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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

December 31, 2012 at 3:45 PM

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Seahawks fans sound off, and reaction is mixed

Now I know how an opposing player must feel trying to hear the snap count over the roar of the crowd at CenturyLink Field.

I knew the 12th Man could sound off, but I had no idea how loud it could be.

I posted two unsolicited emails from readers about their experiences at the Dec. 23 Seahawks-49ers game and a poll, asking readers what they thought.

I figured there would be strong reaction to the posting on our Take 2 blog, which is a forum that allows readers to give their opinions. Both readers, Sarah Brown of Vancouver and Rick Turner of Snoqualmie, came at their posts from different perspectives. Brown attended the game with a large group, some dressed in 49ers gear. Turner is a longtime Seahawks fan. Both said they were stunned at how loud and profane some Seahawk fans were. Both believed some fans were out of bounds, and Turner described a 49ers fan getting decked by two Seahawk fans in the concourse for wearing enemy colors while others cheered.

The reaction? Loud ... and mixed.

I expected a lot of fans to get defensive. Reactions ranged from accusing Brown of exaggerating or lying about what happen to being the aggressor in defending her 14-year-old son. A lot of readers essentially said: "What do you expect when you wear a 49er jersey at the CLink? You deserved it." Some were angry at The Seattle Times for posting it in the first place.

None of that surprised me.

What did surprise me was how many readers were appalled at what happened, some even offering apologies. Several others told similar stories of watching drunken fans verbally (and sometimes physically) assault others at NFL games, including kids, women and seniors.

What also stunned me was the sheer volume of the reaction. The post, which was also published in our print editions over the weekend, generated more than 700 comments and close to 100 emails or phone calls. It was the No. 1 story on from the time it was posted at about 3 p.m. Friday until early Sunday morning. It also exploded on social media.

Seattle Times reporter Bob Young went to Sunday's Rams-Seahawks game and found fans to be generally well-behaved and respectful. That didn't surprise me, either.

So what should we make of it all? I'm convinced the 49ers-Seahawks game was a perfect storm of factors that may have allowed more fans to lose control. Night game. A hated NFC West rival. A playoff berth on the line. National television. A blowout victory for the Hawks.

For what it's worth, I attended the same game as a fan and didn't see anyone assaulting or antagonizing 49ers fans until a Seahawks fan who was obviously intoxicated had to be tased after the game because he took a swing at a 49ers fan and security. Most of the fans I saw were loud and proud, but not out of control.

Still, I printed the emails from two readers because, after checking them out, I was convinced they were being truthful about what happened. I also did it because I thought it would start a healthy debate about what behavior is appropriate for Seahawks fans - and all fans, for that matter. That's what Take 2 is for. The blog allows readers to sound off, and it is labeled as opinion - their spin on sports.

An admittedly unscientific Take 2 poll of readers Friday showed just how split the reaction was. More than 11,500 answered our question: "Do you think the fans' behavior has become a problem at Seahawks home games?"

35 percent said, "Yes: Too much drinking, profanity and violence"

33 percent said, "Sometimes: It's not for kids or the thin-skinned"

32 percent said, "No: I'm fine with what goes on, so let it rip"

Can't get much more split than that.

To wrap up the conversation, here are a few emails I received from fans that represent the range of the debate. A few more will be published on Sunday and in Take 2 as letters to the editor in our Backtalk section.

Common sense needed

I would never advocate violence toward others, but I seriously question the judgment of those who choose to wear opposing teams' jerseys to Seahawks games only to be shocked when they are hassled for doing so. Furthermore, I have serious issues with the parents that placed their children in questionable situations by letting them wear opposing jerseys. Of course, they will be hassled, just as they would be if they wore a Romney shirt into an Obama rally. Have some common sense.

