There is no other tradition in North American sports quite like "The 12th Man" that we've come to know and love here in Seattle. Part of the reason that we love it so much is because the 12th man is us! That's right, we love ourselves, get used to it. We also love our sports because it seemed we waited so long for it, despite the fact that we had an MLB, NFL, and NBA team by the time I was born and now we have an MLB, NFL, and MLS team instead.
I don't have anything against MLS, my only point is that I was never starved for sports. But I do feel that leftover camaraderie between us has been passed down through the generations. Like Cubs fans that are born and raised to understand that the Cubs suck and are cursed, we were raised to know that even if our teams don't win as much as we'd like them to, we're going to be first in one sports category: Cheering!
With the birth of an NFL franchise in 1976, Seattle fans were no longer starved for their own professional football team. As the Seahawks strengthened their young franchise, their loud, sold out crowds became known as the 12th MAN ®.
Seattle fans had such an impact on the success of the team in the 1980's that Seahawks President Mike McCormack retired the number 12 on December 15, 1984.
Throughout the 1980's Seattle's fans became known as the loudest in the NFL, so much so that the league instituted a noise rule in 1985. Despite the rule, the 12th MAN continued the tradition, giving the Seahawks a home field advantage to this day.
We can't control our players. We can't make the GM do things for us. The only thing we can control is our noise level, and we want to make other cities hear it and annoy the shit out of their teams. Just as an example: We make earthquakes happen when we win a first round playoff game. We are the most annoying city that's ever lost a professional franchise, to the point of still showing up at Thunder playoff games in Sonics gear. And do you think that's going to die until the Sonics return? The Washington State Cougars have been hoisting a flag on ESPN Gameday for like 20 years... we don't give up so soon.
So with the reputation of the loudest fans in football, management decided that they needed to honor us in return and so they gave us the 12th Man Flag to be raised before every game. It's not a tradition that may be understood outside of Seattle, but it's an important honor for those that get to raise it.
Every honoree after the jump...
Kind of every honoree...
Do you think you can name every person that has ever raised the 12th man flag? Here's this Sporcle quiz. If you can actually fill that whole thing out, holy shit! If you don't want to play the quiz and just want to see the list, here is it officially.
The first "person" to ever hoist the 12th man flag was a group of the 12 Original Season Ticket Holders. That's pretty impressive, especially when you consider stories like this one that my father once told me:
He worked for Boeing and they had one of those cork boards for you to place advertisements, selling stuff, whatever. You get the idea. One day, early on in the Seahawks history, he saw two tickets to a Seahawks game placed on the cork board that were marked as "FREE!" Pretty crazy to think that there was a point where you could just give Seahawks tickets away. My dad noted this and then walked away, I guess he decided he also did not want these two free tickets.
So he comes back at the end of the day, expecting to see that the two tickets have been taken. What does he find instead?
Four free tickets.
Those were the days and of course, it's a much hotter ticket in 2012.
Throughout the years there have been many people to hoist the flag since it's inception in 2003. The Mariners that you'd expect have done it. The former players and coaches that you'd expect. Drew Carey, Apolo Ohno, Pike Place Fish Mongers, Bill the Beerman, and finally Shawn Kemp on December 24, 2011.
The question now becomes, who should raise the 12th man in 2012? I leave this full discussion up to you, but note the list and tell me who you think is missing. I'll give a couple of suggestions only:
The arena investor is an obvious choice to raise the 12th Man Flag after his continuous and arduous efforts to build a stadium in Seattle, bring back the NBA and woo the NHL, a move that would be historic in local sports history. The raising of the flag is a symbol to honor those that have honored us, and Hansen is the first big name to actually step up and take action since the Sonics officially left.
Raise the flag, raise awareness, and have a beer on us. However, the next round for everyone in the stadium is on you.
The 2012 Seattle Mariners are the suckiest bunch of sucks to ever suck, and the only two things that keep a smile on my face this season are Felix Hernandez and Mune Kawasaki. If you haven't been following this season, Mune is not the most successful player of baseball. He's the last man on the roster and his skills would normally keep him in Japan or at AAA, but how could you ever kick out the one guy that makes you continuously smile during a continuously bad season?
Mune is the pep in my step. The light of my life. The corners of my lips as I finally raise to smile while watching GIF highlights of another Mariners 2-0 loss. And when the M's do win in dramatic fashion, expect to be mobbed by none other than... Mune.
I hope that the Seahawks honor this man that has honored my life during the summer baseball season of 2012.
Who do you think needs to be shown that respect?