The last time the Seahawks played for an opportunity to go to the Super Bowl, Jan. 22, 2006, owner Paul Allen hoisted the 12th Man Flag before the NFC Championship game against the Carolina Panthers. Why not? Without Allen, no Seahawks. So who will hoist this Sunday? The perfect choice has to be Jerry Rice, who would jack the animosity level in the rivalry to a whole new level.
Rice created a Hall of Fame career during 299 games with the San Francisco 49ers from 1985-00 before finishing his NFL run in nine games with Seattle in 2004. A Niner for 16 seasons vs. a Seahawk for the blink of an eye, Rice would probably beg off if called upon to raise the 12th Man Flag. Still, it’s a delicious thought.
In the absence of Rice, then who?
For purposes of this exercise, it should not be anyone who has done it previously. That eliminates Allen. Excluding previous flag raisers would also eliminate every living member of the Seahawks Ring of Honor – Steve Largent, Jim Zorn, Curt Warner, Jacob Green, Kenny Easley, Dave Krieg, and Cortez Kennedy — as well as former head coach Chuck Knox.
It would also render the entire 1983 team ineligible. The 1983 Seahawks, coached by Knox, were the first in franchise history to reach a conference title game, but they had flag-raising honors last Nov. 3 before the Seahawks needed overtime to defeat Tampa Bay.
Nine-time Pro bowl tackle Walter Jones, named last week as a Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalist, would be disqualified since he has hoisted the flag twice, most recently Oct. 14, 2012, before a game against New England.
The Seahawks have bestowed 12th Man Flag responsibilities on numerous non-football worthies over the years, including former Sonics such as Jack Sikma (Sept. 22, 2013) and former Mariners such as Jamie Moyer (Jan. 5, 2006), as well as ex-Huskies and Cougars (Chuck Nelson and Jack Thompson, Nov. 21, 2004), an Olympian (Apolo Ohno, Sept. 23, 2007), a golfer (Fred Couples, Dec. 11, 2011), a hydroplane driver (Chip Hanauer, Aug. 20, 2011) and a soccer player (Hope Solo, Nov. 23, 2008).
NBA legend Bill Russell raised the 12th Man Flag Dec. 1, 2011 before a game against Philadelphia. Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants, an ex-Husky, did it Dec. 19, 2010 before the Seahawks battled Atlanta. Jim Whittaker, the first American to conquer Everest, performed the honors Sept. 27, 2009 before Seattle took on the Chicago Bears.
Fred Brown, Gus Williams and John Johnson, three integral members of Seattle’s only major championship team (1979 Sonics) raised the flag Dec. 7, 2009, local TV icon J.P. Patches did it Aug. 29, 2008, and Pike Place Fish Mongers got juices flowing Sept. 24, 2006 before a game against the Giants.
Under our no second-chance rule, the following would also be ineligible Sunday: Shaun Alexander, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, Jay Buhner, Gary Payton, Kasey Keller and Lorenzo Romar.
So who does that leave? We have five candidates, listed alphabetically, and all are ideal representatives of Seattle’s championship moment.
A “12th Man”: The Seahawks invited 12 original season-ticket holders to raise the 12th Man Flag Oct. 12, 2003 before a game with San Francisco. Since then, flag raisers have almost exclusively been athletic celebrities or, in the case of Joe Moser, a World War II fighter pilot who had the honor Nov. 11, 2012, a real hero. Besides, without the 12th Man, the Seahawks have no edge at all over the 49ers.
Mike Holmgren: The former head coach guided the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 season and is the most notable representative of that team never to have hoisted the 12th Man Flag.
Macklemore: Seahawks (and Mariners) fan Ben Haggerty is a Seattle native whose single, “Thrift Shop,” reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2013. He’s scheduled to perform at halftime Sunday at the Clink.
John Schneider: Without Paul Allen, Seattle wouldn’t have an NFL team. But without Schneider, the club’s general manager, it wouldn’t have this team. He’s mostly responsible for assembling it.
Lenny Wilkens: A Basketball Hall of Fame inductee as both a player and a coach, Wilkens is the only man to direct a major professional sports champion in Seattle, the 1979 SuperSonics.
You may have other candidates in mind. If so, let us know.