SBD/December 18, 2013/Media

Seahawks' Use Of Phish Song To Promote Russell Wilson Examined By NFL Films

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The relationship between sports and music -- and the power of fans -- is the subject of an upcoming NFL Films documentary featuring Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and jam band Phish. NFL Films Feature Producer Chris Weaver was able to combine his passion as a filmmaker and his love of the band into a 14-minute film about how a grassroots effort started by Phish frontman Trey Anastasio became a regular part of the Seahawks' gameday operations. The feature is scheduled to air New Year's Eve and New Year's Day on both NFL Network and ESPN. During tour stops in Washington state this summer, Anastasio wore a Wilson T-shirt and urged the crowd to perform the chant from the band's classic song "Wilson" during Seahawks games. This eventually led to the team incorporating "Wilson" into their gameday production encouraging fans to cheer for the Pro Bowl QB. Weaver chronicles the whole process in the film and said the goal is "just to tell this unique story." Weaver: "Our company founders Ed and Steve Sabol made it the mission of NFL Films to find and tell great football stories wherever those stories may be happening. 'NFL Films Presents' is the flagship series for us to pursue that mission, so it was the natural landing spot for our feature about the unexpected collision between Phish and the Seahawks."

A PHISH TALE: The film includes footage of Weaver talking with Anastasio and drummer Jon Fishman during the band's three-night run in Atlantic City over Halloween. Weaver's team then filmed almost all of the band's Nov. 2 concert for inclusion in the project. Wilson declined to be interviewed, but Weaver did speak with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in the film "because he's a big music fan." The film is targeting fans of both sports and music, according to Weaver. He said, "It's going to have to have football in it, because that's what people typically tune in for with 'NFL Films Presents.' But we intend to have some winks and nods to the Phishheads. I'll make sure of that." Weaver noted the segment is ultimately "going to be about fans and how fans fuel performance." Weaver said, "With the Seahawks, they have 'The 12th Man. Their crowd, I call them the best in the NFL right now. Then Phish has this fan base and how the fans sort of generate these things, including this chant." Weaver: "It's just a story about the band and fans and how fans can propel something like this." He noted there was no business arrangement between NFL Films and Phish in terms of selling DVDs or merchandise connected to the film and no plans for any cross-promotion. However, he suggested the film could be shown during set breaks for the online broadcasts of live Phish concerts. "I suspect we'll be able to give it to them," Weaver said, "and they'll want to do that because they'll want content."

INCORPORATING THE 12TH MAN: During game days at CenturyLink Field, the signature bass riff from "Wilson" is piped through stadium’s sound system and the video board features a live shot of Wilson and the word "Wil-son" when he takes the field for the first offensive possession of each half. MLS Sounders Dir of Event Presentation & Fan Engagement Mark Tamar, who also handles gameday operations for the Seahawks, said, "One of the things we battled with was that it's really loud here, so when Russell comes out for the first time there's always a huge response. That riff is always a little bit thinner -- it's not a drum beat -- so our sound guy really struggled. It was really a lot of fine-tuning to make this work." The Seahawks have not asked their QB how he feels about the chant, but Tamar noted if officials "ever hear anything from him we'll give it consideration" whether to continue the practice of playing the riff.

TEAM EMBRACED FAN SUGGESTION: The organization first became aware of Phish's efforts to get the song played when the team started getting e-mails from fans sending officials to a YouTube video where the band mentioned the Seahawks and Wilson. Tamar said the team "immediately embraced" the idea of using the riff because it featured the three things that make a crowd prompt work -- it "came from the fan base," it is "simple and easy to understand which this chant is and it has a sound component" and it “wasn't very difficult to get everyone to buy in." He added there is no commitment between the Seahawks and Phish about using the music at CenturyLink Field. "We've never talked to the band," Tamar said. "We do pay for various licenses that do allow us to use popular music within our stadium. In a lot of ways when Trey said what he did about 'we've got to get this played in the stadium,' we kind of took it as he's giving the OK on that."
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