Tradition has long been an essential component of the National Football League. From the regular appearances of Detroit and Dallas in games on Thanksgiving Day for the naming of historically important football games like the “Ice Bowl” or the “Comeback”, these traditions add color and historical significance to just about every fan’s impression in the NFL. For the Seattle Seahawks, who have been part from the NFL since the 1976 expansion, tradition might seem like a lofty word to use in describing the franchise’s activities – they have, after all, only been in existence for 34 years. Nevertheless, Seattle is the home of 1 of the NFL’s proudest traditions: the recognition on the Seahawks’ “12th Man”.
What it means
The expression “12th Man” has a meaning that every single diehard football fan readily understands, but which may possibly seem somewhat vague on the uninitiated. In football, each team is allowed only eleven players on the field at any 1 time – regardless of whether they are playing offense or defense. The 12th Man is, therefore, a reference on the energy provided by the fans with the team who are in the stadium watching the game. Although the term “12th Man” is recognized as belonging on the Texas A&M Aggies college football program, the Seahawks have an agreement that allows them to use the term to describe their own fans as well.
The origins from the tradition
The tradition of the 12th Man has its origins within the 1922 Dixie Classic in which the Texas A&M Aggies were challenging the football team from Centre College. Though the Aggies were doing their best to control the game against their heavily favored opponent, many of A&M’s players were hurt during the first half of play. Had the Aggies run out of players in the second half, the team would have had to forfeit the game. The Aggies Coach Bible called on a single with the spectators, E. King Gill, to suit up in case he was needed. By the time the Aggies pulled out the win, so many players were hurt that Gill was alone on the sideline. With eleven men left on the field, Gill was thus the 12th Man. And though he did not see play that day, the fact was that he was ready to enter the game if needed.
The Seahawks have long been recognized as having one of the loudest fan bases inside the sport. During the days from the old Kingdome, the team recognized that fact by going so far as to retire their team number twelve to honor the fans – their 12th Man. That occurrence in 1984 started a tradition wherein the number twelve flag is hoisted prior to each and every game at home. In addition, the franchise sells team jerseys with the number twelve on the front (and sometimes emblazoned with the word “Fan” across the back where the player name would normally go). In 2005, the fans were symbolically given a game ball to recognize their noise contribution in a victory over the Giants – who had been penalized for nearly a dozen false starts during the game due to their inability to hear their quarterback over the roar with the stadium.
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