Hey, 12th Man! You're not off the hook yet.
Yes, let us stipulate that there are More Important Things, as the principled if pious group of the local Citizens For such things puts it. And let us concede the absurdity of looking to a group of hyped-up young men, nearly all from elsewhere in the country, to manifest our civic virtue. Finally, let’s be clear-eyed about the ephemeral nature of sport: it’s only a game, and the season passes. Baseball awaits.
But for all that, let’s not disregard the simple power of joy. Communal joy; a sweet, uncomplicated, simple joy. A moment that bonded stranger to stranger in the streets of our city, and one that many Seattleites will savor forever.
In the week since our collective Super Bowl tension gave way to the Seahawks’ total demolition of the Broncos and the biggest and giddiest parade the city has ever seen, I’ve been thinking about how one measures the quality of joy. More importantly, I’ve been wondering whether the mythic power of the 12th Man can be put to any other aspect of our municipal life.
We shell out no small amount of dough for all kinds of other local teams, no less deserving of our attention and thanks.
Seattle firefighters and cops put their lives on the line for us every day. Our opera, symphony and museums bring us world-class music, performance and artwork, and Boeing has made us an aerospace center of the world, prompting spinoffs and startups literally shooting for space.
I won’t yell at them perhaps as loudly as I do at the Seahawks, but I am going to make a point of giving 12th Man shout-outs to the people who, for me, make this place exceptional. I’ll start with my exuberant pal Murphy (an inveterate outdoorsman), who’s forever organizing weekend “Wanderbird” excursions that get our circle of friends snowshoeing at the aptly named Paradise, biking the Snoqualmie Valley Trail or kayaking to Hope Island in the South Sound to pick apples.
I'll give another to James Ehnes, the world-class violinist and Artistic Director of Seattle's Chamber Music Society, who played to a sea of Volunteer Park picnickers on a summer night. And the ducks who, with the lilypads, tread water underneath 520, waiting for a willing canoist to toss them a cracker.
The Seattle Public Library certainly deserves some love, if not for their endless supply of reading materials, than for the barrage of world class speakers they corral. Some of whom, like Reza Aslan, pack their auditorium to the gills with Seattleites chomping at the bit to talk Jesus with a Muslim.
While many of us are still smiling goofily at the thought of New Jersey, let’s now pledge to show a little of that 12th Man spirit for all the other teams that make the city great.
Seek out a museum you’ve rarely visited. Shop in Pike Place Market and let out a cheer, silent or otherwise, that it was miraculously preserved from the wrecking ball. Attend at least one event you’d never thought about before: For me, it will be Sound Off! at EMP, a program that showcases the future of the Pacific Northwest music scene in the guise of a concert competition at which all performers must be under the age of 21.
Nobody can say for sure how much the 12th Man — or 12th Fan, the gender-neutral term — had to do with the Hawks’ Super Bowl victory, but it’s great to be in a city where the “12” logo is everywhere. And while it is, let’s use the moment to start a dialogue.
Aside from our world champion Seahawks, for whom else or what else are you willing to show some 12th Man love?