With Seahawks Training Camp kicking off Friday, it's time for our annual look at one of a Twelve's most momentous decisions: Which jersey should I buy? In what manner shall I announce to the world, "I'm the best fan in the game! Don't you ever talk about me!"?
Wearing a Seahawks jersey has never been a "cooler" thing to do. A full 25% of the 20 best-selling NFL jerseys are Seattle models (including, stunningly, #12!), so it's also more challenging than ever to make a bold personal statement with this choice. I'm here to help. I will steer you away from purchases you might regret a few mere months from now, and put you in a position where people might actually say "Woah! Cool jersey!" as you stride about town as a proud Soldier of Twelve.
As usual, let's start with the 1st Commandment of Seahawks jersey ownership: NEVER PUT YOUR JERSEY IN THE DRYER! Dryers kill jerseys! Don't do it under any circumstances. If you abide by this decree your jersey(s) should hold up for a nice, long spell. If possible, wash them on the delicate cycle in cold water by themselves.
For the purposes of this article, I'm setting aside throwbacks, personalized jerseys and #12 jerseys (though I've changed my tune on the #12's over the years. I used to be dead-set against them, but given how precarious roster spots are under PCJS's rule, I can't blame a fan for playing it safe with such a substantial investment). I also feel strongly that there's no compelling reason to opt for the more opulent Nike models. The $100 replicas are plenty expensive enough, and will look sharp for years with proper care. If you are lucky enough to fit into a "youth" size, those are only about $70 (and I found out that Youth XL = Women's L, and that saved me $30). One bit of great news for fans is that NFL Shop has a wider selection of jersey options than I've seen anywhere else.
Right now I own a blue #12 jersey and a wolf grey Wilson model. Many of you may be looking for another jersey to add to your collection, and I'm hoping to snag a new one when I visit Seattle for Kickoff Weekend. Here's my advice on what jerseys to avoid at all costs, which jerseys are the "safest" bets, and finally which ones will make you stand out (even in a flock of 12s at Seahawks Stadium).
DO NOT BUY: Cliff Avril, Jermaine Kearse, Malcolm Smith, KJ Wright, Byron Maxwell, and Marshawn Lynch. The first five guys will be free agents after the 2014 season, and it's hard to see how Beast Mode will be in the Seahawks lineup in September 2015, given his age and contract demands. Sadly, the greatest running back in franchise history seems destined to become a salary cap casualty after this season. Lynch has the #11 best selling jersey in America so far this off-season. In a year, a LOT of those people might feel like they didn't get full value for the #24 jersey they plunked down a C-note for.
THE BLUE CHIPS: Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas III, Kam Chancellor.
These are the "safe" investments. Arguably, these are the four best players on the roster, and they are all either locked into contracts until 2018/2019 (The boys in the Legion of Boom) or are GUARANTEED to get a gigantic new deal next season (Wilson). I own a Wilson jersey, and I love it. However, EVERYONE has a Wilson jersey. It's the #2 selling NFL jersey. Sherm is at #5, and ETIII is #20. You can't go wrong with ANY of these. I can't decide if I want a Sherman, a Thomas, or a Chancellor. Unfortunately, you won't stand out wearing any of them. So what are the best choices for someone who wants to stand a bit apart from the crowd, but also wants to rep a great player who will be around for a few years? Here's 12 jerseys for 12s to consider...
12. Paul Richardson (#10) Seattle's 2nd round pick is a potentially game-breaking talent at WR. His 4.33 40-yard time at the Combine turned a lot of heads, and even if he doesn't break out as a receiver in 2014, he could still compile a substantial highlight reel if he nails down the starting punt returner position in training camp. Still, he's a rookie, and buying a player's jersey before he take an NFL snap seems delusionally optimistic to me.
11. Russell Okung (#76) 10. Max Unger (#60) I've always loved the idea of buying/wearing a lineman's jersey, but Okung has had trouble staying healthy, and thanks to his hefty cap number, another injury-marred season could get him cut next offseason. If you want a offensive lineman's jersey, Unger is a better choice, if only because of this glorious beard.
9. Brandon Mebane (#92) 8. Zach Miller (#86) Mebane and Miller are both key contributors. but given that they are both pushing 30 and are free agents after the 2015 season, neither seems like a jersey buy that is striking enough to justify the risk involved.
