The Real Loser of the Super Bowl is Seattle's 12th Man

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Seattle fans took the moniker of "the 12th man" beyond the stadium and bars into everyday life with banners in the street, on murals and hanging from construction sites. Jackie Buttice

Last week, amid updates on pothole repairs and road closures, Washington state's Department of Transportation posted two important alerts on its website. The first involved the demolition of the building that once housed the Museum of History and Industry.

The second read: "Demolition of New England football team to start Sunday." Below the post was a photo of construction workers draping a banner of Seahawk Blue over the side of an overpass. The banner bore the number 12.

On Super Bowl Sunday, that number was everywhere you looked in Seattle: flapping on a flag atop the Space Needle; wrapped, Christo-like, around a two-floor wine rack in a downtown restaurant; stenciled onto orange road cones; hung like drying laundry from a wall of the state's tallest building, the Columbia Tower; spray-painted in neon-blue graffiti on the facade of Neumos, a Capitol Hill music venue. Though some Seattleites wore Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson jerseys, most sported 12s.

"We are 12," of course, is the famous tag line of Seahawk fans, the so-called 12th Man, whose raucous cheering is felt to add up to the equivalent of an additional, 12th player on the field for the team. Seattle's 12th is something like Beethoven's Fifth, only louder. In fact, loud enough to spark seismic activity. Is it any wonder the Seahawks have gone 22-2 at home over the last three seasons?

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Disappointed Seahawks' fans sulk in defeat for the camera at The Comet bar in Seattle. Jackie Buttice

Unfortunately, this year's Super Bowl was played in Glendale, Arizona, which may explain why the Transportation Department's promised demolition of the Patriots never came off. New England won the game, 28-24.

While 'Hawks fans on Sunday tried to channel their inner 12s in the hope that their boys would win back-to-back titles, I spent the day in the Emerald City's drinking holes.

I kicked off my morning at the epicenter of Seattle tourism: the very first Starbucks. Opened in 1971, the Pike Place coffee shop has barrels of roasted beans on display and looks nothing like the rest of the seven billion franchises. Except for Sunday, when every Starbucks in Washington and Oregon had a 12 chalked onto its blackboard and the employees wore "LEGION OF BREW" shirts and promoted a special, 455-calorie "We Are 12" Seahawk Frappuccino. The blue-and-green coffee concoction is a "Vanilla Bean Crème handcrafted beverage blended with blueberries and topped with green tea matcha-infused whip cream."

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Seahawks' fans watch the Super Bowl at The Comet on Pike Street in Seattle. Jackie Buttice

On the sidewalk was a pile of crushed Skittles, Lynch's candy of choice. I wondered: Could this be an omen?

I moseyed over to the Central Saloon, the oldest bar in Seattle. It was established in 1892 by a family that struck gold in Alaska. Contemporary prospectors--some who may have been regulars since the saloon's Grand Opening--had been gathering and getting rowdier since 9 a.m.

I asked owner Guy Curtis what he'd do if the Seahawks lost. "We won't lose," he assured me.

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A patchwork quilt featuring a "12" in a shop window on Occidental Street. Jackie Buttice

I strolled up Pike Street to The Comet, an old dive with younger fans. This was the popular hangout of '90s Grunge Seattle. On this particular afternoon, the Comet was filled with punky sports fans: guys with long hair, girls with blue hair and so many black-rimmed glasses and beanies that it would've been impossible to find Waldo.

The Comet is the belly of the BeastMode. The patrons are so metal about the 'Hawks that many wear Slayer-style T-shirts emblazoned with the team logo. Fans at one table burned "Saint Richard Sherman" candles. The bar serves "12th man pale ales" at $4 a pop. Outside, homeless runaways had spray-painted 12s on small dogs. They were asking $3 for the privilege of taking the poochs' pictures. Inside, customers performed parka-ed parkour around the crowded tables. Peanut shells littered the floor.

When the game started and Patriots coach Bill Belichick was shown on a drop-down screen, the crowd chorused "YOU'RE A PHONY" and tossed peanuts in the air. Perhaps Holden Caulfield was in the house.

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A "12" flag covered in tinsel in the doorway of gay bar CC Addle's on Boylston Street. Gogo Lidz

By the time the Patriots' Tom Brady hit Brandon LaFell with an 11-yard TD pass to open the scoring in the second quarter, the air outside was thick with marijuana smoke. (Weed is legal in Washington.) I pushed on through the haze and down Pine Street to The Pine Box, a mortuary-turned-ale-house that was projecting the game in the same alley where, 42 years ago, Bruce Lee's flower-covered coffin was loaded into a hearse. The place was packed, but the crowd was, well…dead.

Up Pine Street at a gay bar called R Place the patrons at least had a heartbeat. At halftime, with the score tied at 14, R Place was positively pulsing. A nearly naked dude in a brightly colored Seahawk Speedo dispensed blue and green vodka Skittles Jell-O shots on a silver tray. A drag queen had painted his face like a Dia de los Muertos skull. Four gents in identical No. 12 jerseys struck identical he-man poses. One pointed at the guy next to him and shouted, "He's not really a 12: he's more like a six-and-a-half."

During the third quarter, with Seattle holding a seemingly safe 10-point lead, I returned to The Comet. The 12th Man din grew louder and louder until, just before the two-minute warning, the Patriots pulled ahead. Then came the Seahawks' astonishing downfield march to New England's one-yard line. With the 12th Man in full voice, Wilson's pass to Ricardo Lockette was picked off in the endzone. The interception was of course deflating, which seems oddly appropriate given the Patriots' recent history.

A beer-sipping 12th Man--this one female--was weeping into her mug. Loudly. In a voice just above a whisper, the 12 on the next stool asked the barkeep for "a cup of tears."

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A building with "12" lights, as seen at night from the ferry pier in downtown Seattle. Justin Kapitula