September 4th, 2014- It’s a typical cold, blistering, windy yet sunny day in Seattle, WA. I am 1 of 67,000 plus bundled up in my Seattle Seahawks beanie, gloves, and the rest of my winter gear screaming at the top of my lungs at Century Link Field aka CLink. (Crowd roaring and its getting louder and louder and louder….) Then it finally comes what ALL of the fans known as the 12’s have been waiting for just like every Christmas when you open up the biggest box under the tree: (Referee blows his whistle to stop play on the field) “False start, offense. 5 yard penalty, repeat 3rd down.” Those words are music to every 12’s ears. Just as the team on the field are required to make big plays the 12’s expect themselves to cause false starts for the opponents every time they have the ball. Having leading the league in forcing false starts the 12’s take great pride in taking home field advantage to another level.
Believe it or not the 12th man did not originate in Seattle, it actually was started way back in 1900. The term was first used in a magazine published by the University of Minnesota that was used to describe the “mysterious twelfth man on the team, the rooter.” It was later used in a publication by University of Iowa in 1912 (back then it was known as State University of Iowa-SIU) to describe how the actual players on the field played up to their full potential but it was the “rooter” that had won the game for them. However the first know recorded version of the term 12th man was used by Texas A&M (yes way before the Johnny “Football” Manziel was there.) when they asked a fan, E. King Gill who tried out earlier in the year for the team was cut to suit up. Though he didn’t step onto the field his readiness to play was noticed. There were eleven players on the field and Gill was the 12th- hence the term 12th man. On September 4th, 1990 (ironically 14 years to the date) Texas A&M was granted trademark rights to the term 12th man.
The Seattle Seahawks didn’t starting calling their fans 12’s until they moved from the Kingdome to Century Link Field in 2002. Even in the Kingdome there has always been a rabid fan base, after all it where the “wave” started. CLink has been sold out since 2003 and it has caused the most false starts since then as well. It also set a new world record for being the loudest stadium noise clocking in at 137.6 db The franchise knows how important the 12’s are. They’ve officially retired the number 12 and before kickoff of every home game as a dedication to the 12’s, the 12th man flag is raised. No team appreciates their fans more than the Seattle Seahawks and vice versa. Last year during their Super Bowl winning season no team in the NFL had a better road fan base. Even during the Super Bowl it was noticeably a pro Seattle crowd with blue and green throughout the Met Life Stadium.
As I continue to watch the game, I began to wonder what is the 12th man. Is it limited to being just a man like the title says, is there a age limit, is it simple or is it something so complex that can’t be explained? I looked around the Clink and came to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong criteria for being a 121. I look around there are people of all ages, sex, race being a 12- its all up to the individuals interpretation.
I decided to send out an email to my fellow co- workers of Nordstrom in Bellevue Square to decide what a 12 is based on 4 questions: 1) What does being a 12 mean to you? 2) What does it take to be a 12? 3) How many games to do you attend? 4) How long have you been a 12?
Chase Foster: “Being a 12 means showing and voicing your support while following everything HAWKS that happens from week to week. To be a 12 you don’t need to wear the gear everyday, but it means nearly everyday you’re reading up on the roster, talking with friends and co-workers about the upcoming season/game or the past week game, win or loose to stir up excitement within yourself and others around you. Since season tickets have been sold out I have only attended 2 or 3 games over the past 2 seasons but I have watched every game (pre season, regular season, and of course post season) since I was probably 13 or 14.”
Kelsey Pay: “Being a 12 means EVERYTHING. I’ve been a 12 every since I was little and try to go to at least 1 game a year and support the Hawks.”
Cathan Garland: “Being a 12 is being loyal, through thick and thin, always support the team. A lot of people around the country call Seahawks fans bandwagoners but we’ve been here, they just weren’t paying attention. It doesn’t take much to be a loyal fan, support the team, wear the colors, and be LOUD! I try to go to at least 1 game per season. I’ve been a fan since the late 90’s when i started to really pay attention to pro sports.”
Kholysoh Cashatt: “To me being a 12 is being part of a community that believes in something bigger that takes dedication and a loud voice (lol). I can’t attend games especially now with baby but we watch it ALL THE TIME! I became a 12 in 2005 in which I “taught” myself how to understand the game and became a fan ever since (that’s the dedication part).”
Ashley Culton: 1: “Being a 12 means supporting your team like they are part of your family, no matter what the outcome is with a lot heart, passion and love for Seahawk football. I go to all the games as season ticket holder and have been a 12 since age 13.”
Anna Fredricksen: ” Being a 12 means that you constantly showing your Seahawks pride and love of Seattle through the good and the bad! It takes hours dedicated to watching/listening the Seahawks play whether that be in person, via television, streaming from your computer or good ol’ fashioned radio! (that was probably my favorite response of all the interviews) I try go to as many as I can! If have even the slightest ability to attend a game, take your chance! I was a born a 12!”
Danny Willard: “Being a 12 is being a world champion and you must be bigger, faster, stronger, louder!!! I’ve only missed 14 games in the last 14 years but it was all work related and been a lifelong 12. I remember my dad yelling at the T.V. at the Hawks when I was 5 or 6 that’s when I would say I became a Seahawks fan. I believe I became a True Blue 12 in 1999 my first year as a season ticket holder!”
As I was getting reading through the responses I can feel the passion within all these 12’s. People take pride in being a 12 as a football fan but its also more than the sport it’s a way of life. It brings everyone together as a community while cheering for the same outcome no matter what their background is.