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The Boldest NFL Fans: The Seahawks' 12th Man

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The Seahawks fan base has gained a little bit of notoriety over the past few years, probably mostly because of the raucous atmosphere that is created at every home game. The CLink, formerly known as Qwest Field and Seahawks Stadium, has been a place to be feared by visiting teams and currently leads the NFL in forced false starts by a large margin.

This noise factor has led other teams to allege, still, after a decade, that crowd noise is being piped in. Get over it. It's not. In reality, it's just a cleverly designed stadium combined with a rabid and prideful fanbase and this ability to disrupt visiting teams has led to the moniker "the 12th man" being adopted for the Seahawks' faithful. In case you're not following, the 12 refers to the 11 players on the field plus the fans as the figurative 12th player, and combines to give the Hawks a real advantage.

Some of you may not know the history of this moniker, so here's a little refresher.

Per the always impeccable and infallible Wikipedia,

The first recorded instance of the term "12th Man" being used was to describe E. King Gill and his actions in Dallas on 2 January 1922, at the Dixie Classic, the forerunner of the Cotton Bowl Classic. Texas A&M played defending national champion Centre College in the first post-season game in the southwest. In this hard fought game, which produced national publicity, an underdog Aggie team was slowly but surely defeating a team which boasted three All-Americans. Unfortunately, the first half produced so many injuries for A&M that Coach D. X. Bible feared he wouldn't have enough men to finish the game, so, he called into the Aggie section of the stands for E. King Gill, a reserve who had left football after the regular season to play basketball.

Gill, who was spotting players for reporters at the time and was not in football uniform, willingly volunteered and donned the uniform of injured player Heine Weir. When the game ended with an A&M victory, 22-14, E. King Gill was the only man left standing on the sidelines for the Aggies. Gill later said, "I wish I could say that I went in and ran for the winning touchdown, but I did not. I simply stood by in case my team needed me."[1] Although he did not actually play in the game, his readiness to play was noted. As there were 11 men on the field, E. King Gill was the 12th Man, hence the term.

The term "the 12th man" has been used by the Seahawks, Packers, Redskins, Bills, Broncos, and Bears over the years and pretty much everyone has ceased and desisted using that term at the behest of the caddy and annoying Texas A&M, who somehow trademarked that phrase.

The Seahawks settled out of court with A&M and now can legally use the term. Which they do. And they retired the number 12 back in 1984. And the 12th Man flag flies all over town.

The Seahawks are now the de facto owners of the moniker, despite the nerdy A&M legal team's initial persistence on drafting up sternly worded emails to keep us in check.

Again, per the Library of Congress Wikipedia,

The term "12th Man" was coined and marketed to represent the Texas Aggie fans after the 1922 Dixie Classic. While intellectual property laws recognize such common law uses in trademark disputes, the official registration of the mark was not filed by Texas A&M (U.S. Reg. No. 1948306) until September 1990, and later significantly bolstered by the passage of the Federal Dilution Trademark Act of 1995.

This law allowed Texas A&M to use potential damage to the trademark through dilution as a justification in its lawsuit against the Seattle Seahawks. According to statements made by Texas A&M officials, they sent requests to stop using the phrase to the Seattle Seahawks (2004, 2005), Buffalo Bills (undated), and the Chicago Bears (undated). Both the Bills and the Bears responded to the requests stating they would no longer use the phrase, however the Seahawks failed to respond to the request.

Because we're f*uckin rebels! Woo!! I can just see Paul Allen, sitting on his yacht off the coast of Patagonia, getting blown up on his gold-plated celly and responding to said cease and desist request with a big ole' middle finger and xeroxed copy of his arse.

In January 2006, Texas A&M filed suit against the Seattle Seahawks to protect the trademark and in May 2006, the dispute was settled out of court. In the agreement, Texas A&M licensed the Seahawks to continue using the phrase "12th Man" in exchange for public acknowledgement by the NFL franchise as to Texas A&M's ownership of the phrase.

Terribly frivolous. Anyway, I don't know anyone that refers to the 12th man as anything to do with Texas A&M but then again I don't live in Texas. Either way, I don't care.

The Seahawks' 12th man, with a little help of the thing I like to call "engineering ingenuity," has a real role with the success of the team. Visiting opponents literally have to gameplan for the crowd noise so you should be proud to know that the time taken to practice silent snap counts and that kind of thing takes away from opponents' time perfecting their systems.

Here is the false start count for the last six seasons, per Seahawks.com.

Screen_shot_2011-09-28_at_11

Take that, plus the fact the Seahawks' fans created a man-made earthquake, and you've got some bragging rights, Twelves.