Win forever. That’s the mantra of Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
And it’s the lifeblood of the 12th Man, the blue-and-green-clad fanatics known for their ear-splitting screams.
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They will continue to consume the month of January – and visiting NFL teams – as long as the Seahawks go 1-0 in their championship opportunity, as they say, against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC divisional playoff game Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
Despite their collective identity, fervent fans practice individual rituals and traditions during and leading up to games – or all the time, in some cases – that range from painting themselves and their vehicles to wearing dirty lucky jerseys.
The News Tribune caught up with several diverse superfans who all agreed on one thing: The Seahawks season will end Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Keith Gustin doesn’t need to say he’s a huge Seahawks fan.
His “12th Man Tundra” and rooster costume do the talking – or screaming – for him.
The Puyallup resident bought his Toyota pickup in October 2012. It was a model designed for promotional use at the stadium in 2011. The white truck has a giant 12th Man flag painted on the side and leather interior adorned with Seahawks logos.
Gustin drives the truck to games dressed head to toe as a rooster, a costume he started wearing regularly in 2006. It was inspired by another longtime fan who has called himself “The Rooster” since the mid-1980s.
“I just took it to the next level,” Gustin said.
He said he also got tired of listening to people call the Seahawks the Seachickens.
“We rule this roost,” Gustin insisted.
A lifelong fan, he’s missed only one game – former head coach Mike Holmgren’s last, during a snowstorm in 2008 – since snagging season tickets about 12 years ago.
He usually travels to at least two road games a year. This season he only made it to Arizona, so he could save money for the Super Bowl. And yes, he already booked his airfare and hotel.
“Even if (the Seahawks) don’t make it, we are still going to New York to have fun,” he said.
But Gustin anticipates it won’t be just any trip to New York. He’ll be there to see the Hawks fight for their first Super Bowl title.
THE SUPERSTITIOUS WIDOW
Margaret Grieve-Fent reluctantly admits she isn’t a huge football fan.
But, she says, her husband wasn’t either. Patt Fent was a Seahawks fan. Period.
“It was the only team he ever watched,” the Puyallup resident said of her late husband, who died in December 2012 after battling lung cancer. “It was the only team he ever cared about.”
After the Seahawks dominated the regular season with 13 wins and clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, Grieve-Fent decided to place a 12th Man flag on her husband’s headstone at Woodbine Cemetery in Puyallup. She knew it is what he would want.
“I’m a little bit superstitious, and thought that maybe having that 12th Man flag up at the cemetery would be a good vibe,” she said.
Grieve-Fent said her husband embodied the 12th Man since the days of Steve Largent, a Hall of Fame wide receiver who played in the team’s first seasons until 1989.
Patt Fent stuck by the Seahawks, win or lose, and each season kept up on all the scenarios that could land them in the playoffs. He had no interest in watching the Super Bowl unless his team was playing – something they did just once, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006. He stuck with his team until the bitter end, watching his final game just days before his death.
Grieve-Fent couldn’t ignore the Seahawks this season, and has no doubt her husband would expect them to go the distance.
“Sometimes I get too nervous and have to turn the game off and turn it back on again,” she said. “He wouldn’t have been nervous.”
She doesn’t know whether the flag on her husband’s headstone will help carry the Hawks to the Super Bowl.
But “I don’t want to take the chance that it won’t,” she said.
THE FAN WITH NO OFFSEASON
The NFL season lasts about six months, but for Justin Pelesasa, Seahawks season lasts 365 days a year.
“Even when it’s not the season, it’s the season,” the Tacoma resident said.
How does Pelesasa show his 12th Man spirit year-round?
“How don’t I?” he asked with a chuckle, adding he was one of hundreds who attended the draft party at the stadium when now-second-year quarterback Russell Wilson and others were added to the roster.
Pelesasa, a transplant from the San Francisco Bay Area, remembers going to games as a kid with his grandfather. He has fond memories of sitting near the rafters of the Kingdome and doing the wave.
He’s been a Seahawks addict ever since.
Pelesasa has been a season ticket holder since CenturyLink Field, formerly known as Qwest Field, opened in 2002.
Before games, he sticks to a regiment of “wacky” rituals.
“I try to keep my mornings the same, at least when we are winning,” Pelesasa said, adding he’ll switch it up otherwise.
He gets to the stadium at 9 a.m., wearing a Marshawn Lynch jersey he said will remain unwashed until “we win it all.”
He traces the same steps through the alley on the west side of the stadium and makes his regular rounds of several tailgate parties before walking up and down the same stairs that lead directly to his seats above the visitor’s tunnel.
Pelesasa and his buddies get creative with tailgate foods, aimed at “sacrificing” the opponent of the day – ribs or lamb for the Rams, soul food for Atlanta and so on.
Rituals aside, Pelesasa said he knows when the season will end – February.
Then he can finally wash that jersey.
THE PASTOR, THE TRAVELER AND EVERYONE ELSE
There’s no mold for the 12th Man, but all fans seem to have one thing in common — their spirit is loud and proud:
The Rev. Larry Bailey of St. Nicholas Catholic School in Gig Harbor brought his 12th Man spirit to mass Friday in the form of blue and green hair. He promised the students he’d dye his hair if the Hawks won 12 games, and was reminded of the promise after each of the team’s 13 wins.
Bailey, a retired Air Force chaplain who followed the team everywhere he went, said what sets the 12th Man apart from other NFL fans is the noise, the creativity “and, of course, the hair.”
Carlos Heredia’s Seahawks spirit doesn’t sit idle.
He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and went to his first home game in 1982 while studying English at universities in Seattle. Soon after he started traveling all over to watch the team play.
This season Heredia traveled more than 20,000 miles, 12th Man flag in hand, for the games.
He flew to Seattle on Friday to attend Saturday’s match-up, and said he will “follow the team until the end.”
The Norton family in Eatonville also shows their spirit on the road, sporting “XIITHMN” on their license plate for the past decade. Adam Norton said his family’s names – including wife, Tracey, and kids Hunter, Baley and Cannen – are “screaming” at visitors on a framed “12” poster that hangs in the 12th Man Suite at CenturyLink.
Season tickets have been handed down in the family “since Day 1 of their existence,” he said, and “on Seahawk Sunday there was nothing else going on in the world but the game.”
Jacob Lucas expressed his spirit with a chain saw, carving a massive, tribal-inspired 12th Man sculpture.
The Bonney Lake artist worked 12 hours a day for about a month to perfect the “12th Man American Dancer,” which he hopes to sell to the stadium.
He said the 12th Man is special because fans stick by the team no matter what.
Lucas, another fan since the birth of the Seahawks franchise, declared what every 12th Man lives by leading up to today’s game and – inevitably, in their minds – the Super Bowl.
“We’re loud, we’re proud,” he said. “And we believe.”