SEATTLE - The crab boat F/V Time Bandit usually flies an American flag and a skull-and-crossbones when it's fishing in the Bering Sea. Last Sunday, though, there was a new look for one of the star vessels of the Discovery Channel show "The Deadliest Catch."
The crew raised a 12th man flag -- in honor of the Seahawks.
"The Seahawks, they're a huge, huge team out here for sure," said Andy Hillstrand, captain of the Time Bandit, via satellite phone in the middle of the opilio crab season while filming for the upcoming 10th season of the show. "The guys can't believe they're in the Super Bowl right now. Those guys are shocked."
The Time Bandit and other boats on the show sail out of Alaska, and many of the crew are based in Seattle. Thus the attachment to the Seahawks. But Hillstrand said he's one of the few who roots for another team.
"I was very sad that my New England Patriots lost to the Broncos," he said.
So how does a crew keep tabs on the games while performing their dangerous tasks? Hillstrand said he'll monitor updates over the CB radio and sometimes call in from the satellite phone to get play-by-play in the wheelhouse. After that, he tells the crew working on the deck.
"I call down to them and tell them and they holler and cheer," he said. "Just like any other football fan."
And just like other football fans, the Time Bandit crew is up to date on the latest developments. They know, for instance, that Richard Sherman has become something of a lightning rod in the last few days.
"He's talking a lot of smack, isn't he?" Hillstrand said. "We know all about it. We hear everything out here, man. It's all we have to live for: crab fishing and football."
The Alaska crab fishermen may laugh at the hand-wringing over weather concerns for Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, but Hillstrand offered some advice for dealing with adverse elements.
"We just have to get through it no matter what," he said. "We have deadlines and they have deadlines. There's only 60 minutes of football. The guy that has the most points at the end is the winner, just like crabbing. The guy who has the most crab at the end wins. They just have to keep their head in the game."
Despite the desires of his crew, Hillstrand said he thinks the Broncos will win.
"By 7," he said. "That's my prediction. Peyton Manning is going to do what he needs to do . . . The thing with Peyton Manning is he wants another Super Bowl so bad. And he's older now. He's like me, he's the old dog. He's trying to get what might be his last Super Bowl ring."
Hillstrand said he's seen only two Super Bowls in real time since he started fishing 33 years ago, and those were on tiny black-and-white TVs while he was lucky enough to be close enough to land to receive a signal. The goal next Sunday, though, is to be tied to a dock when the Seahawks and Broncos kick off. The only thing they want to catch more than crab is the game.
"We have to catch a whole bunch of crab, but we're gonna try to do everything we can do to watch the game on a big-screen TV," he said. "It's pretty epic to have the Seahawks in the Super Bowl."
The Time Bandit will unload its latest haul on Friday and then head back out to sea. The plan is to re-fill the boat in time to hustle home for the game.
"I have to put 170,000 pounds of crab on my boat and then haul ---- towards [King Cove, Alaska]," he said. "We got hurricanes, we got all kinds of stuff trying to slow us down, but we'll try to do our best. We should be loaded and headed in on the 31st. It takes us two days to get there, so we should show up the morning of the Super Bowl. Hopefully."