In Defense of the 12th Man
This is America. And if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years about great pieces of prose, it’s that reminding people that this is America is always a good thing to do. You can’t argue with patriotism. It’s why politicians preface every controversial issue they have with talk about the stars and stripes. As if everyone in this country of ours agrees with what they’re about to say. It’s a genius ploy, and one that sways the impressionable swing voter time and time again. So before I engage in this rant on the liberties of sports fans everywhere, allow me to remind you that this, friends, is America.
In America, we enjoy freedom. That freedom extends to speech, it extends to human rights, it extends to the pursuit of happiness, and much, much more. We are very lucky to have these freedoms. These freedoms give someone like Sarah Brown, for example, the right to express her opinion on the Seattle Seahawks and their fan base, which she did quite loquaciously in this piece from Friday’s Seattle Times.
In fairness to Sarah, she is not a journalist. Like the rest of us, she’s a layperson who attended a sporting event presumably as a fan. Her experience, as detailed in the article, was decidedly negative. That negativity, one can infer, came as a result of her experience failing to align with her expectations. It’s human nature. If we expect something to occur in a certain, positive way, any result short of that anticipated positivity will leave us feeling perturbed. In these instances, we either internalize our disgust or let it out unto the world. In Sarah’s case, she was presented the opportunity to divulge her angst upon the masses. Unfortunately for Sarah, many of us amongst the mass she has now been exposed to fail to agree with her emotions.
For starters, it doesn’t appear that Sarah Brown is a Seattle Seahawks fan. She may associate herself with the Seahawks based on geography — she lives in Vancouver, Wash., according to the piece — but her fanatical knowledge is suspect, at best. I’m not here to question Sarah’s loyalty to the Seahawks organization or sports as a whole, but I will present some logic.
Logically, one would have to believe that most fans are somewhat aware of the NFL stadium environment. It is not a tea party. It is not a cordial affair. For the most part, NFL stadiums on gameday tend to be fairly hostile, offensive places to be. They are not for the faint of heart. You will hear some choice words. You will see some fights. You will experience disorderly drunks. This is the reality of the situation. The NFL stadium environment tends to mimic that of an amped-up saloon. Think Red Bull meets vodka meets testosterone meets excitement. That caustic combination of lubrication and emotion leads to an atmosphere of intensity, to say the least.
To not expect this going in is truly naive. For all their intellectual shortcomings (and believe me, many people will have you believe that all NFL fans are intellectually stunted), I wouldn’t expect any true-blue Seahawks fan to hastily ejaculate this much naivety and, in turn, expect other Seahawks fans to see eye-to-eye with the assessment. If you’re a Seahawks fan, if you’re an NFL fan, if you’re a sports fan in general, you know what you’re getting yourself into when you attend a pro football game. And in the immortal words of one Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious B.I.G., if you don’t know, now you know.
Sarah’s naivety is only Step One in her failure to get past her own unfortunate ignorance. Step Two is this: if you walk into that exact lubricated, emotional environment we just depicted hand-in-hand with the enemy, you are asking for trouble. You just are. I know. It doesn’t seem right. It hardly seems fair. We’re all people here, are we not? I hear you. I hear the argument. I hear your cries for humanity. But I’m sorry. For as much as I understand that we are all equal, for as much as I get that we are all unique creatures living as one on this beautiful planet, I cannot agree with you in this instance. Allow me to explain.
When it comes to sports, the opposition might as well be the Confederacy to our Union. This is basically war. We do not like the opposition. At the very least, we are slightly embittered by our rivals. In some cases, however, we hate the opposition. In the cases of the two rival teams cited in Sarah’s article — the San Francisco 49ers and the Oregon Ducks — there is unbridled disdain on the part of Seattle sports fans for each of those logos. Again, to not understand this is incredibly naive. We do not like the Oregon Ducks. We do not like the San Francisco 49ers. That’s just how it is, Sarah. And I’ll tell you what. I know some awesome people who happen to be 49er fans. I also know some awesome people (though not nearly as many) who happen to be Duck fans. Those awesome people are not stupid enough to walk into CenturyLink Field wearing the colors of either of those teams without expecting some level of vitriol from the Seattle faithful. Anyone wearing those colors in a Seattle sports venue knows they are likely going to piss somebody else off. Yeah, it sucks. But it comes with the territory. I wouldn’t let my friends wear those logos to a Seahawks game because I care about my friends’ safety. That’s how much I understand these rivalries and know what to expect when I walk into a hostile environment. Knowledge is power, Sarah. Get some.
