2014's #2 Most Read: International Space Station flies Seahawks 12th Man flag

With a little help from team owner Paul Allen, the 12th Man has colonized space (wink-wink).
With a little help from team owner Paul Allen, the 12th Man has colonized space (wink-wink).

This satirical piece was our second most read story of 2014.


Seattle and Denver both have long traditions in aerospace. Before legal recreational marjiuana use became a reality, "Getting Really High" in Washington and Colorado meant sending human beings and advanced technology into orbit. Colorado ranks among the 2nd or 3rd biggest aerospace industry in the country, with giants such as Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace and CU-Boulder, the nation's largest public educator of astronauts.

While Seattle birthed aerospace giant Boeing in 1910, the Emerald City is now making a run as the new global hub of private space entrepreneurship. Billionaire-backed asteroid mining start-up Planetary Resources, Jeff Bezo's Blue Origin space craft company and Seahawks owner Paul Allen's SpaceShipOne project all call Seattle home.

The Denver-Seattle aerospace rivalry goes on, but Seattle seems to have won the Superbowl 48 space race.

Yes, the 12th Man has successfully colonized outer space.  

Not content to take control of the Empire State Building, or fly a 12th Man pattern across their entire state, Seahawks nation successful got a 12th Man flag aboard the International Space Station. Turns out American astronaut Mike Hopkins, currently aboard the ISS, isn't just a huge football fan. He was also the team captain of his Illinois University "Fighting Illini" football team.

While Hopkins hasn't ever lived in Washington, he holds special admiration for the Seahawks.

"I was a defensive back at Illinois, so I just love what the Legion of Boom has done over the last 3 years. Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, now even Byron Maxell, those guys are just out of this world talented."  

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Astronaut Mike Hopkins with his personal 12th Man flag? /Artist's concept

"As an astronaut working on an international crew, I appreciate strong egos that can still come together as an amazing team. You couldn't be trapped in a metal cage with someone like Sherman for 100 days without a few Marshawn Lynch-types to balance things out." Hopkins concedes that the space station doesn't have any Skittles, but he swears the Tang's better than it looks.

So how'd the flag make its way to the Space Station? Back in July, Paul Allen was dining at Seattle restaurant Canlis with some billionaire buddies when Boeing CEO W. James McNerney, Jr. posed a challenge.

"He turned to me and said, 'You know, Paul, if the Seahawks make the Super Bowl, I'll bet Boeing can make a bigger deal out of it than that little space company of yours,'" Allen remembers. "I just laughed and told him he had a bet."   

Allen knew he had an in with astronaut Mike Hopkins, who he'd met at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in Montana earlier that year.

Hopkins, already a Seahawks admirer, was game. His only request — a new Xbox One for the Space Station. "After the first week of floating around up there, it gets a little boring," he says. Allen awkwardly explained that he 'didn't really work at Microsoft anymore,' but he'd see what he could do.  

Now that Boeing has tipped its hand, flying a 747 across Washington state in the shape of a 12 yesterday, Allen is feeling pretty good about his half of the bet. "A 747 at 15,000 feet is pretty cool," he said, "but it's no space station at 230 miles above Earth."

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The 12th Man takes an historic space walk? Artist's concept 

So what if Seattle wins the big one? Mike Hopkins said he'd gladly let Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson "crash in the storage compartment for a few nights" if he could "find a ride up here."

For more Crosscut Super Bowl stories (real ones, that is) go here.


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