7. Bruce Irvin (#51) 6. Jeremy Lane (#20) Like Mebane and Miller, both these players have contracts that expire after the 2015 season. Why are they ranked higher? Lane and Irvin are younger and cheaper, which makes them more likely to stick around. Lane has the added cache of "Legion-of-Boom-ness," which nudges him above Irvin in my eyes.
6. Steven Hauschka (#4) Hauschka has become one of the NFL's most accurate kickers, and will be in blue, bright green and wolf grey through the 2016 season. But who am I kidding? None of you are going to buy a kicker's jersey. Not after what we went through with The Traitor Josh Brown. Sigh.
5. Christine Michael (#33) The widespread feeling is that Michael is being groomed to become Marshawn Lynch's replacement, and he's under contract through the 2016 campaign. Yes, I know I scoffed at the idea of buying an unproven player's jersey earlier in this article.. But I'm intoxicated by the idea that he might be Shaun Alexander to Ricky Watters (circa 2001), and I also frivolously think I'd look good in a #33 jersey.
4. Percy Harvin (#11) Harvin is a Super Bowl hero, a stupendous talent, and is under contract through 2018. The ONLY reason he's not #1 on this list is that I simply don't trust him to stay consistently healthy.
3. Michael Bennett (#72) 2. Bobby Wagner (#54) Bennett and Wagner might be the two best Seattle defenders outside of the LOB. Bennett just signed a long term deal through 2017, but is four years older than Wagner, who appears to be on a "Career Seahawk" trajectory. They'd both be shrewd, thoughtful choices for the discerning jersey shopper, but who edges them out for the #1 spot on my list?
1. Doug Baldwin (#89) The former UDFA has become the most reliable 3rd-down receiver Seattle has seen since the days of Steve Largent. He's also now locked down with a long-term deal through the 2016 season. My gut feeling is that Angry Doug will take a HUGE step forward with his move to split end this season. The length of his contract, his relative obscurity outside of the cadre of hard-core Twelves, and his comprehensive awesomeness puts him at the top of my list this season.
What do you think, sirs? Did I miss anything obvious? Let me know!
For many people, it's a simple matter of geography and proximity. For others, it might be because a certain season or player that captured their attention and refused to let go. For some, it's because of an emotional connection forged in childhood. In my case, it was a potent cocktail of all three. I've written about my origin myth as a Twelve before... If you don't feel like clicking over to those links, here's a key passage (updated a bit since it was originally written):
For many of us, this thing goes back a long way. Maybe it goes all the way back to when your Dad put you in Seahawks onesie? Maybe your Uncle took you to a game when you were six? Maybe your Mom let you decorate the living room in Seahawks finery and watched the games with you, just so you'd have it in common? Once that ball started skipping down the field like an onside kick, maybe other things in your life stuck to it. Great memories and painful ones too, and you could relate them either directly or indirectly to the Seahawks. For me, I vividly remember watching Steve Largent break the "consecutive games with a catch" record in a hospital room, visiting my sister after my nephew's birth back in '86. Thankfully, everyone else in the room wanted that game on nearly as much as I did. The Seahawks weren't a DISTRACTION to the blessed event; They enhanced it. So first loves, heartbreaks, and dates with your sweetie also get all tangled up in blue and green. The Seahawks winning the Super Bowl is even more satisfying because the person you love witnessed it with you. You might not talk to your father for nearly a decade, but if he called you tomorrow you could probably talk about the Hawks. I don't have a relationship with my Dad anymore, but most of the good memories I have of spending time with him growing up are linked to the Seahawks. I have great relationships with my Mom, my Stepdad, and much-younger brother, and a great big hunk of that connective tissue is bright Seahawks green. So it's not just a game or merely a hobby. It's twisted up with everything else that matters like strands of DNA.
I'm utterly obsessed with the Seattle Seahawks for a lot of complicated reasons. They're the one thing I can always talk to my relatives about when I go home to visit. They've been a comforting constant in my life as everything else was torn down and rebuilt over and and over again. When the Hawks finally hoisted the Lombardi Trophy barely a month after I finally started living my life authentically, it felt like they waited to win it all until I could celebrate that ultimate victory as a content, hopeful woman, rather than a sad, forlorn "guy."
