Living in the suburbs of Seattle, it is impossible to escape the unbridled enthusiasm and excitement about a team called the Seahawks. Even for people who are only vaguely aware of Sports, the Holiday season has somehow evolved into Seahawks season. Red has been displaced as acceptable holiday clothing is now Blue and Green; 12th-Man banners can be seen in yards, hung along with blue and green Christmas lights and above manger scenes; Seahawk stickers and bling are everywhere, on everything. (There's a Dr. Seuss poem here somewhere, but that's for a different day.)
I am not complaining. The closest I have come to actually seeing a game was when I watched this guy with braids flying straight out from under his helmet running and jumping over and around and through people at what seemed to be impossible speed and force (someone said his name is Marshawn Lynch) while out shopping last year. It stopped me in my tracks and stayed in my mind afterwards, and I carried away with me a small seed of understanding of the excitement about supporting this team. That Guy. Our Team. Yes. Then my un-sports-connected life continued.
But the concept of the 12th Man permeates beyond the usual fans around here. As I prepare to teach College 101: Student Success to new students at our technical college Winter quarter, I am considering starting with talking about the student as a member of a team, and the 12th Man. A cursory look at the enrollment list has shown me that most of the students are multi-lingual learners with a variety of ethnic backgrounds who may know even less about football, not to mention 12th Man, than me.* As a cultural introduction to the Sea of Seahawkness around our community, I plan to start with having them think about who they will be depending on for their own success. First their own team: Our class. And beyond - will they be able to count on their families for time to study? Can their kids help quiz them with flashcards? Can they form study groups to work on readings? Do they know where and how to visit a counselor or get financial aid? I want them to pro-actively and consciously think about forming a team, being part of a team, and in doing so, achieving more than ever.
I want to discuss some concepts - like winning. And yes, losing. What kinds of strategies are important? And how does one move forward from those unfortunate moments of losing? And how does helping others play into winning? As connected learners with the internet at our fingertips, we can all win by sharing. Wikipedia-like attitudes of knowledge-sharing and skillful use of google tools and more will take us much farther in school. work, home and inner life than anything else. We are no longer alone, and need to be aware of that team out there. And become players ourselves.
Who will be their 12 Man? Me. I will be cheering them on and making sure they hear it. I want them to succeed no matter what. Everyone needs a 12th man. Who is yours?
*I am sure others out there will correct whatever mis-informaiton I may accidently pass along regarding football and how this all works.