The Super Bowl View From Seattle's Fish Market

Taho Kaktutani and Scott Smith, Seahawks fans and fish throwers. Jackie Buttice

You can lateral a three-foot Silvery Wild Alaskan King salmon, but you can't heave it with a proper spiral. That's one of the things I learned yesterday while hanging out at the Pike Place Fish Market, Seattle's fish-flinging institution. The boisterous stall, situated in the nation's oldest continually operating farmers' market (established in 1907), is where fishmongers in wet aprons lob salmon, halibut and steelheads around with an elan worthy of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

As if in anticipation of today's Super Bowl, the peddlers spent the afternoon huddling, hollering at each other and chucking slippery fish, which sometimes sailed 15 feet from ice-room to counter. The mongers' throwing prowess was developed over the decades as the easiest way to move the big fish around.

"Caution! Low Flying Fish!" says a sign on the wall. A fat Chinook eyes me from a display case. I eye the Chinook back. As we exchange gazes, a mackerel as wide as Marshawn Lynch's thighs hurtles overhead. A counterman catches the creature between head and tail fin as neatly as Richard Sherman picking off a pass. He slaps it onto a wrapping sheet.

Jackie Buttice

Six years ago the mongers performed their theatrics for the American Veterinary Medical Association's annual convention in Seattle. The fish were later served for lunch. The outraged president of PETA accused the mongers of celebrating cruelty to marine animals. "What if it was kittens?" she asked. "Would they throw dead kittens like that? I think not!"

The two mongers I interview—Taho Kaktutani and Scott Smith—think throwing fish is no more disrespectful than eating them. Taho grew up in land-locked Indiana. A 10-year veteran of the Fish Market, he's been living in Seattle since 1999. Scott hails from Santa Barbara and settled in Bellingham 12 years ago. He fell out of love with the Oakland Raiders around 2008, when the Silver and Black started sleeping with the fishes. "A clean divorce," he says. "I've been a diehard Seahawks fan ever since."

As we speak, fish fly every which way and the mongers chorus stuff like "KING CRAB IN THE AIR! KING CRAB IN THE AIR!" and "SEA…HAWKS!… SEA…HAWKS!

If the Super Bowl were held in a fish bowl, what species would play quarterback?

Taho: King Salmon—sleek, agile and on a mission.

Scott: King Salmon are by far the sexiest fish.

And of all the players in the NFL, who would you pick to call signals?

Scott: I have to say Russell Wilson, our leader, would be my King Salmon.

What sea creatures would fill out the rest of the team?

Taho: Defensive linemen would be Dungeness crabs—stocky, low to the ground.

Scott: Monk fish, he's all crazy lookin' and scares people. I'd say he's like Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode! All these Sockeyes look real strong—that'd be the defense for me. And then Richard Sherman might be the octopus.

And the Patriot's coach, Bill Belichick?

Scott: He's pretty frumpy and looks pissed off all the time. So he'd be a Lingcod.

Jackie Buttice

What football plays would be better if run with fish?

Scott: Maybe a quick screen, a quick side screen. Because you can whip that fish real quick. If it's a short distance—like under 10 yards—you can whip a fish real, real quick, maybe even faster than a football. Once you learn the techniques of catching these things, it's really not that hard.

What techniques?

Scott: First, it's got to be a good throw. If you're working with a good throw, then the fish is flying at a 45-degree angle. If it's at 45 degrees, you can practically close your eyes and catch it. Just get underneath and squeeze. It's weird—over time I've been able to kind of see the fish in slow motion when it's flying at me. So I can predict how to catch it by the angle I see it coming: If it's coming in at 45, I just put my hands out. If its nose-diving, I have to bend down and get underneath. Kind of like The Matrix.

Do you ever fumble your fish?

Scott: Yes. Maybe once a day. We have these stunt fish we throw when it gets crowded. They're real fish, but they're kind of beat up.

What's harder to grip, wet salmon skin or wet pigskin?

Taho: A wet football, for sure.

Jackie Buttice

Have you ever re-created the Legion of Boom with fish?

Scott: Ha! We actually did last week. We set the play, hiked it, threw it and then we had an interception run and celebrated. ESPN came down to film it.

Could a Seattle seahawk take down a Miami dolphin?

Taho: On the field, yes. Not on the Discovery Channel.

What would happen if a salmon were deflated?

Taho: It would definitely be easier to throw.