BY MARC SINGER
The Seahawks always seem to have been linked to the number 12.
For decades, Seahawks fans have been called The 12th Man or The 12th Fan. But only in recent years has the blue-and-white flag, raised before home games in riotous ritual, in itself become so singularly symbolic of a worldwide mob of Seahawks-loving devotees.
As yet another Seahawks season of delirium draws closer to the ultimate prize, there is no longer any doubt how to address their one-of-a-kind fans. Now and forever more, they are known as simply as, “The 12s.”
In the days leading up to the conference championship weekend, with only four teams left in the playoffs, the NFL featured a nationwide poll on its TV network:
Which of the following 12s will have the biggest impact for their team in this weekend’s games?
A) Andrew Luck, who wears the #12 jersey for the Colts
B) Tom Brady, who wears the #12 jersey for the Pats
C) Aaron Rogers, who wears the #12 jersey for the Pack
D) “The 12s” who wear the #12 jersey for the Hawks
As the Seahawks‘ countdown to Super Bowl XLIX continues this week, the unique nature of our team’s relationship with “The 12s” has the rest of the NFL’s undivided attention.
Even in the darkest moments of the Hawks-Packers NFC Championship Game, during breaks in play, the Seahawks‘ defense and the fans didn’t merely feel the beat of intermission music. They felt each others’ passion, joining in adrenaline-infused, synchronous dance, completely lost in the moment.
And as the tide began to turn with less than five minutes to go in that amazing game, 99 percent of the crowd at CenturyLink Field just wouldn’t lose hope. It is not in the fans’ DNA. Play after play, the game began going the only way it could possibly go, in the exact order the events needed to take place. A football team and its crowd were fueled by the power of each other. The earth began to shake as an entire stadium of true-blue believers rose in unison to new levels of uproar brought about by one of the greatest comebacks in NFL playoff history.
When all was said and done that Sunday at CenturyLink Field, fans didn’t just exchange typical high-five slaps. No, hands reached out to each other to clasp, and pull, and “bring it on in” for tearful embraces. Fans and players alike cried from the relief of not having let one another down.
How did all of this come to pass? How does a poll about No. 12s for the only four NFL teams left standing come to include an entire fan-base of one team? How can fans actually believe that they are not just cheering for their team, but instead tangibly having an impact on the outcome?
The answer lies a few years ago. That’s when, at team owner Paul Allen’s behest, a slight, silver-haired, silver-tongued winner was wooed from the college ranks. Pete Carroll left behind his national titles drenched in Southern California sun to join his new team, with no titles, drenched in seasonal rain.
Carroll brought his confidence and off-the-charts energy to Seattle, where he was handed the keys to a sputtering NFL franchise. Hard to believe that was only five years ago.
It was like taking possession of an old convertible with the top stuck open driving into the chill of a soggy Northwest winter’s eve. Worse yet, many parts had been removed or were breaking down. Carroll hopped in, held up those keys for the fans, and encouraged them to join him for a drive.
“C’mon,” he said, “You’ll ride shotgun!”
And from there a coach, a team and its fans, embarked on a uniquely twisting, turning – yet wildly successful – five-year road trip. No one – not the confident coach, overhauled roster or the empowered following – has looked back.
The fans evolved into the class of the league, and the team grew into Super Bowl champions.
After the miraculous comeback in the NFC Championship Game, it’s hard to know when or where this joyride will end, but it certainly seems like there’s plenty of gas left in the tank.
For Coach Carroll, his Seahawks, and the ear-splitting, earthquake-inducing, game-impacting 12s, the correct answer to that NFL Network Poll was never in doubt.
And that joyride for the Seahawks and their 12s? Next stop, Arizona.
Marc Singer recently moved back to Seattle with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, after living in San Diego for 10 years. During that time, he never lost touch with his passion for Seattle’s sports teams, especially the Seahawks, whom he first saw play at the Kingdome during their inaugural season. He was 6 years old at the time. He’s a season-ticket-holder who will never forget the NFC Championship Game.
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