There's one lone area of my life where I haven't yet been able to live authentically yet, and it's with my kids. My son is 8 and my daughter is 4, and while they've undoubtedly noticed a lot of changes in me, I'm not yet officially "out" to them. That will change this upcoming week, and I'm terrified and excited and nervous and anxious to lay down this burden. Everything that I've read about others' experiences coming out to children at those ages, as well as my own gut feelings, suggests that after a period of adjustment everything will probably be fine. That rational knowledge doesn't make this any easier, though. While I'm a bit concerned about my daughter's reaction, I'm more worried about how my son will take it. He's at the age where gender distinctions are getting more rigid in his mind. I've noticed that he occasionally says things along the lines of "Boys rule! Girls drool!" I check him on that whenever he does it around me, but it makes me fret that he may take my transition as some sort of personal betrayal of "Team Boy" or something.
The GREAT news is that he and I have a lot in common. We both love Cosmos, MythBusters, Mario Kart, Pixar movies, and They Might Be Giants, among other things (my next personal mission is to get him hooked on "Weird Al" Yankovic). My Dad and I had no real emotional connection- It's not that way with my son and I. He knows that I love him, and that's a good start.
My experience in becoming a Twelve has instructed how I've presented my Seahawks fandom to my children. Yeah, I've bought them Seahawks gear since birth, and I've taught them about our team's history and culture, but I've never tried (or wanted to) to force-feed them the idea that they HAVE TO become Seahawks fans. My father tried to make me a boxer, a stock-car racing fan, and a fisherman. How did any of that work out? I want my kids to be 12s, but I want them to CHOOSE to don the blue, green and wolf grey.
There was a moment recently that filled my heart with ecstatic joy. My kids were in Orlando with their Mom. My Mom, Dad and brother happened to be there at the same time. They met up, and my Mom sent me a picture of her with my son. He was wearing a Seahawks' "Super Bowl XLVIII Champions" shirt. I didn't buy that for him. Yeah, I bought him a Wilson jersey last year, but that's about it in terms of the Hawks gear I've gotten for him recently. I asked my Mom if she got it for him- She said she didn't. Apparently he pestered his Mom to get it for him! It hit me: He's a Twelve. At 8 years old, the same age I was when the Spirit of 12 entered me, my son is an actual-factual TWELVE! The symmetry is incredibly pleasing to me, and my fervent hope is to get him to a Seahawks game this season (or, if not this year, in 2015 when the Hawks visit Cincinnati).
My even more fervent hope is that just as the Seahawks provided an emotional link between my father and I, they will help (in some small way) as my kids adjust to my transition and the new reality that their Dad's a girl. One BIG thing I want to get across to them when I "come out" later this week is continuity: While some things are changing (particularly how I look), the important things (who I am, how much I love them) are going to remain the same. To express this symbolically idea in some small way, I'm going to wear something familiar to them, that they've seen me wearing all their lives: Seahawks gear.
Hopefully, it will go smoothly this week, and sooner rather than later the three of us will be sitting down to watch the Seahawks together. In my vision of the future, Twelvedom will be just one of myriad things I share with my kids- But it will be a particularly important one.
Why am I a Twelve?
Because Twelving gives me a feeling of connection, community and continuity. Because Twelving will indirectly help me get through this week, like it's helped me survive all the previous tribulations in my life. Because once I share it my adoration of the Seahawks with people I love, it ceases to be "only a game." It becomes the closest thing I'll ever have to a religious faith in my life.
The first 6+ months of 2014 have been the most successful stretch in Seahawks history. The playoff run and victory in Super Bowl XLVIII was followed by an offseason that has seen the franchise achieve nearly all of their short-and-long term goals. Core talents like Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin agreed to cap-friendly new contracts, and new deals for the Ring of Honor/Canton-bound pair of Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman put them on the path to becoming career Seahawks. With those deals done, PCJS should have no trouble locking Russell Wilson into his own gargantuan long-term contract a year from now. The future of the Emerald Empire couldn't possibly be brighter, and this new reality was highlighted by Richard Sherman's victory in the final Madden "Cover Vote."
