Last April, Phish frontman Trey Anastasio shocked both the music and sports world during an appearance with his solo act TAB in Seattle. Websites for both interests shared video of an awkward Anastasio laying out his plan to have fans turn the Phish classic Wilson into a rallying cry for the Quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, Russel Wilson.
For those unfamiliar with Phish, Wilson is a song from Anastasio’s senior thesis in college called The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday. Better known to fans as Gamehendge, Wilson has never appeared on an official Phish studio album. The first known live appearance of the song dates back to 1986 and has been performed at hundreds of Phish shows since that time. At some point in the 1990’s, Phish phans began to chant WILSON during the song’s opening riff, thus why Anastasio could make such a strange request of Seattle fans.
For those unfamiliar with Russell Wilson, he has lead the Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs for two straight seasons after being drafted with the 75th pick overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. He has an impressive regular season home record of 15-1 since winning the starting job out of his first training camp, and completed 26 touchdown passes while throwing for over 3,000 yards this past season. Wilson has already collected numerous records and achievements including Pepsi Offensive Rookie of the Year, most touchdown passes thrown in a rookie year (tied with Peyton Manning), and most passing yards in a playoff game by a rookie.
When Phish visited central Washington for two nights at the Gorge last August, the oddball request gained more steam as a longtime Phish phan named Marcus managed to get a custom Phish/Wilson/Seahawks shirt up to Anastasio on stage. Having changed into the shirt on stage, Anastasio took a moment to once again encourage phans to Wilson chant to CenturyLink Field. Anastasio also mentioned they had even gone as far as to invite the Seahawks down to the show, however they could not make it due to training camp being in full swing.
A few weeks after the Gorge run during the final pre-season game, the Seahawks organization made Anastasio’s request a reality and tried out the Wilson chant. Much to the shock of myself and several other fans of Phish and football alike, the plan actually worked as many in the crowd followed along and chanted Wilson. As the Seahawks headed into the regular season, the chant gained steam. Anastasio’s silly idea back in April became a full fledged battle cry in what the Guinness Book of World Records has declared the loudest stadium in the world. Things went so well in fact, the NFL teamed with Phish and the Seahawks to create a short film on the phenomenon. The special aired numerous times on both ESPN and NFL Network during New Year’s week. You can view the special below.
For nearly a year, Phish phans who happen to enjoy NFL Football have discussed the oddball request and the fact it has actually become something Seahawks coach Pete Carroll uses to motivate the leader of his offense. In watching Anastasio and Fishman in the NFL special, it becomes crystal clear that this yet another outstanding practical joke from the Vermont based band. As a lifelong New York Jets fan, Anastasio does a fine job during his time on camera to avoid the absolute and undeniable truth in all of this.
In the land of Gamehendge, Wilson is an evil dictator who enslaves an entire race of people. He is not loved, he is hated. Plenty of athletes named Wilson have come and gone from professional sports since Phish hit the mainstream in the mid 90’s. Anastasio drew the conclusion not because they are the same height as he mentions in the special, but because he was angry that this third round pick beat his New York Jets football team. What better way to get back at a guy who probably had little to no knowledge of Phish before all of this started by having his home fan base compare him to the most hated villain in the Phish mythos? The Seahawks fell for it, The NFL fell for it, the most hardcore of Phish phans including myself fell for it (full disclosure, as a 49ers fan I was devastated by this); and Phish has added another legendary footnote in a career that has brought us The O.J. Show, turned Madison Square Garden into a golf course, and repeatedly traveled by Hot Dog during New Year’s Eve performances.
So when you watch Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks take on the New Orleans Saints this weekend up in Seattle, make sure you enjoy a good laugh. Even if you hate their silly songs and exploratory jams; Phish celebrated their 30th year in fine fashion by pulling the ultimate practical joke on a professional sports franchise from Seattle after their quarterback made the New York Jets look like crap. Well played Phish, well played indeed.