How dare you, is what you might be thinking. And you’re right. It is probably unpopular of me to post something with this headline
just days before the Superbowl. But I should say first that I am not a Seahawk-hater. I can appreciate as much as the next person the fact that our team has had so much success this year. I will watch the Superbowl along with my fellow Seattleites. I am proud that people are proud and I promise I am not here to be killjoy. But I do think that—through all the Seahawk love—y’all can handle a piece of sports journalism to provide another, more critical, point of view. Because the truth is that I realize I actually take issue with the idea of the 12th man. It’s one thing to be a fan, but I believe our idea of fandom, our obsession with the 12th man, is centered and encouraged by ideals and intentions that are rooted in a very complex system of aggression and violence. Just think about it. Here is why: 1. The 12th man perpetuates fandom violence Incident after incident shows us that fans (football in particular) get a little too defensive of their team. Head butts and flying fists are common in a stadium—where local police and undercover law enforcers have become prevalent as a way to curb some of the crazed violence. Last year, Seahawk fans beat a Green Bay Packers fan unconscious at a game. Again, the year before, a visiting Vikings fan was brutally assaulted by 12th man fanatics, according to Sport Illustrated. While players are getting tackled on the field, fans are joining in with pummels in the stands. 2. The 12th man is petty Seahawks fans threw popcorn at an injured player as he was carried off the field. Come on, everyone. Really? 3. The 12th man turned a frustrated rant into an issue of race The recent game against the 49ers ended with an irritated and adrenaline-filled Seahawk player, Richard Sherman, responding loudly and emotionally to a question during an interview. Twitter exploded, calling Sherman a number of racial slurs. Can’t a person just be frustrated? 4. The 12th man encourages violence on the field As long as it isn’t one of our guys, we’re fine. Just put them on a stretcher and get them off the field so we can keep playing. This mentality, while few may admit it, commonly exists in our mindset about football. It’s just a hazard of playing the game, people say. Well maybe it’s a hazard that shouldn’t be worth the risk. Last year, Associated Press reported on Pittsburgh Steeler’s linebacker Terence Garvin who hit an opposing Cincinnati Bengal’s player, Kevin Huber during a game. Huber obtained a broken jaw and a cracked vertebra when he was tackled by Garvin. Players suffer brain and spine injuries and torn ACL’s, among numerous other bumps and bruises—and we sit back and gawk. 5. The 12th man must not really mind all the brain injuries It’s no secret that helmets can only do so much. As fans, we might be adapting to this notion—desensitized to the blows and bashes from the distance of the stands or from behind our TV screen. But people are getting badly hurt. The NFL reported 228 concussions last year, according to the New York Times. The same article said, however, that many experts feel that reported number is very small because numerous players attempt to hide concussions to stay in the game. Last year, the owner of the Seahawks, Paul Allen, started funding research at the University of Washington and Allen Institute for Brain Science to examine the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries. If crushing blows received on the field cause long-term harm such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease will we ignore those results also? 6. The 12th man excuses the player pompousness—even egging it on Sometimes Seahawk players need to get over themselves. If you’re going to be upset with Sherman, do it because he has been fined nearly $8,000 for taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct. Many are outraged by this—but the Seahawks are kind of known for being unsportsmanlike and pompous. We know you’re good, Seahawks, we get it. Try to be good sports on Sunday, win or lose.