Seattle’s The 12th MAN
When I think of the phrase, “The 12th MAN”, my mind goes right to the Seattle Seahawks and their rabid fans, who are so loud at home games that they have come to be known as “The 12th Man”. This is a tradition that Seattle fans are very proud of, and while it seems like a phrase that is used often, it is not, and that is because of the interesting history of the phrase which has more than one suitor. Throughout this, Seattle has remained vigilant in their right to the phrase and has truly made it theirs. Now let’s look at that history.
For me it was particularly interesting to find out that the first time the phrase, “The 12th MAN”, was used was actually back in 1912 by E.A. McGowan who wrote for The Iowa Alumnus, which was an alumni publication of the University of Iowa. In the November issue from that year McGowan wrote about a game between Iowa and the University of Illinois from 1903, and titled the article “The Twelfth Player”. McGowan wrote: "The eleven men had done their best; but the twelfth man on the team (the loyal spirited Iowa rooter) had won the game for old S.U.I” (University of Iowa used to be known as State University of Iowa)
So the phrase was first used over 100 years ago and has been used by other Universities and professional sports teams, most notably the Seattle Seahawks. The Seattle Seahawks became an NFL Franchise in 1976 and the fans in the Great Northwest were hungry for professional football and made their voices heard loud and clear. The Seahawks played before sold out crowds in the newly constructed Kingdome, which really helped those rabid fans make a ton of noise during games and would become known as, “The 12th MAN”. The Kingdome may have been an unfair advantage at the time, as compared to outdoor stadiums, but the Seahawks fans were relentless in their support for their team.
During the early 1980’s the Seahawks were experiencing a lot of success at home, and then Seahawk’s President, Mike McCormack, decided that he would pay homage to his awesome and rabid fandom. On December 15th of 1984 McCormack made a statement as he retired the #12 for “The 12th MAN”, the fans of the Seahawks. The Seahawks fans were known to rock the Kingdome and were also known as the loudest in the NFL. The Seahawks and their fans were the reason for the NFL instituting a noise rule in 1985. So every time that you have seen a home team penalized because the opposing offense can’t hear, you can thank the Seattle Seahawks and “The 12th MAN”.
The Seahawks continued to strengthen their reputation for being the home of “The 12th MAN” back in 2003 with the tradition of “The 12th MAN Flag”. It was fitting that on October 12th of 2003 was the first time “The 12th MAN Flag” was raised and the first 12 original Seattle Seahawks season ticket holders hoisted it to the air. It is also very fitting that the flag is located in the Northwest corner of CenturyLink Field. The flag has become a symbol representing all the Seahawks fans across the Great Northwest. The Seahawks have continued to have someone raise the flag before every home since. Here is a link to the list of those who have raised “The 12th MAN Flag”. The extra significance here is that in their new outdoor stadium they are still considered the loudest fans in the NFL. This is due to the unique construction which was designed to keep the noise in the stadium.
In 2005 the Seahawks won all their home games leading to winning their first NFC Championship and “The 12th MAN” made a difference all season long, but most notably in a game against the New York Giants on November 27th. The game went to overtime and “The 12th MAN” helped the Seahawks to victory by inducing 11 false start penalties and 3 missed field goals. After the game Coach Mike Holmgren dedicated the game ball to “The 12th MAN” and the ball, now known as “The 12th MAN Ball”, which can still be seen to this day in the Wells Fargo Club at the stadium.
So it would seem clear that Seattle has laid claim to being the home of “The 12th MAN”, but that did not stop the Texas A&M Aggies from suing the Seahawks, in 2006 over use of the phrase, which they had trademarked in December of 1989. So this is where it gets interesting for me, and where I am on the side of Seattle. Texas A&M may have trademarked the phrase back in 1989, but it was clearly used first by the University of Iowa. Then it was clearly used by Seattle before Texas A&M when they retired the #12 in 1984, 5 years before Texas A&M trademarked the phrase.
At the time of the lawsuit there were 2 other NFL teams, the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills, who were also using the term “The 12th MAN” and they folded under the pressure from Texas A&M. I am proud to say that Seattle would not back down from those Aggies and settled out of court and still have use of the phrase “The 12th MAN”. In the court of public opinion, and more importantly in the court of Houdini, I find for the defendants, and rule that the Texas A&M Aggies should go BLOW!!!
BY HOUDINI (email me)