Sports

Kitsap's contingent

Bremerton land owner Rob Larsen (No. 1) and 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson exchange words and point fingers on Dec. 11. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Bremerton land owner Rob Larsen (No. 1) and 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson exchange words and point fingers on Dec. 11.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

SEATTLE — They cross the waters once a week with one common purpose in mind. With deep determination and unrivaled focus, Seattle Seahawks fans are at the forefront of a 12th man revival, lending a direct hand in several Seattle victories.

Just how important has the 12th man been to the Seattle Seahawks this year?

“The 12th man is really big,” Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant said. “It gives us an advantage in getting all those penalties. It definitely gets us fired up.”

“It’s great,” Hawks defensive end Grant Winstrom added. “When we’re playing an offense like (Indianapolis), we need all the noise we can get, especially when we hit the playoffs.”

“It’s a huge advantage for us,” Seattle’s Pro Bowl fullback Mack Strong said, following Christmas Eve’s win over Indianapolis. “We just appreciate the fans making a lot of noise. And (the fans) deserve it. They’ve supported us through a lot of tough years.”

Many of those fans, remaining faithful through 22 years without a playoff victory (not to mention just five total playoff appearances since the 1984 season), come from far and wide each week to catch a glimpse of a hopeful Seahawks victory.

If 2005 is the year of the 12th man in the NFL, then this is Kitsap’s contingent.

“Just being able to get in the enemy’s head,” longtime Seahawks fan Rob Larsen, a Bremerton landowner, said. “It’s true, it works. We get in their heads big time.”

Larsen, 47, made it a point to get season tickets right along side the visitor’s tunnel at the north end of Qwest Field. Arguably the biggest road-team taunter in Qwest Field on any given Sunday, Larsen and his crew are ready and equipped with multiple sheets of poster board, several markers and an unlimited supply of witty trash-talk etiquette (don’t worry kids, they make sure to keep it clean).

For example, as the Seahawks battled the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 11, a 41-3 drubbing by the Hawks, Larsen and Co. got started even before the game did.

“Keep your chins up!” Larsen yelled as the 49ers made their way from the field to the locker room following pregame warm-ups. “It’s not over yet!”

Larsen has no problem finding individuals to heckle either. In the same contest, Larsen targeted Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson.

“You ain’t got nothing!” Larsen yelled, finger pointed. “You ain’t nobody!”

With finger pointed back and a smile on his face, Peterson barked back.

“You ain’t got no ring,” Peterson responded.

“You ain’t got one either!” Larsen yelled.

Not to be deterred, Larsen and his crew put pen to paper.

“It’s not your fault you have no players,” read one poster.

As the game goes on, the signs change.

“Start over — Fire your whole team!” exclaimed another.

The effort of Larsen, and other Seattle followers, has not gone unnoticed.

“The main man, Paul Allen, always comes through at the end of the games and thanks us for what we’re doing,” Larsen said. “We’re pounding the living begeezus out of these teams. When we get acknowledged by the boss, you know you’re doing something right.”

Bremerton is not the only part of Kitsap represented at games.

Arguably the most connected Kitsap Hawks fan resides on Bainbridge.

Ed Viesturs, a world-renowned mountaineer and the first American to climb all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, has several ties to this year’s Seahawks. In addition to being honored as a 12th man at one of the games, Viesturs also gave an inspirational speech to the team at training camp. Most recently, he scaled the Space Needle Jan. 10 to raise the official 12th man flag.

“There’s a lot of parallels as well,” Viesturs said of his speech to the Seattle squad. “You have to be very together as a team. They have a lot of steps to get through a season to get to the Super Bowl. When I climb a mountain, there’s lots of steps you take as well.”

Viesturs said like most fans, he’s just happy to have a hand in a special season.

“To have a small part in getting them wound up, it was just exciting,” he said. “It was pretty fun, pretty cool. The fans reacting and yelling when you raise the flag. It’s pretty exciting.”

Ollala resident Randy Romo, who holds season tickets along the north end zone, attended the San Francisco game with his 12-year-old son Tanner. Romo’s tickets have been in his family since 1976, when his uncle bought the seats for the Seahawks inaugural season. Romo said his family has been upgrading them ever since, ending up where they are now.

Tanner had been an honorary 12th man against the New York Giants on Nov. 27, a game that has defined the role of the 12th man in the NFL this season.

With 67,000 screaming fans, it can be hard to make an audible on the line, as evidenced by the Giants’ 11 false start penalties in the 24-21 Seattle overtime win. It can also be hard to kick. Just ask Jay Feely, the Giants’ kicker who missed three game-winning field goal attempts in the contest.

“It’s a big honor to be associated with the 12th man,” Romo said. “Since they created it, it’s added that much more incentive for people to be louder than ever. When they talk about Seattle being one of the loudest, it’s encouraging.”

Romo said it gives the fans an extra opportunity to become a part of the plays on the field.

“It takes the offense out of the game and creates penalties,” Romo said, adding that Hawks fans, while loud, are smart. “On the other hand, the 12th man is smart enough to know when to be quiet.”

Tanner Romo said he loves the atmosphere, adding his experience as a 12th man is something any 12-year-old would love take part in.

“Just how loud it gets; how crazy it gets,” Tanner Romo said. “It just feels great.”

Speaking of Seahawks crazies, Poulsbo’s Lance Klopp (37) and Randy Beck (20), would certainly fall into that category in some people’s views, given their appearance at the San Francisco game.

Despite the temperature barely reaching 40-degrees Fahrenheit, Klopp and Beck donned shirtless, painted chests. Beck opted to paint the number eight on his chest, in honor of Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Klopp however chose the number 12, directly related to the impact of the 12th man this season. Both painted their faces in Seahawks green, blue and white and donned fake Afro wigs as well.

Klopp said he too appreciates the recognition the Seahawks organization has given fans this season.

“I just thought it was really cool, (Seahawks coach Mike) Holmgren and everyone recognizing the fans,” he said. “It just makes it that much more exciting. You can have an impact on the game.”

“It’s true,” Beck added. “People act excited when they’re looked at as a key component of the game. You get crazy. You get loud. It’s what makes the whole city come together.”

Illahee’s Jim Trainer, one of many Seattle fans from the county to commute via ferry to the games, said the ferry service makes getting to and from Hawks games unlike any other NFL city.

“There’s nothing like it,” Trainer said. “The atmosphere on the ferry is completely different than the daily commuter runs. You don’t want to be wearing the opposing team on your shirt, that’s for sure.”

Trainer, who formerly lived on the east coast, said attending Philadelphia Eagles games have nothing on the Seahawks.

“It’s great,” he said. “I went to Philly games back east and there’s no comparison. The noise level is just unbelievable. And I don’t think Seahawks fans would ever boo Santa like Philly did.”

The Sports Fans of America Association officially recognized the Seahawks as the NFL’s “Fan Friendliest Franchise,” also on Dec. 11 against San Francisco. The Hawks beat out Carolina, Pittsburgh and Atlanta for the honor, which was based on fan cost index, fan attendance, survey ratings, fan polling and team performance.

And with the Seahawks set to do battle today with the Washington Redskins, you can bet Kitsap fans will be along for the ride. After all, if you ask either the team or the fans, they helped earn it.

“It just makes you scream a whole lot louder,” Klopp said.

“My big payoff now is winning the opportunity to play in the NFC title game here,” Larsen said, pausing to yell at another 49er.

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