All right sports fans, February 2, 2014 is Super Bowl XLVIII. For those of you who do not know, or Roman numerals are not your once a year second language, and you may be too embarrassed to ask, that would be 48. And that is a lot of football games since 1967, when the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10, in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and Bart Starr was declared Super Bowl MVP.
I grew up in a sports watching home, and from earliest days always preferred sitting in the living room with my dad and grandfather cheering on their team instead of helping cook in the kitchen. It was simple; in the living room there was action, clapping, whooping, fun, winner, loser. In the kitchen; steam, plates, silverware, bowls of food, dirty pans, sinks of soapy water, no fun, no whooping. Fortunately, I was not a quick study in the kitchen, so my services were more of a hindrance than a help; ergo, never too much disapproval expressed over my choice of rooms in which to hang out.
Living ninety miles from San Francisco made it easy to be a 49er’s fan. That was my dad’s favorite team, and when they were not playing, I could not figure out his criteria for supporting any team over another. But, regardless who was playing, whichever team he selected for the day became the object of extreme, intense, vocal support. And should things not go his team’s way, he swore with explosive creativity. My grandad did the same thing, and they always watched football together. The air crackled with sports energy from those two, and I loved the enthusiasm they showed for their autumn warriors who ran up and down the fields on those Sunday afternoons.
I stayed a 49er fan until 1976. We had moved to Tacoma, Washington in 1973, and experienced the excitement of a new football team coming to the Pacific Northwest. There even was a contest to name this new team, and although I do not recall my particular entry, I do remember how fun it was to feel so closely and personally involved, and to realize we were thinking of these guys as “our” team; more like family than professional ball players. They were named the Seattle Seahawks, and thus began something that grew into an enduring relationship, a commitment that has not waned over the years.
Players, statistics, wins losses; there are thirty-seven years of names and numbers that have propelled us into who we, as fans, are today. And we fans are from a region that includes not only Washington, but Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, British Columbia, and Alberta, Canada. The Seahawks are our team. This never give up group of guys, who won NFC championships in 2005 and 2013, AFC West championships in 1988 and 1999, and NFC West championships in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2013 are once again Super Bowl bound, and each of us, their fans, is honored to be called a 12th Man, and go with them in spirit, if not in person.
The relationship between this team and its fans is acknowledged with our own flag, displaying a white number 12 on a simple field of blue, which one will see flying over the Space Needle in downtown Seattle, at the south end of the stadium raised by the team prior to each home game, and everywhere else a fan can find a way to show it. The actual #12 jersey was retired in 1984 as a tribute to the fans. As the 12th Man, we are loud. We are proud. And we set a new world record on December 12, 2013 for loudest stadium noise by generating a 137.6 dB audio measurement.
When the team set off for New York this week, it was reported there were thousands of fans lined up for miles just to see them off, and to wish them well. The 12th Man, from every walk of life here in our Pacific Northwest, is genuinely and whole heartedly invested in their team, and it seems fitting because those are precisely the words the Seahawks live by, themselves. They are an assortment of characters and individuals, but first and foremost they are Seahawks. At their team headquarters, painted over doors throughout the building are the words, “I’m in!” It really is that simple. As a player and as a fan, I’m in!
Tomorrow when the Seattle Seahawks run onto the field in the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, there will be a legion of fans whose hearts will beat in unison and whose voices will raise the roof in support of our team. Win or lose, they are the Legion of Boom, and I am and will always be a 12th Man. Yes, I have been with them for thirty-seven years, and it is time for a Super Bowl win. Go Hawks!!