Thanking the Power of 12

Posted Dec 23, 2011

The Seahawks are honoring their 12th MAN with Fan Appreciation Day at Saturday's home finale against the 49ers. But really, the players can't thank the fans enough.

As part of the Fan Appreciation Day activities at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, they should shine a spotlight on seats 1 and 2 in row C of section 331.

That’s where Vicki Orser will be sitting, and has been for Seahawks’ games since the new stadium opened in 2002. Before that, Orser had season tickets at the Kingdome and also the two seasons the team played at Husky Stadium.

One of 6,000 remaining season-tickets holders from the team’s inaugural season in 1976, Orser doesn’t just bleed Seahawks blue, she refers to each of her five grandchildren by their name, with “-Hawk” attached to the end.

“They’re all little Hawks,” Orser said this week, as she was eagerly counting the hours to the Christmas Eve home finals against the San Francisco 49ers. “And they know how much I love my Seahawks. It’s just something that’s in my blood.

“Season tickets to Seahawks games are the only thing I treat myself to. I save my money for this. This is my passion.”

She also says she’d paint her house Seahawks-blue, “If I could get away with it.”

All professional sports teams have Fan Appreciation Days, but the Seahawks really do have fans who are worth appreciating – and thanking, and even savoring.

Saturday’s game will be the Seahawks’ 77th consecutive sellout. And the 12th MAN doesn’t just show up for games, these fans know they have an impact on the outcome – see the league-high 110 false-start penalties at CenturyLink Field since 2005, not to mention the fans’ earth-shaking reaction to Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard touchdown run in the wild-card playoff victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans at the stadium last January.

“Absolutely, we are greatly appreciative of our 12th MAN, and all the 12 jerseys, and the ‘Value of 12’ and whatever other acronym of 12 they have that’s out there that’s in our stadium,” said cornerback Roy Lewis, who also played at the University of Washington and is in his third season with the Seahawks.

“They do a fantastic job of getting us fired up. We feed of the energy they create. And when we stoke that energy, they reward us even more. So it’s been an honor to play in front of those fans.”

The 12th MAN has been there through thick – the stretch of four consecutive NFC West titles and five playoff berths in a row from 2003-07 that peaked with the victory over the Carolina Panthers in the 2005 NFC Championship game that sent the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl. But they’ve also been there through thin – the 4-12 and 5-11 seasons that followed in 2008 and 2009, as well as the 5-13 stretch between Pete Carroll’s first team starting 4-2 and this season’s team winning five of its past six.

“There are no fair-weather fans. There are no bandwagon people in Seattle,” Lewis said. “We have homegrown, see-it-through-to-the-finish fans. And they’re going to stick by our side come hell or high water.”

As Orser put it, “You have to believe. If you don’t believe, you can’t receive.”

All the more reason to truly appreciate Orser and her fellow 12th MAN faithful.

“Our fans are the greatest in the National Football League, and I really, really mean that,” said fullback Michael Robinson, who’s in his second season with the Seahawks after playing his first four NFL seasons with the 49ers.

“When I did play for another team, I used to come in here and we had trouble. And the 12th MAN was definitely something you had to deal with. Hopefully Saturday, it will be something else the 49ers have to deal with.”

Carroll is nearing the end of his second season as coach, and relationship with the fans. And they definitely have made a believer out of a coach who has walked the sideline in a lot of stadiums, in a lot of big games.

“This is a tremendous following,” he said. “Really, we’ve been all around the league the last couple of years and we’ve never seen anything like it. There are a lot of great stadiums and a lot of great fans, but our place is just very unique.

“The intensity that the fans bring – they bring a tremendous intensity. We need them, we love playing for them and feeding them when we can with our performance. They’re just amazing. … We’re very fortunate. It’s been a blast playing for them and we’d like to end it on a great not here.”

Ask any of the fans who will be appreciated Saturday what they really want as a “thank you” gift, and it would be an upset of the 11-3 49ers – in a game the Seahawks must win if they are to have any hope of returning to the playoffs for the second time in two seasons under Carroll.

“We’re going to do it,” Orser said. “There isn’t a doubt in my mind.”