The 12th Man

12thManFirst, let me make a disclaimer.  I’m the farthest thing from an ESPN addict or hardcore sports fan that you’ll ever find.   I do tend to follow Major League Baseball a little bit, but not enough to be able to name many of the players or memorize their stats.   I just like the game; I like the color, the characters, the sounds and the food.  I like the slow, relaxing pace of a baseball game and appreciate the requirement to only keep track of 10 guys at a time.  Basketball has 10 guys on the court, but they’re running all over the place.  Hockey has 12 guys on the ice, but watching it makes me dizzy.  Soccer has two teams of 11, or 22 on the field, but I don’t pretend to understand a single thing about soccer even though I grew up playing it with my Cuban friends in LA.  I tried being one of the 11 guys on a Pop Warner football team once.  Although I was very fast, I was also very skinny which made the game quite painful so I opted to hang up my jersey and become part of the “12th Man”.

The “Twelfth Man” is a term referring to the fans at a football game.  It was created in 1922 at a Texas A&M game when a basketball player, who had previously been on the football team, was asked by the football coach if he would suit-up, stand on the sidelines and be available to go in if needed.  E. King Gill did just that.  He never ran a play, but stood on the sidelines for the entire game and supported his team.  The student body was moved by his devotion and has taken up Gill’s mantle.  Texas A&M is now known as the “Home of the 12th Man” and the fans stand for the duration of the entire game.

The Seattle Seahawks’ fans have also become known as ‘The 12th Man”.  They are notorious for the amount of noise they can generate in support of their beloved team.  In fact, their noisy enthusiasm has registered on the seismometer at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network offices a block away from the stadium.  When the Seahawks beat Green Bay for the NFC championship on January 18th, the “Dance Quake” produced by the jumping, stomping and roaring fans registered between 2.0 and 3.0 on the seismometer at Seismic Network offices.  If you’re the visiting team, this has to have an effect on your morale, concentration and performance.  If the “12th Man” is taken out of the game – if the fans get quiet – the home team feels it.

Are you someone’s “12th Man”?  Everyone can benefit from having a cheerleader – an encourager – a motivator.  When you’re down, it’s far better to be hanging by a rope of many stands, than by one single strand from that rope.  The saying “there’s safety in numbers” simply means we feel safer when we have several others around us supporting us.  There doesn’t need to be a legion, or stadium full, of supporters.  In 1922, there was only Gill, but the Aggies had the right “12th Man” for the job.  They had the coaches, the team and the “12th Man”.  There might be an application for Ecclesiastes 4:12 here; “And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him.   A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”

© 2014 Curt Savage Media

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