Naivety and ignorance will lend themselves to unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations will lend themselves to unfortunate experiences. Unfortunate experiences will lend themselves to anger and disappointment, which in turn will lead to emotional reactions. As someone who specializes in emotional reactions (scroll through these pages if you haven’t been here before; you’ll see what I mean), I get what Sarah Brown was attempting to intimate when she wrote her piece for the Times. The problem is, what she ended up vomiting into the newspaper and onto the internet is exactly the type of prejudiced beliefs that tend to be borne out of emotional reaction.
Beyond everything else, Sarah’s greatest mistake is that she up and decided to decry ALL Seahawks fans for the behavior of a few. In doing so, she also took it upon herself to anoint the Brown clan as the holy representation of what good sports fans look like. But the thing is, she couldn’t be farther from a sports fan. Sarah Brown is nothing more than a person upset over a bad day. As a result of that crappy day, she opted to become society’s hall monitor. And nobody likes a hall monitor. The halls were meant for running, anarchy, and free reign. Don’t you get it, Sarah? Don’t you understand?!
Here’s the thing, Sarah. Let’s say you enjoy a good, old-fashioned male strip club. I don’t know if you really do or not, but you might. Lots of women do. So for the sake of argument, we’ll say you do, too. You enjoy walking into that room with its dark walls and elevated stage. You enjoy the attention from shirtless waiters as they bring you beverages and flash you fabricated, million-dollar smiles. And most of all, you enjoy watching a well-coiffed, chiseled gentleman methodically remove his clothing in perfect accord with each thump of the beat in Ginuwine’s Pony. You get a kick out of all that. It might not be the most well-thought-of way to pass the hours during an evening out with the ladies, but it’s fun. You like fun. Heck, you love fun. And this is your definition of fun. Whether anyone else agrees with you or not. This is effing fun and nobody can tell you otherwise.
But then Joe Buzzkill walks in. Joe Buzzkill doesn’t like male strip clubs. It’s not his thing. He prefers a nice woman and a good book. But lo and behold, here he is at Chippendale’s tonight. And he’s not happy. So far, his night has not gone as planned. Nothing has worked out in his favor and he’s stewing upon every slight like a crock-pot full of chili. When he gets home, he decides, he’s going to let out all that anger in one sorely written piece of literary acrimony. All those women in attendance that night? Whores, he states. All those entertainers on stage? Heathens, he determines. What Joe Buzzkill decides to do is walk smack dab into the middle of your definition of fun and shit all over it with his ignorance, his anger, and his bad experience. And that, Sarah, is what you’ve done to Seahawks fans because of one unfortunate day.
You see, we’re not going to walk into your home and tell you it’s a little stuffy in there. We’re not going to do that. But that’s what you’ve done to us, Sarah. That’s what you’ve done to Seahawks fans.
Every fan base has its assholes. On behalf of my fellow fanatics, I’m sorry you encountered a few of those jerks. We’re not all like that, but you don’t seem to care.
Every fan will have bad days. Every fan will have good days. But you’ve generalized how those days should always be, Sarah. You’ve tried to turn us into you. Or at least that’s what you’ve expressed. And we don’t want to be you. I respect your opinion, but I don’t respect the way you’ve gone about expressing it. Your day sucked because for all your insistence over what a fan should be and how a fan should act, you truly had no idea what the fan experience was like. It was your ignorance that cost you a chance at a good day — combined with a few assholes and likely some alcohol, I’ll concede that. But the rest of us are fans, too. And somehow, we’ve managed to avoid the shit days like the one you went through. The difference? Knowledge, understanding, and realistic expectations.
Go home, Sarah. And stay there. We don’t want you with us. We don’t want your support. We don’t want your indignation over our behavior. We don’t want you to tell us how we need to behave. You’re not America’s mom, Sarah. You’re not our June Cleaver.
You said it yourself in the close of your article: “Being a fan means that you are an extension of the team, and in a sense, a representative of the team you support.” I couldn’t agree with you more. This team and this fan base needs fewer people like you.
Filed under: Seahawks