Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Battle to Be the Best 12th Man

The nation has become enamored with the 12th Man. And unfortunately for Aggies... it's not our 12th Man. The Seattle Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl, thereby guaranteeing that every talking head guy on every sports media outlet will be obligated to mention the 12th Man each and every day until February 2nd (right after the, “is Richard Sherman a head case or a calculated mastermind?” segment).

Can you believe some cannabis-crazed team in the far Northwest is trying to steal our thunder? Have they no respect for the hallowed grounds of Kyle Field

Ok, no more deprecating humor, I just wanted to fit in the clever "cannabis-crazed" alliteration tidbit.

I love Texas A&M and all that it represents. And the 12th Man is a vital and irreplaceable part of my yearly pilgrimages to College Station. So, as an Aggie, should I care about the Seahawks "hijacking" our slogan? Am I not red-ass enough if my panties aren't severely wadded in my red-ass?

Honestly, I don't know (polarizing, I know).

The NFL is the most popular sport in America and, whether Aggies like it or not, I would say that the majority of sports fans out there will now associate the 12th Man with Seattle, as opposed to its original home, Texas A&M. Sure, we have the 12th Man legally trademarked, but that doesn't mean much in the way of subjective national association. The world is infatuated with the Super Bowl.  And currently the Super Bowl pits Peyton Manning against Richard Sherman (LUNATIC OR LEGEND?!?!?!?!) and the 12th Man. Their 12th Man train is only gaining steam.

Now Texas A&M isn’t really hurting for national attention or admiration. We (mainly because of Johnny and the SEC) are one of the hottest flavors on the collegiate football map.  But very little of our current “spice” is attributed to the 12th Man. People won’t deny the 12th Man or the atmosphere if you give them the relative information, but nobody is lining up to publicize it like the media is doing for Seattle now.

Back in 2006, the Seattle Seahawks and Texas A&M came to an agreement in which Seattle could use the 12th Man trademark.  The agreement called for Seattle to pay Texas A&M a $100,000 lump sum payment (or approximately 1/4th of what they are paying the LAST guy on their bench) at the time of the agreement along with $5,000 per year (or the same price as this Sony TV at Best Buy) during the course of the five year agreement. Seattle also retained the option to extend the agreement for an additional five years. They smartly did so (they already have enough HD TVs at their complex).  Now I am no lawyer nor do I know anything about trademark laws, but I feel like Texas A&M might not be feeling too rosy about this one. If anything, Seattle obviously liked it enough to re-up. Fran must have been behind this.  

So what do we do now? As Shane Hinkley, the Assistant Vice President of Business Development, told Good Bull Hunting, in regards to potential trademark violations, “It’s something that is very difficult to police and something that we are actively involved in.” Translation: we can’t do crap. Chasing tangible trademark violations (like selling memorabilia using the trademark) isn’t the issue. It is the dilution of a brand. I mean if somebody said both the Seahawks and the Aggies claim the 12th Man, I bet half the nation would think we stole it from them. 

I think this puts us (diehard Aggies) in a weird, no-win situation. If we try to fight this nationally and get ourselves in the headlines we will look childish and whiny. Nobody cares if we have the trademark. Are we really going to tell a bunch of raucous football fans they can’t call themselves the 12th Man? Sure, it doesn’t hold the same historic meaning for them, but nobody besides Aggies care about E. King Gill coming down from the stands in 1922 to actually be the 12th active member of an injury-riddled team. That’s our story, nobody else’s. If you take the glass-half-full approach we can at least revel in the notion that our historically inspirational story actually turned into a valuable trademark (well, that depends on how much you like Sony TVs). But I highly doubt that any annoyed Aggie is taking solace in such things.

The 12th Man up in Seattle is a growing national force due to mainstream media. No way around it. Maybe a national championship run next year can help us take back some of the 12th Man momentum. But until then all we can do is hope the Seattle fad fades and we can rightfully take back our 12th Man crown.

Or maybe we can go against the grain and start claiming the 13th Man?


(I am kidding, geez).

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