The adoration of Russell Wilson

"I think I probably experienced about 10 different emotions," Quick says. "Shock, disbelief, but most of all, pure genuine joy. For someone of his stature to do that is just amazing. For 20 minutes, he enabled us to not think about everything we were going through. He greeted us like we were family. I'd heard about these visits, that it was something he liked to do, but you see him walk through that door and you know he's the real deal. He is truth."

What does a star athlete really mean to the city where he plays?

It's a complicated question, and the truth is, the answer varies depending on the market and the athlete. In certain cities -- perhaps even in a majority of cities -- it means little. There is no larger bond formed with fans, no deeper resonance. And there's nothing wrong with viewing it as a business relationship, to be frank. It's just sports, after all. Some athletes you simply cheer for on Sundays, and don't think about much beyond the white lines.

But as the Seahawks prepare to play in the Super Bowl for the second time in team history this Sunday, as the franchise tries to capture the city's first major sports title since 1979, much of Seattle would like you to understand the feelings people have for their 25-year-old quarterback, Russell Carrington Wilson, are a little different.

It goes beyond his escapability, his humility or his accuracy with a football. It's what he's done with his time in just two short years, and what he represents.

"I think we've all fallen in love with the guy," says James Paxton, a Seahawks fan who dyed his goatee bright green and his mustache dark blue for the team's playoff run. "He gave us hope back."

As a sports town, Seattle can't quite match the tortured history of cities like Cleveland or Buffalo. But that doesn't mean the city hasn't experienced its share of disappointment and anguish in recent decades. If you talk to Seattleites in bars, restaurants, coffee shops and office buildings this week, they're obviously giddy about the Super Bowl. In virtually every downtown window, you can spot green and blue banners celebrating the Seahawks' "12th Man." Seahawks jerseys are flying off the shelves of sporting goods stores, and thousands of fans lined the streets as part of a celebratory sendoff when the team departed for New York City.

But in conversations, people aren't ashamed to admit this game is about more than just the Lombardi Trophy. It's also a chance to wash away a lot of recent sports heartache. The feeling may not be unanimous -- nothing is when talking about an entire fan base -- but it definitely exists.

You can still feel the sting of the Sonics' 2008 departure here in the Emerald City, and with Kevin Durant arguably unseating LeBron James as the NBA's best player this season, it's just more salt in the wound. There is still a mixture of frustration and regret, too, that the Mariners of the mid-1990s had four of the best baseball players of this era on the same team -- Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez -- and have no trophies to show for it. There is still a hint of bitterness that the officiating was so sketchy the last time the Seahawks made the Super Bowl that one of the referees later felt compelled to issue an apology to Seahawks players.

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