There are some special and unique things about football at Texas A&M. There are "Yell Leaders'' and "post-score makeout sessions'' and "WHOOOOOP!' and "The 12th Man.'' ...
Or is "The 12th Man'' all that unique anymore?
Aggie Nation is making a fuss over the fact that the Seattle Seahawks, preparing for this Sunday's Super Bowl XL, have their own "12th Man'' campaign. The Aggies have legal trademarks on the phrase and have been 12th-Manning it since 1922. That's when the injury-depleted Aggies needed to pull a fan out of the stands to suit up for a game, and "WHOOOOOP!,'' a grand tradition of bonding between player and fan was born.
Steve Moore, A&M's chief marketing officer, expresses a bit of surprise that the Seahawks haven't stopped pushing their own 12th Man thing. "In the normal course of action, once someone becomes aware of it and they understand that you have a registered trademark, normally they cease," said Moore. "In this case, they have chosen not to, but we are still hopeful that they will, quite frankly."
The Buffalo Bills also have a 12th Man theme. So do the Chicago Bears. I believe one could find a number of high schools that have used the theme, too -- all probably following A&M's 1922 origin but possibly preceeding the Aggies' 1990 registration of the trademark.
Are the Seahawks being a bit weasely here?
I suppose so. One of their team executives claims that the No. 12 flag that flies at their stadium in fact represents the retired jersey number of ex-QB Jim Zorn, and that the fans have independently taken up the 12th Man campaign.
Is A&M being a bit petty here?
I suppose not. There is tradition to be upheld, and there is money to be made. If everybody is allowed to promote their own 12th Man theme, there is something less special and unique and profitable about the bumper sticks and T-shirts and pennants A&M can sell.
Still, we're approaching a slippery slope here. What if Pittsburgh combats the Seahawks in this Super Bowl by filling the sidelines with "Steelers Yell Leaders''? Who sues whom? What if every other team wants to wear maroon jerseys? What if fans everywhere decide that they, too, would like to smooch after scores? What if every fan of every team across America decides to commence to "WHOOOOOPing!''?
As someone who spends a great deal of time seated alongside 20,000-to-60,000 people in America's stadiums, fields and arenas, I:
1) Have no opinion either way on the "marooning'' of American sports;
2) Will handle the kissing issue on a case-by-case basis;
3) Would politely request, if you're sitting next to me, that you cut with the "WHOOOOP!''