I was in 5th grade when I started figuring out what American Football was all about. It was 2005, the season where the Seattle Seahawks first established a name for themselves and expanded its fan base beyond the Pacific Northwest. With legends like quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and running back Shaun Alexander, the Seahawks made their first Super Bowl appearance in 2006 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After the excitement leading up to Super Bowl XL and the bitter disappointment from the loss, Seattle fans were left with an urge to not only make it back to the top of the NFL, but also to show to the rest of the country that Seattle was capable of being champions.
And when the Seattle Seahawks came along and shook our city once again, we couldn't keep quiet.
In 2010, the Hawks became the first team in NFL history to snag a spot in the playoffs with a loosing record in a full season by winning the division, and went on defeating the defending Super Bowl champions, the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round. Ultimately, the Seahawks become the first team ever to win a playoff game with a loosing record. The Hawks are used to being the underdogs that never fail to surprise.
Picking up quarterback Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL Draft as a third round draft pick and other notable additions, the Seahawks have made their gradual advancement to the top of the NFL, claiming the franchise's first Super Bowl win in 2013 against the Denver Broncos (Super Bowl XLVIII) and appearing in its third Super Bowl in 2014 against the New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLIX).
Now, you could say I love the Seahawks. Seattle loves our Seahawks. We are referred collectively as the 12th Man, setting the Guinness World Record twice for loudest crowd at a sporting event. Coming from a place where Seahawks Pride is becoming a crucial part of the Seattle culture, I can sense things are a little different in Santa Clara. Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, stands proudly in the city of Santa Clara, and Niners' fans rule the Bay Area. The Seahawks/49ers rivalry has developed since 2010, starting with the hiring of coaches Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, previously coaches for USC and Stanford, respectively. This rivalry, although recent, has become deep; it has programmed fans to feel nothing but animosity towards each other. Wearing my Seahawks gear on a regular day on campus, I've gotten glares and even comments from people I don't know--which has triggered me to write this. What is it really like to be a Seahawks fan in a Niners Nation?
Stage 1: Intimidation
"Wait, why are these people giving me such angry, hostile looks? I swear I'm a good person."
I know people can relate to the feeling of pure intimidation when random large males honk at you as they drive by and proceed to yell inaudible statements or when more random large males appear in your dorm lounge "watching" the game only to repeat insults at your beloved team and city. Who are all of you, anyway?
Stage 2: Anger
"CAN YOU STOP? WHO ARE YOU? STAY IN YOUR LANE, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT."
I get it. We're rivals. But when you say something about our handsome quarterback "being gay" or something derogatory about any of our players, you're going too far. And when you actually take it to the point where you insult the beautiful city of Seattle? Yeah no. Stop that.
And when they start talking even more about how much they "hate" the Seahawks and everything about the 12th Man and the city of Seattle? Clearly something is wrong with you and I think you have a strange resemblance to that tween girl holding a (unexplainable) grudge against the one girl her crush liked.
Stage 3: Feeling awkward. Really awkward.
"Wait...how are the Niners doing again?"
But then we fact check and realize a few things: at the end of the day, we can always refer back to the 2013 NFC Championship game where Richard Sherman gloriously tipped the game-making ball out of Crabtree's hands. And oh yeah, we went on winning Super Bowl XLVIII so there's that too.
Not to mention, there was a clear, factual difference between the 49ers' season and the Seahawks' season this past year. We lost Super Bowl XLIX, but hey at least we made it there. How were the playoffs for the Niners again? So keep on yelling at us, telling us how much we "suck", how "pedestrian" our players are, how much you "hate" our team and coach Pete Carroll, and about how the "only thing Seattle has" is rain. We'll just sit here giggling to ourselves, feeling awkward as we skim over some nice ol' facts.
Stage 4: Sympathy (or maybe more like pity)
"We will take the high road. We feel your pain. Sort of."
But after feeling awkward, we realize that it really just might be Colin Kaepernick's fault and not the team's or coach Jim Harbaugh's faults. Some Niners fans are really unhappy with Kaepernick. With the loss of Harbaugh and the less than average roster, this upcoming season doesn't look too promising for the 49ers either.
Comparatively, with new powerful additions (including Jimmy Graham!!) and coach Pete Carroll coming back, it seems that we have yet another good shot at the Super Bowl.
The Re-Pete dream is far from over.
So we do feel bad for you, Niners fans.
The Seahawks gets slammed for its bandwagon fans. True, there are bandwagon fans out there. But only a strong, great team would be able to pick up bandwagon fans. Besides, there are so many of us that have seen the Seahawks rebuild itself as a team since Super Bowl XL, so let's not even try to make an argument that "all Seahawks fans are bandwagon fans".
The 12th Man exists because we all love our boys and the true brotherhood they have fostered. The Seahawks remind us that football is a team sport—and is a game that can only be conquered by the team not with the most individual talent, but with the strongest bond that ties them together. This team isn’t just about the star players—Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman to name a few—it’s about the unspoken heroes, the ones people don’t shed light on and refer to as “pedestrian”.
And let's never forget this historical moment:
You were so close, 49ers.
Fear the Legion of Boom.
Because playing nice won’t get you anywhere; ruthless and aggressive we will always be.
But most of all, fear the energy of the 12th Man.