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Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

12th Man has place in Seattle

Seattle Times staff columnist

DETROIT — Yo, Texas A&M, one word for you — chill! Cease and desist with your whining. Get a life. Get 12 of them.

Surely there are things more important in this world to worry about than whether the Seahawks have ripped off your trademarked "12th Man" idea.

Things like the decline of education in this country, the unrelenting problems in the Middle East and the fact you guys can't beat Texas.

I mean, where have you been?

The Seahawks didn't just think up the idea of the 12th Man last November when the packed house at Qwest Field roared so loudly that New York Giants linemen looked as jumpy as squirrels.

This number 12 has been retired in Seattle since 1984. You remember 1984, don't you? You should. You beat Texas that year, 37-12.

What's next? Are you going to threaten to sue the Seahawks for cheering after touchdowns? Is that something else you think is unique to College Station?

"I thought everybody used the 12th Man," Seattle safety Michael Boulware said at Monday's news conference. "I can't believe they're really serious about it. I know for me, as a defensive player, our 12th Man is huge. I need the 12th Man. They give us an advantage. I just hope this thing just goes away."

This is much ado about 12.

"It's silly," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said.

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Look, every fan in Seattle thinks what you do at Texas A&M is cool. Fans know about the origin. The team beaten up by injuries. A student comes out of the stands to help the depleted Aggies. Fans know that 12th Man has been a part of A&M football since 1922.

But your 12th Man and Seattle's 12th Man are as different as college football and the NFL.

"I grew up in South Florida and I went to the University of Michigan and I didn't know too much about the Seahawks," left guard Steve Hutchinson said. "When I got there I learned about how huge the 12th Man was in the Kingdome. And that it was a very loud place.

"Now being there for five years, I realize what the fans mean to our team and that franchise. The 12th Man really is part of that team, and I don't think it was something that was done to rip anything off. I think it's an honest thing."

Yo, A&M! The way your football team has been losing the past few years — 16-19 the past three seasons — you might try your luck with a 12th and a 13th Man.

And while you're at it, why not patent some cheers like "Hold that line," or "Block that kick." Or "Hit 'em again. Hit 'em again. Harder. Harder." And sue any cheerleading team that dares to use them.

"Every team thinks of their fans as the 12th Man. I don't see why it's a big deal," Seahawks defensive tackle Chuck Darby said. "The 12th Man is our fans, and they made a difference."

The timing is just a bit curious. Why did A&M wait until Super Bowl Week to make this an issue? Sounds a little opportunistic. Like an idea some marketing guy cooked up when he was watching Hawks owner Paul Allen run up the 12th Man flag before the NFC Championship Game.

Yo, Aggies! You should have been in Seattle inside the Kingdome in 1984. It was loud. Denver's John Elway used to flap his arms like a condor, asking for quiet, and the crowd only got louder.

"I came from Green Bay and the fans are incredible there. Incredible," Hasselbeck said. "Then I came to Husky Stadium and we didn't even sell out our games, and everybody was telling me about Seattle being a football town and talking about the 12th Man. But it just didn't make any sense. The games I was at, half the people there were rooting for the Raiders or the Cowboys. It didn't feel like there was a 12th Man.

"Then we moved into our own stadium. Started winning a little bit. I felt it. And now I see it. And now I've learned a lot about the history and the tradition of the 12th Man, the Kingdome and all that stuff. And then I've kind of lived that the last few years. No stadium's been louder. And in my opinion, without a doubt, Seattle is a football town. I don't think the 12th Man is a marketing gimmick."

It's a reality. It's something precious in pro sports today, noise that isn't electronically amplified. It's noise that comes from the lungs, not the loudspeaker, and is as effective as an extra defensive back.

The 12th Man has its own history in Seattle.

Yo, A&M! Get serious.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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