Community: My Perspective on Seattle’s “12’s”
I must say that it was pretty cool to live
The Seattle Seahawks have had a great following on loyal fans for decades, but it was really quite something to witness what has happened over the last year and a half. Pretty much right at middle of last (2013-2014) season, once things started picking up steam in the community and it seemed more and more that the team was continuing to do well and a playoff berth was likely and then guaranteed. Of course the regular fans were already BIRGing (basking in reflected glory) and couldn’t stop talking about the team, but as things started getting more exciting at the end of the season, non-fans started getting on the bus too! By the time the Seahawks beat the New Orleans Saints on January, 11th, 2014 I’d say the excitement was red-hot. Then when they beat the San Francisco 49ers, arguably their biggest rival, on January 19th, 2014 the excitement quickly shot through the roof to white-hot and the most incredible feeling anyone in this area has ever had, or at least as far as community/sports feelings go
The feeling of excitement around town and throughout the region was incredible. People were wearing their jerseys and hats non-stop, not just on “Blue Friday” or over the weekend – but literally every single day of the week. The team was selling more and more hats and scarves, stickers, car flags, large flags, and every other possible piece of merch you can think of – it was Seahawks swag everywhere! The fans of the Seattle Seahawks literally painted the state of Washington Blue. Even down into Oregon and over to Idaho you’d see the “12’s” jerseys walking around everywhere. It was really fun to see.
Then of course after the Super Bowl victory, the real party began – WE’RE SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS!!! The next three days were a fog for most people until the day of the celebration parade in the middle of the week following. The parade was supposed to start around 1230pm or 1pm and you’d figure there’d be quite a few people there and a little bit of media coverage, but literally the party started the night before. Police probably started shutting down streets downtown around midnight and people were literally camping on the sidewalks along the parade route. The weather that night was clear but terribly cold – one of the coldest nights/days we had all winter last year – but that didn’t stop these avid fans from claiming their real estate on Seattle’s sidewalks.
If that wasn’t enough, or maybe as a result of all the excitement, local news coverage began a constant stream around 9am and didn’t end until probably 5pm with the evening news. All of the regular scheduled programming that day was cancelled so that each station could cover the story of Seattle’s Super Bowl Parade. By the end of the parade, there are said to have been around 1 million people in the streets and stadiums of Seattle that day. Oh, and by the way, the population of Seattle is only about 700,000 people…so that just goes to show the strong following and sense of community the Seahawks have built in this region.
This past season was very much the same. The disappointment of the Seahawks loss to the New England Patriots was as painful to most fans as last year’s victory was exciting. There are only a few games I’ve ever witnessed and felt such a sinking feeling as I did on Super Bowl Sunday this year. Even still, that feeling doesn’t take away from the excitement leading up to this year’s game and the sense of pride in our community that was tangible. There were still the car flags, the stickers, the flags outside of homes, the lights in the skyscrapers in the shape of “12” – really cool by the way – and all kinds of people wearing the Blue and Green. Overall, the sense of togetherness and bonding was incredible.
But how does one accomplish such a sense of community? Well, look at what the Seahawks have done and continue to do – they gave their fans a name (the 12’s), they told them what to do (create the loudest stadium in sports, which on a few occasions registered on the Richter scale as if it were an earthquake), and they tell them how much they appreciate them being fans on a regular occasion (as evidenced by the email I got at the top). It’s really that simple. Give you fans a name, tell them what to do (How to be a Fan 101) and tell them that you appreciate them. I know it sounds simple, but that’s really all it takes. Sure, there’s alot of work built into those, but it’s still simple. It’s not complex. You can get a whole lot more complicated from there, but that’s really the basic formula. Give them what they want and encourage them along the way to get them to do what it is that you want them to do, then thank them for consuming your product and being there. Every person inside your organization ought to follow the same instructions and know what it is that your organization stands for and why. Regardless of what happens on a field, it’s personal interactions that people are going to remember no matter what your athletes do. Treat people with respect. Tell them you appreciate them.