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Legally Blind Seattle Seahawks Fan Leans on Son to 'Watch' his Beloved Team

By Justin Breen | January 28, 2014 7:43am
 Val Chavez and his son Luis are huge Seattle Seahawks fans.
Luis and Val Chavez
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LAKEVIEW — Val Chavez is legally blind, but that hasn't stopped him from getting a detailed look at every game involving his beloved Seattle Seahawks.

His son Luis, a Columbia College Chicago student, serves as Chavez's eyes, detailing every run, pass and key point of each game.

The pair will watch the Seahawks, who will face the Denver Broncos in Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII, at the Newport Bar and Grill in Lakeview, which is home base to the Hawks Nest — a local Seahawks fan club — or at The Gingerman Tavern nearby.

"I know I need to be there to watch it with him," said Chavez, a freshman audio production student at Columbia's campus Downtown. "It's really a father-son bonding moment.

 Val Chavez shows off three of his Seattle Seahawks rings.
Val Chavez shows off three of his Seattle Seahawks rings.
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Isabel Chavez-Venegas

"I do it because it gives my father better visualization in his head of what's happening because he doesn't see as well as I do."

Val Chavez, 59, has been a Seahawks fan since 1977, when the former Army sergeant was stationed at Fort Lewis near Seattle. He said he liked the name of the franchise, which was founded the year before. After meeting a few of the Seahawks players in 1977, he was hooked.

It's fair to say the Seahawks have been his obsession since. During the football season, he wears Seahawks gear almost daily. His Orland Park home is filled with team memorabilia, including rings, lamps, posters, helmets and flags. Prized possessions include an autographed game-used jersey and Wheaties box from legendary Seahawks receiver Steve Largent.

"He's an ambassador for the Seahawks," said Peter Flores, the president of the Midwest Seahawkers booster club, which serves 11 states. "He's a great example that shows you can have a hobby and it not take over your life and still be functional."

Chavez's closet contains eight Seahawks jerseys, many of which have the number 77, in honor of his first year as a fan.

Even his bedroom has Seahawks blankets, pillowcases, sheets and a comforter.

"My wife puts up with a lot," said Chavez, who has been married to Maria since 1975. "But that's why it's called being a fan."

One of Chavez's greatest joys was traveling to a Seahawks game each year. He attended Super Bowl XL, which the Seahawks lost 21-10 to the Steelers and was their only other appearance in the NFL championship game.

"That loss still hurts me. It still bothers me," he said.

His lack of sight has kept him away from stadiums the last two years.

His left eye was damaged in the 1980s when a basketball hit him in the face during a recreational league game. The injury split the retina, creating a blind spot that prevents him from seeing a large area in the center of his field of vision.

Three years ago, he lost most of the vision in his right eye due to macular degeneration, which makes "everything look really cloudy and foggy," Chavez said.

The disability forced him to retire from his job as a registered nurse at Holy Cross Hospital near Marquette Park. It also required him to walk with a cane when outside and made viewing the Seahawks all but impossible.

That's where his son stepped in. Luis Chavez's three older siblings haven't embraced their father's passion, choosing to support either the hometown Bears or avoid football altogether. But Luis Chavez has been a Seahawks backer since his father brought him to St. Louis to see the Seahawks play the Rams in 2004 as part of a Midwest Seahawkers convention.

"It's really one of the really big things that my dad and I have in common," Luis Chavez said.

Said his dad: "I'm really into sports, and he's not into sports that much. But for some reason, he hooked onto watching the Seahawks with me."

During games, Luis Chavez will sit next to his father and give commentary beyond what the TV announcers provide: the key parts of a play, who touched the ball, how many yards were gained, and whether it was a pivotal moment.

When Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman broke up a pass that led to an interception and eventual 23-17 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, Luis described the play like this: "I just told my dad, 'Hey dad, Richard Sherman did his thing. He didn't catch the ball, but he tipped it high enough so another guy could catch it.'"

After the victory that sent the Seahawks to their second Super Bowl, Val Chavez smiled and held up his hand in front of Luis, who gave him a high-five.

"Words can't describe how happy he was," Luis Chavez said.

And he and his dad would be beyond ecstatic if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl.

"This game is like a second chance for the Seahawks, and for us, part of their 12th man," Luis Chavez said.