You can say a lot of things in sports. You can call a fast runner a "burner," a tireless running back a "workhorse," a relentless competitor a "grinder."
You can call a coach a "motivator," a 350-pound lineman a "moose," a 100-mph fastball a "heater."
Just don't call the first player off the bench a "Sixth Man." Someone, somewhere, probably has a copyright on that one.
Add it to the list of things you no longer can say in sports.
We cannot say "Three-peat" without lining the pockets of Pat Riley, who copyrighted the slogan in the 1980s as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. We cannot call the Bears or Packers or Arizona Cardinals "America's Team." That belongs to the Dallas Cowboys.
Now, we learn, we cannot refer to any loud, supportive home football crowd as the "12th Man," other than the one in College Station, Texas. Seems Texas A&M obtained copyrights for the phrase in 1990 and 1996, unbeknownst to you, me and anyone outside "Aggie Nation."
It has become an issue thanks to those greedy, name-stealing Seattle Seahawks, who meet the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday in the Super Bowl.
New No. 1
In referring to the home crowd as their "12th Man," leading to the sale of "12th Man" T-shirts and buttons on eBay, the Seahawks have stepped on A&M's toes. Aggies everywhere are crying foul.
Or should that be fowl?
Regardless, Seattle has become enemy No. 1 in College Station, which says plenty. We are less than a month removed from arch rival Texas winning the national football championship. Who knew Shaun Alexander, et al, could supplant Vince Young and the Longhorns?
Yet, here are the Seahawks, smack dab in A&M's crosshairs. Even athletic director Bill Byrne has taken aim via the A&M Web site.
"A large bundle of emails came in from Aggies upset at the Seattle Seahawks' brazen use of the 12th Man theme at their home playoff games," Byrne wrote. "We had similar situations with the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears, and they responded quickly with our requests to stop using our 12th Man trademark. But Seattle has been slow-rolling us.
"Just know that our folks in charge of licensing and merchandising are working to protect our esteemed mark and tradition. It's been great to see the Spirit of Aggieland rise up against other teams trying to lay claim to the 12th Man. Thanks for letting us know your discontent, and we have passed it along so that your voices are heard."
Clearly, this "12th Man" thing is serious in "Aggieland." A&M has an organization called the "12th Man Foundation." The school publishes "12th Man Magazine." There also are "12th Man" sweaters and polo shirts.
Thus, when Seattle dared suggest the "12th Man" resides in the Pacific Northwest, they were fightin' words - or at least, legal fightin' words. A&M went to court Monday and received a restraining order restricting the Seahawks from using "12th Man."
If it seems a bit silly, it is. There is room in the world for more than one "12th Man," particularly when they exist on different levels (college and professional). Yet, if Riley can monopolize "Three-peat," why not Texas A&M and "12th Man?"
Perhaps Seattle could move up to "13th Man." Anything over 11 is illegal, anyway. Or, the Seahawks could opt for "Extra Man," or "Additional Man," or the cumbersome yet available, "One More Than Permissible Man."
Try getting that on a polo shirt.
Probably best to let A&M have its "12th Man," who has helped the Aggies go 22-25 over the past four seasons. How valuable can he be? Seems the 11 on the field would be the priority, but apparently, if you don't have the "Spirit of Aggieland," you just don't get it.
Guilty as charged.
Folks in Aggieland will be rooting for a lopsided Pittsburgh victory. They'll hope to see "The Bus," Jerome Bettis, run over the Seahawks, then back up and run over them again.