’re used to our enthusiasm down here.
Arrival: Alaska has eight different non-stop flights from Sea-Tac to Sky Harbor Airport each day. The airport is located just south and east of downtown Phoenix, and offers a free shuttle to the airport’s rental-car center.
Stadium: The stadium is in Glendale, which is kind of like a Seattle team playing its home games in Tacoma. There’s a great entertainment development right next to the stadium once you get there, but it won’t ever be mistaken for being in downtown Phoenix. Then again, given the sleepy nature of downtown Phoenix, that’s not a terrible thing. If you want to walk to the game, there’s a Renaissance Hotel next to the stadium. But if you really want to get the allure of the desert, choose one of the spas located in the surrounding area. The Camelback Inn is spendy, but worth it. If you’re looking for more nightlife, Scottsdale is your best bet while the more adventurous could consider a trip to Sedona.
Last time here: Oct. 25, 2020, Arizona 37, Seattle 34. This was Seattle’s first loss in Arizona since 2012, which was Russell Wilson’s first regular-season game with Seattle. Wilson is now 5-2-1 as a starting quarterback in the desert.
Dining: Carolina’s (1202 East Mojave Street, Phoenix, 602.252.1503) is my favorite place for tacos. It’s more like a cafeteria than a restaurant, located near the airport with homemade tortillas. Tacos Chiwas (1923 East McDowell Road., Phoenix, 602.358.8830) is equally fantastic. Don & Charlies is a classic steakhouse, and before you sneer at that, remember how many from the Midwest spend their winters here. It’s great. (7501 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480.990.0900)