Last year, as the Seattle Seahawks were departing for New York to play in Super Bowl XLVIII, I wrote a post declaring I am a 12th Man, and attempted to explain to those who are not from the Pacific Northwest, or are Seahawk fans, just what that means. Tomorrow is the playoff game between Seattle and Green Bay, determining who goes to Super Bowl XLIX, and I find myself compelled, once again, to put on my 12th Man jersey, and give a glimpse, for those of you who may not know, of who we are.
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 teams 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 fan. That was my dad’s favorite football 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 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. And from over 20,000 entries in the contest, they were named the Seattle Seahawks; and thus began something that grew into an enduring relationship, a commitment which has not waned over the years.
Players, statistics, wins, losses; there are thirty-eight 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, 2013, and 2014, plus Super Bowl XLVIII could be once again Super Bowl bound, depending upon the results of their playoff game with the Green Bay Packers. And each of us, their fans, is honored to be called a 12th Man, and stand with them in spirit, if not in person.
The relationship between this team and its fans is acknowledged with our own flag, bearing the 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 display it. The actual #12 jersey was retired in 1984 as a tribute to the fans. As a 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 last year, 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 CenturyLink Field, there will be a legion of fans whose hearts beat in unison and whose voices will raise the roof in support of our team. Win or lose, we are, and will always be a 12th Man. Yes, I have been with my team for thirty-eight years, and a visit to one more Super Bowl would be just fine with me. So, when the game is playing, if you wonder what it is that feels like a seismic event, no worries; it is just the 12th Man shouting what he loves most, “GO HAWKS!!