The life of a 12

Raised by a father who grew up in Seattle, I was destined to be a Seahawks fan. I remember going to the Kingdome as a kid to watch them play their then AFC West foes the Broncos and the Raiders. My dad worked in Seattle, so on game days I would take a train—usually packed with Raiders fans—north where my dad would be waiting with tickets in hand.

The thing about the Seahawks back then was that they were terrible—I mean really terrible. I remember looking around at that game and seeing more Raiders fans than Seahawks fans. And these fans were dressed crazy and loud. I don’t even remember who ended up winning that specific game, all I can remember was how into the game the Raiders fans were and how much fun they were having. However, I was pissed at the fact that they were louder than the ‘Hawks fans. It seemed like no matter how loud I yelled, they were always louder.

Fast forward to the 2006–07 season. The Seahawks were now a part of the NFC West and fresh off a Super Bowl loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. My dad and I hadn’t been to a game together in years.

I was working in Seattle and making good money. With my dad’s birthday landing halfway through the NFL season, I decided that it was my turn to take him to a game. Not only did I want to take him to a game, I wanted to get him closer to the field than he and I had ever been before.

Knowing my dad for the penny pincher he is, I decided to buy the tickets before I told him so he had no choice but to go. Of course when I told him where the seats were and how much I paid for them, he told me I shouldn’t have spent that much money on them and asked to see if I could return them. No deal. There was nothing we could do but go and enjoy the game.

The game was against the Seahawks’ rivals and recent NFC West powerhouse St. Louis Rams. On game day we entered the stadium. After enjoying the pregame festivities we made our way toward our seats. We settled in to two seats 17 rows from the end zone on the closed side of the stadium. Our view was spectacular as we were facing the open end of the stadium that overlooks the downtown Seattle skyline.

The game went back and forth with the Seahawks mostly trailing until the third quarter. The Seahawks fans helped the defense force the Rams to punt. Backed up in the end zone closest to us was punt-returner Nate Burleson. We had the perfect view. As he caught the ball and the Seahawks’ special teams unit began laying their blocks, we could see a huge hole open up. And sure enough, Burleson saw it too. He hit it and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone on the far side of the field.

The stadium went absolutely nuts over what turned out to be the game-winning score in a 24–22 Seahawks victory. The stadium was so loud I couldn’t hear myself screaming at the top of my lungs. My ears ended up ringing for the next 48 hours. It was that moment when a 12 was born.

For those who don’t know, the 12th man is the name adopted by Seattle Seahawks fans. Not only do we take pride in affecting the game with the noise we create, we actually hold the world record for the loudest human-generated noise in a stadium. Ask anyone who has been to a game in Seattle—that place is loud.

Fast forward once again to last season. After winning the NFC West, the Seahawks were about to face their most hated rival—the San Francisco 49ers—in the NFC Championship Game. Tickets were sold out within two minutes and the only way to go was to purchase them through resale sites. Prices shot up to astronomical levels. The cheapest I could find were $400 apiece just to get in the door. A friend who wanted to go called me and said that he found two for $300 each. Needless to say, we bought them.

If you didn’t watch that game, I’m sorry. It was arguably the most exciting game in franchise history. After a back and forth game, the Seahawks led by six points. The 49ers had the ball and were backed up in their own territory. Before the first play of the drive, that stadium was rocking. As they drove down the field the crowd got quieter and quieter with each yard until everyone around me was sitting there stunned and in silence. All San Francisco needed to do was score a touchdown and it appeared inevitable. The wind was taken out of the 12th man’s sails.

After a huge Frank Gore run into Seahawks territory with less than a minute left, I noticed some fans starting to pack up their belongings. It was at that moment when I remembered the Raiders fans from my childhood and realized we could not go down without a fight. I stood up and started yelling for fans to get up and make some noise because this is when the team needed us most. People looked at me like I was crazy, but once a few joined me, so did everyone else. Then, another big 49ers play moved the ball to just outside the red zone.

Once again the fans took their seats and once again I yelled for them to make some noise and could feel the glares from fans who must have felt defeated. They eventually joined in. Then, it happened.

With 30 seconds on the clock, quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a fade route to Michael Crabtree in the end zone. If caught, the Seahawks lose and their most hated rival advances to the Super Bowl. Instead, Richard Sherman tipped the ball to linebacker Malcolm Smith who intercepted it to win the game. I—and the rest of the stadium—went insane.

People from all around our section came up and began hugging and high-fiving me saying that I was the best fan they had ever seen. It was pure elation. Other than the birth of my son, that was the best moment in my life.

As we all know, the Seahawks went on to the Super Bowl where they not only beat what was arguably the best offense in NFL history, but destroyed them 43–8. Unfortunately, I could not make it to the Super Bowl parade in Seattle.

However, all was made well when the Seahawks announced that their 12 Tour would be bringing the Lombardi trophy, some cheerleaders and players to Portland to give everyone a chance to take part in the celebration. Getting to rally with my Portland area 12s, we packed the Oregon Historical Society lobby. Seahawk chants echoed throughout the normally quiet museum. I overheard a museum employee say it was the loudest it had ever been in there.

After taking pictures with the Lombardi trophy, receiver Doug Baldwin came out and began signing autographs. It wasn’t long before I got my 12th man towel from the NFC Championship Game signed by him as well as being able to pose side by side for a picture.

Being a fan since I can remember, simply winning the Super Bowl would have been enough for me. However, my experiences at the NFC Championship Game and during the 12 Tour made the whole experience better than I could have ever imagined. Now, when people ask who my NFL team is, I can proudly and whole-heartedly say that I am a member of the 12th man and I represent the Seattle Seahawks.