Sports

Seahawks count on Kitsap fans

Bainbridge Island resident and noted mountaineer Ed Viesturs gets the crowd pumped up after raising the “12th man” flag at Qwest Field, before the Seahawks’ Oct. 16 contest against the Houston Texans.  - JESSE BEALS/Staff Photo
Bainbridge Island resident and noted mountaineer Ed Viesturs gets the crowd pumped up after raising the “12th man” flag at Qwest Field, before the Seahawks’ Oct. 16 contest against the Houston Texans.
— image credit: JESSE BEALS/Staff Photo

Bainbridge’s Ed Viesturs is one key to the ‘12th man revival’ and Seahawks wins.

Kitsap County’s Seahawks fans are at the forefront of a “12th man” revival, lending a direct hand in several Seattle victories.

As the Seahawks play the Carolina Panthers this weekend for the right to play in the Super Bowl, just how important have the fans been 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 a huge advantage for us,” fullback Mack Strong said, following a Christmas Eve win over Indianapolis. “We just appreciate the fans making a lot of noise.

“And they deserve it. They’ve supported us though a lot of tough years.”

Many of those fans – the noisy “12th man” supplementing the 11 Seahawks on the playing field – remained faithful through 22 years without a Seattle playoff victory, and they come from Kitsap County each week.

Arguably, the most connected among them resides on Bainbridge.

Islander Ed Viesturs, a world-renowned mountaineer and the first American to scale all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks, has several ties to this year’s team.

In addition to being honored as the official 12th man at the Houston Texans game on Oct. 16, Viesturs gave an inspirational speech to the team at training camp. On Jan. 10, he scaled the Space Needle to raise the official 12th man flag.

“There’s a lot of parallels (to mountaineering),” Viesturs said of his speech to the Seahawks 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 [I] take as well.”

Viesturs said that 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.”

Illahee’s Jim Trainer said the ferry service makes getting to and from Hawks games unlike any other NFL city.

“There’s nothing like it,” he 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.”

Sports Fans of America recently recognized the Seahawks as the NFL’s “Fan Friendliest Franchise.” The Hawks beat out Carolina, Pittsburgh and Atlanta for the honor, which was based on a fan cost index, attendance, surveys, fan polling and team performance.

Ollala resident Randy Romo, who holds season tickets in the north end zone, attended the San Francisco 49ers game Dec. 11 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.

Tanner was the honorary 12th man against the New York Giants on Nov. 27, a game that has defined the role of the Seahawks’ fans this season.

Thanks, in part, to noise from the stands, the Giants committed 11 false start penalties in the 24-21 Seattle overtime win and Jay Feely missed three game-winning field goal attempts in the contest, including two in overtime.

“It’s a big honor to be associated with the 12th man,” Romo said. “Since they created it, it 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,” he said, adding that Hawks fans, while loud, are game savvy. “On the other hand, the 12th man is smart enough to know when to be quiet.”

Tanner Romo said he loves the atmosphere, saying it’s something any 12-year-old would love to have the opportunity to take part in.

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

The fans’ spirit has not gone unnoticed.

“The main man, (Seahawks owner) Paul Allen, always comes through at the end of the games and thanks us for what we’re doing,” said Bremerton’s Rob Larsen, who has tickets next to the visitors’ tunnel at the north end of Qwest Field.

“We’re pounding the living begeezus out of these teams,” he said. “When we get acknowledged by the boss, you know you’re doing something right.”

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