January 30, 2014 Updated: January 30, 2014 at 8:28 pm
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the Land of the Hawk, a normal day at the office goes something like this.
"What's it like playing here?" Seattle linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "Well, you've got to envision us waking up early with a team meeting at 8. Then you walk up to the meeting room and see the head coach shooting basketballs.
"And then the head coach tries to dunk on you. That's a normal day."
The Broncos say they are here at Super Bowl XLVIII on a business trip.
The Seahawks say, Mind your own business. They are a trip.
"I'm a professional ping-pong player," wide receiver Ricardo Lockette said.
"I love skateboarding," center Max Unger said.
"Go Hawks," quarterback Russell Wilson said.
This is the outfit charged with beating the Broncos: half crass, half cocky and quite hairy. Unger has a beard straight out of the Red Sox clubhouse. He's a 305-pound lineman who quit skateboarding because he became a 305-pound lineman. The only thing bigger than Richard Sherman's awesome head of hair is his mouth.
"I guess I'm comfortable with my words," Sherman said Thursday.
Here in the Big City, the Seahawks feel like a fraternity house on spring break. Take it from a former Washington resident: these Seahawks are so Seattle.
"They're going to be on it. They're going to be flying around," Head Hawk Pete Carroll said Thursday, referring to his good, not yet great, defense. "That's how we do it."
How the Seahawks do it is how Carroll does it. He does it by assembling a basketball hoop in the meeting room. He does it by listening to Snoop Dogg in his office, then inviting the rapper to practice. He does it by hosting a jump-shooting contest on Wednesdays.
"Right now our current champion is our long snapper (Clint Gresham). And that's got to change," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said. "That's unacceptable."
"When you talk to Earl Thomas, give him (grief)," Wagner added. "He lost to the long snapper."
The Hawks do it so different than the Broncos do it. If Peyton Manning's Broncos are Wall Street in lower Manhattan, Sherman's Seahawks are a Brooklyn rave.
"I don't know if it's like this everywhere else in the NFL," offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy said. "But I find it hard to believe there's another atmosphere like this."
The Super Bowl storyline suggests this is football's greatest offense (ever) vs. football's best defense (this season). Their approaches throughout Super Bowl suggest the truth is more academic: the chess club vs. "Old School."
(Will Ferrell snapped selfies with Macklemore at, you guessed it, a Hawks game.)
As much as this Super Bowl is a championship match of offense vs. defense, it's a case study on which approach works best.
The Broncos offense doubles as a NASA project, complex enough that offensive coordinator Adam Gase searched Scrabble.com to name playcalls. The Seahawks?
"We're going to go out there, run and hit," Sherman said. "It's football at its simplest form."
At practice, the Broncos blast crowd noise. At practice, the Seahawks blare Kanye.
"We have a new playlist every day of the week," kicker Steven Hauschka said.
In their locker room, the Hawks party with Dr. Dre. In theirs, the Broncos hand a game ball to Pat Bowlen, the owner.
Denver's star, Manning, cracked jokes in a press conference that felt like a politician honing a comedy routine. Citing the qualities of the perfect quarterback, he listed Dan Marino's release, John Elway's arm and Joe Montana's 2-minute drill.
"And naturally, my speed," Manning said.
Seattle's star, Marshawn Lynch, wore dark sunglasses and ignored media. It felt like a wild-west standoff. After 6 minutes, Lynch got out of Dodge.
"I don't care if he ever talks to the media," defensive lineman Michael Bennett told me.
The surfer-loose atmosphere around the Hawks leads to loose decision-making, too.
Carroll doesn't play by the traditional rules; it seems he writes his own. At USC, the Trojans won big and were punished big, by the NCAA. The Seahawks are winning big and have been punished big, by the NFL.
When these teams played in the preseason - a 40-10 Seattle beatdown - Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner wrecked the Broncos. Now he's yet another Seahawk suspended for violations of the league's drug policy.
"What I like about him is he lets our guys be themselves," Kearse said, not referring to the Browner situation. "I feel like that's why guys want to play for them."
Not only Carroll's guys; other guys wouldn't mind, either.
Omar Bolden, a Broncos safety, is offseason roommates with Wagner, a Seahawks linebacker. In high school, Bolden starred as a running back in southern California.
"Pete Carroll came to my high school to recruit me," he said.
Then the coach at USC, Carroll watched game film with Bolden. On a particular running play, Bolden shuffled left, then right, then left, then 50 yards straight ahead for a touchdown.
"He looked at me and said, 'You're a corner,'" Bolden said. "And that was the end of my running back career. Best thing that ever happened to me."
Now one Bronco has a message for the Seahawks coach: "Thanks, Pete. Just don't win Sunday. But you're cool."
This is the Paradigm of Pete: even opposing players dig his vibe.
It's whacky. But it works.