Winning the cover spot on the latest Madden game is the 21st Century version of getting your face on the Wheaties box. It's a tremendous honor for Sherman himself, and it's another reminder that the Seattle Seahawks are at the top of the NFL food chain. This is what happens to Champions. They get to go to the White House. Their quarterback does Microsoft ads that run during SportsCenter. The Best Corner In The Game gets the Madden cover. Twelves should be breaking out into elaborate Bollywood dance numbers in celebration, right?
Nope. I've talked to numerous Twelves who are filled with dread about Sherman being on the Madden cover, because they believe in the "Madden Curse."
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a spiritual person. I'm an atheist, and superstition annoys me to no end. I try to have a rational, scientific mindset about life. I'm a Scully, not a Mulder. I'm a Mythbuster, not a Ghost Hunter. I rail against climate change deniers, Anti-Vaxxers, and related dumbfuckery, but few things irritate me more than people who believe in the Madden Curse. It's not just because ALL "curses" are bullshit (they are), it's also because people seem to LOVE this particular curse. Adherents to the Madden Curse can take any negative thing that happened to a player on the cover and twist it into evidence to support this bullplop hokum that they seemingly adore more than their own NFL teams. People seem to actively ROOT for this curse.
There's one broad group of "MadCursers" we can summarily dismiss: The Haters. The same impulse that makes some people relentlessly troll athletes on the internet drives them towards the alluring Schadenfreude offered by the Madden Curse. They root for the Curse because they want the popular and successful to fail and tumble down to their degraded level. That Nation of Millions who already hate Richard Sherman will be watching for ANY sign that "the Curse" is having an effect upon #25, and if he so much as allows a completion, some nimrod will start tweeting "See! It's the Madden Curse!" Fuck these people. I would love to make a Mason Verger-esque martini out of their tears.
The more problematic cohort are those who sincerely believe that the Madden Curse is something that has felled NFL players in the past, and is a tangible threat to Richard Sherman's health/performance. Curse disciples point to season-ending injuries suffered by cover athletes like Michael Vick, or to dips in performance like the one suffered by Shaun Alexander after appearing on the cover in 2006. In a hyper-violent and brutally competitive sport where injuries are commonplace and careers are short, there is no shortage of rational explanations for the tribulations that befall many Madden cover boys (may I point you towards the concept of Regression To The Mean?). Instead, MILLIONS of people prefer to believe that a shadowy, mystical "curse" is the cause of ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING bad that happens to a player on the cover.
-1999: Dorsey Levens has over 1600 yards from scrimmage? The curse made the Packers miss the playoffs!
-2000: Eddie George has 1500 yards rushing and is an All-Pro? The curse made him bobble a pass that Ray Lewis picked off in the playoffs!
-2004: Ray Lewis has a great season and is 1st-team All-Pro? The curse kept him from recording an interception all season!
-2009: Larry Fitzgerald catches 97 passes for 1092 yards? The curse made him miss the Pro Bowl with a rib injury!
-2012: Calvin Johnson catches 122 passes for an NFL-record 1964 yards? The curse kept the Lions from winning the Super Bowl (somebody actually said this to me TODAY)!
People have somehow become so emotionally invested in the Madden Curse that they've made it into this elastic, malleable catch-all explanation for all a cover athlete's misfortune. If there really was a "curse," (and remember, the concept itself is utter, uncut horseshit) wouldn't it cut down ALL of the unfortunate mortals who grace the game's cover? What's the causal mechanism here, anyway? Who placed the curse on the Madden Cover? If you're gonna push manner of pablum, you should at least come up with a decent backstory, right?
I've actually spoken to Twelves who DIDN'T VOTE FOR SHERM because they believed in the Madden Curse. Come on, guys. We're not a bunch of cave dwellers thinking thunder is rumbling outside because God is angry. We're probably the NFL's most educated, literate, intellectual fanbase. We're WAY better than this.
Even if the curse did exist, it would be no match for the mighty Seattle Seahawks. I can't wait to hear the blubbering of MadCursers after Sherm wins DPOY and a 2nd ring next February. What will the curse be responsible for then? Sherm's injury in Super Bowl XLVIII? Will it somehow become retroactive?