Posted February 1, 2015 by Cooper Point Journal in Letters & Opinion
 
 

Modern American Football

The 12th Man Rising



By Ira Zuckerman

It will only get worse: as of writing this, you can’t go five yards without seeing a 12 in Seattle. Seahawks pride has been growing exponentially since the 2013 season, and strong faith ran up and down the Puget Sound long before. And yes, football is here to stay in Cascadia. These will be the glory days we think back on in our darkest slumps and crushing losses. Within two football seasons, the number 12 has become an inescapable part of Seattle culture. It waves the city’s modernist ideals upon a Pacific-blue banner.

The 12 means 12th man—the fans. We are now breaking the rules of football, as the international collective of Seattle Seahawks supporters have become the 12th man on the field, or to be precise, in the stands.

Until recently out-cheered by the fans at Kansas City’s Arrowhead stadium, the CLink (CenturyLink Field, the Seattle Seahawks and Sounders stadium funded by CenturyLink Communications) held the world record for “loudest crowd roar” and history would predict our reclamation of the title. During important plays for the opposition, the CLink’s 12th men and women actively begin making as much noise as they possibly can. It’s hard to move a little ball through superhuman athletes when the planning huddle is under the equivalent of a Boeing jet engine.

Plenty of serious fans choose to watch the games at home, especially those without the disposable income to buy tickets with a better view than TV. Nevertheless, the CLink will be sold out for the visible future. These aren’t just football fans buying the tickets, these are Seahawks fans. These are the people who take extra pride in breaking the athletes’ fourth wall and becoming part of the team.

In the cheap seats, it’s the people you’d see at any other game—drunks and hooligans having more fun than you are. The further down you go, the more you start to see Seattleites translating big-budget sports into their own culture. This is a community that supports itself. There is no ignorance of the fan-player relationship, the relationship doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s one big team.

On Seahawks.com, there’s a web page devoted to the power of the 12th man titled False Starts.

“Seahawks fans have become known as the loudest in the NFL and are proud of the role they play in helping the team win on the field. In 2005, Seattle led the NFL in opponent false start penalties at CenturyLink Field with 24, including 11 versus the N.Y. Giants. In 2006, Seattle once again led the NFL in that category with 26 in their eight home games. Seattle’s total of 132 since 2005, is tops in the NFL.”

This isn’t cheating; we’re not deflating balls or anything. We’re just changing the way people think about the football universe. These means to stretch the boundaries and ideas of football shouldn’t be considered modern due to their human quality. It’s true the stadium was built with crowd acoustics in mind, but so are most stadiums in this era. This will always just be the sound from our throats. This is just the result of a population who has long rejected (or been rejected by) the sporting world for continuous failure, applying their values to American football.

These are the psychedelic values taken from Jimi Hendrix and the nihilistic ones from Kurt Cobain. These are the people who built Microsoft’s future and read alternative weeklies more than newspapers. This is a modernist city, and we have a modernist football team.

The Legion of Boom are a cast of minds who fit inside independent coffee houses and record stores. The Seahawks are funny, creative, and very self-conscious.

It’s not all cerebral though. The Seahawks are just good athletes. They look like Dragonball Z characters when they play football—superhuman—pushing the limits constantly. Running back Marshawn Lynch achieved his status as an elite running back through his abstract beliefs. Lynch does not believe one man holding his legs is a tackle. Lynch does not believe five men holding his legs, arms, torso, and pelvic region is a tackle. Lynch does not believe in tackles. It is a rule invented by the referees, that he sometimes abides by for the sake of the game.

Cornerback Richard Sherman intercepts the ball. That’s what he likes to do and it’s what he does. Interceptions are one of the most destructive plays to football’s system. The defense plays the offense. It can completely flip the game’s momentum in one catch.

Russell Wilson maintains the most American persona on the team. He has to—he’s the quarterback. He’s the face of the Seahawks. So, the fans cut and paste what they deem acceptable bits of the greater United States’ values. Wilson holds his faith high in front of the media, but higher during his weekly visits to the Seattle Children’s Hospital. That’s what Seattleites know and love him for.

Even so, we’re the bad guy to the rest of the country. We don’t believe in their ideals. We’re a city made famous by alternative lifestyles. We’re a football team who plays our own kind of football. We don’t care about penalties. We don’t care if we look like braggarts. We don’t care that we have no “dynasty” or tradition behind us. We’re winning for this brief moment and we will grab our collective crotch.

The Seahawks play football like a video game. They know this is just a sport, and whatever can improve their stats, is to be done. If little glitches and secret codes can be used without major penalty, they will be used. It’s why the Seahawks won so hard in 2013 football. So far in the millenium, the Broncos replaced the Cowboys as “America’s team,” if only for a short moment. Super Bowl XLVIII (48) might have seen the end of that. It was a decade-defining set-up, and a trouncing which bored the nation. There was no competition, and everyone knew it within eight seconds.

America’s team has to play by America’s rules. That means lots of passing, running it straight, and you’d damn well better Hail Mary in dark times. The Seahawks developed a system that directly responds to those ideas. This is a team meant to bring down your faith in tradition. That means if you Hail Mary to have your ball caught, we will be the ones to catch it.  The Seahawks did for football what hypermodernism did for chess: deconstruction.

By now, the traditional teams have fallen. The Broncos are gone. The Cowboys are gone. The Packers nearly saw us to a painful loss in the NFC championship. I was glad to see us face a serious threat. There’s nothing that defines why people watch football more than a fourth quarter recovery to an overtime win. It’s about the story of the game.

I know it’s tiring to non-football fans, and I know I’m sick of the blustering fans, but this is an important Super Bowl. The Patriots were the Seahawks of the 2000s. Now, a team of New England pinkos and yankees were ruling American football. We’re here to take over. We’ve proved ourselves capable, but Super Bowl XLIX (49) will decide if the Seahawks will live on as a mascot of the Pacific Northwest, in all its modernity.