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Originally published December 26, 2009 at 9:01 PM | Page modified December 30, 2009 at 10:58 PM

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Fanatomy | Part 1: The Seahawks' rabid fans

The devotion of perpetually frenzied Seahawks fans, who even in their sleep, they are loud and prepared to extract windpipes if it helps their team. They are the most rabid of all Seattle sports fans.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Rachel Kessel dreams about the Seahawks.

It's the night after her favorite team's loss at Arizona last month, and her fantasy references an infamous play from that game: Cardinals' defensive tackle Darnell Dockett shoving his forearm into quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's neck.

Kessel envisions herself on a bus, and when Dockett boards, she runs toward him and yells, "I'll take out your windpipe if you ever lay your hands on my boys again!"

It's not exactly the dream Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had. But it does illustrate the devotion of perpetually frenzied Seahawks fans. Even in their sleep, they are loud and prepared to extract windpipes if it helps their team.

They are the most rabid of all Seattle sports fans. They have enabled the Seahawks to boast 59 consecutive home sellouts, a number that will climb to 60 by season's end. They have turned Qwest Field into an irritating and potent noise box, harassing opposing offenses into an NFL-best 94 false-start penalties since 2005. They have taken their simple nickname, the 12th Man, and turned it into an intimidating identifier.

"I think that the Seahawks fans are kind of like 'everyday Joes,' " said Bryan Murphy, aka HawkFiend, who dons a scary mask and dresses up like a warrior for every home game. "We work our tails off for 40 or more hours a week, and on Sundays, we get to blow off steam. We become part of that team with our noise. We're an asset. No fans in the area affect a game the way the 12th Man does.

"Going to the game is a job, and we, as the 12th Man, have a job to do. We have to be the passionate, crazed fans the Seahawks deserve."

Seahawks fans have long been considered a blue-collar bunch. Among fans of Seattle's five most prominent sports teams, the 12th Man has the lowest median household income, according to 2009 Scarborough Research. The New York-based firm conducts surveys of consumer behavior twice a year.

But the difference in moola is quite small: the $84,235 median income of Seahawks fans was just $160 less than the second-lowest group, Mariners fans. The Scarborough numbers show the Seahawks attract a diverse range of salaries. And their fan base is broad: 53.5 percent of those surveyed reside outside King County.

Beyond that, the Seahawks, much like the Mariners, can call themselves the Pacific Northwest's team. With no other NFL franchise in the region, they're the most popular team in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and British Columbia.

Patrick Fay is a good example. The 40-year-old grew up rooting for the Seahawks in Ketchikan, Alaska. He moved here in 1997, and his passion for the team has only grown.

"I'm an absolute homer and an optimist, too," said Fay, who lives in West Seattle. "This is our team. I've never been the bandwagon type. I relish our underdog status. I loved them even when people used to call them the Seachickens or the Seasquawks because they used to do a lot of talking but not a lot of proving. You have to be that loyal to your team."


The NFL draws such geographical and monetary diversity partly because of the nature of the game. There are only 16 regular-season games a year, only eight home games. Your favorite team plays once a week, usually on Sunday. It's easy to plan around, and for cost-conscious season-ticket holders, it's more affordable and easier to justify spending good money on eight intense games than on 81 home baseball games.

Steve Brown takes the train to Qwest Field from Arlington. He's a 55-year-old former retail-sales manager who has been out of work for 14 months. "I like to say I'm retired," he joked. "My wife likes to say I'm between jobs."

Brown has owned Seahawks season tickets for 21 years. He talks wistfully about good times at the Kingdome, when Bill the Beer Man was firing up the fans, and the crowd noise bounced off that gigantic concrete roof and influenced the game.

A fan of all Seattle sports, he was in the stands to see Ken Griffey Jr. score off Edgar Martinez's double in 1995 and to see the Sonics play Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. But for Brown, nothing compares to seeing the Seahawks win the NFC Championship Game at Qwest Field in 2006.

"I've never missed a regular-season game at Qwest," said Brown, who has four season tickets. "I've only missed two exhibition games."

Mark Tye Turner, a Los Angeles television writer and producer, is a Seattle native who wrote the book "Notes From a 12 Man: A Truly Biased History of the Seattle Seahawks." It's a detailed, humorous and sometimes pained fan perspective of the franchise's 33 years of existence. He covers everything — from his magical memories of watching his first game at the Kingdome to the tense period when Ken Behring almost moved the team, to quirky, who-woulda-thunk-it trivia about the team.

When asked what keeps him coming back every year to watch a traditionally up-and-down team, Turner offered some eloquent words that would make almost every 12th Man nod.

"Every fall, the team comes around, and there's a certain stability to having that in our lives," Turner said. "Things happen in life, but you have your Seahawks every fall. There's a regularity about it. Every fall, there is hope. There is hope that this is going to be our year."

Even when it's not their year, the fans can still dream of, well, removing windpipes. They have to maintain their reputation as the craziest fans around, you know.

"I'm really not an imbalanced person," said Kessel, the vivid dreamer. "So don't take that as an actual threat."

She paused, reconsidered her words and amended them slightly.

"Unless it helps us win."

News researcher Gene Balk

contributed to this report.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer

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