- Hovie Hawk

Clean up our stadiums

I moved to Seattle in 2005. I've been to several Seahawks games and multiple Cougars and Huskies games. In every instance, there were fistfights, people cussing at other fans, etc. The worst was a situation that happened in front of a 9-year-old girl. As a result, I will not be taking my child to any games till the NFL cleans its act up.

- Steve Fuehrer, Maple Valley

Respect your opponents

Sarah Brown's experience serves to remind us that sportsmanship includes a respect for one's opponent. The lack of personal discipline and honor has no place at the game, home, or place of work.

- Ric Thorning

Stunned and sarcastic

God forbid! Someone heard profanity at a professional sporting event! The very thought fills me with anger! This fan base must change. Before we know it, people might be discouraged from coming to the games as a supporter of the other team, and their tickets might go to, heaven forbid, actual Seahawks fans. We wouldn't want more fans to be able to actually go to the game, would we?

- Martin Sisk, Seattle

Gladiators or players?

Unfortunately, sports fans have come to act like they're watching gladiators in life-and-death scenarios instead of a game. And if you dare invade their arenas with the wrong tribal markings, you will be threatened by drunk, emasculated men wishing you harm. Add women to that list as well. I've seen it first hand, and it's a problem if you have any civility about you at all. This is just another example of how badly broken professional sports have become. And college isn't far behind.
- Rick Stanton, Bainbridge Island

A toast to fans in Section 100

Reading Sarah Brown's Take 2, one might get the impression that all Seahawks fans are boorish drunks. While I am sorry Ms. Brown had such a negative experience, I attended the same game with my parents and we encountered Seahawks fans who were far from rude. On the contrary, the fans we met, while passionate, were considerate, friendly and kind.
As a Christmas gift, I took my parents, now both in their 80s, to the Dec. 23 game. My parents have been 49ers fans for decades and made no secret of this. Although we were surrounded by Seahawks fans, they reached out to make my parents feel comfortable. They talked with them, joked with them, offered them food and drink. When my parents started to get chilled because of the steady rain, someone handed them hand-warmers. My parents felt as if they had been "adopted." Combined with the electric atmosphere in the stadium, the experience was unforgettable for all of us.
So, fans of Section 100, we salute you. We will be drinking a toast to you as we ring in the new year.
- Eric Christensen, Bothell

We've all experienced this

I want to commend you for running today's Take 2 post from Sarah Brown. I am a Hawks fan who stopped going to games in person a few years ago because the environment is too intense and unenjoyable. I am a salty fan who enjoys a couple of drinks at the game, but I find the environment at the Hawks' games so over-the-top loopy that I would never take my kids to a game until they were late teens.

I'm sure a bunch of yahoos are going to write letters attacking Ms. Brown for her post, but the fact is, all of us who have been there have seen the behavior she describes multiple times.

- Tony Williams, Clyde Hill

Loud, proud and sorry

I have been a season-ticket holder for more than 15 years and feel like I can speak for the 12th Man when I say: I am sorry! I was not one of the people who harassed you, I've never encountered you in life, however, my sincerest feelings of disappointment are extended your way on our (the real 12th Man's) behalf.
Please understand there is no excuse for what it seems your family went through. But there were a few factors at work. You ran smack dab into the mouth of the beast that night. First, we hate Oregon football. Second, we hate the 49ers, and that was a huge game with a lot of emotion, anticipation, and stress. Still no excuse. Third, the games are usually much earlier, not as big of a spectacle, giving people more time to drink and do what they do to "get loose."
All of these factors unfortunately led to a terrible football experience for you and your family. I only have two tickets to each game, but pick a game next season and they're yours. Don't think that this is what Hawk fans are all about. I'm part of the original 12th Man and your story reminded me of when the Hawks played at Cincinnati years ago and Sam Wyche got on the microphone and said "You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!" We'll, to my fellow Hawk fans: You don't live in San Francisco, you live in Seattle! Have some class and act like it. The 12th Man includes the greatest fans in the world. We don't do this! From all of us: I'm sorry.
- Clinton Cantu, Seattle

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