The 12th man in football is an expression and a metaphor that comes with several definitions or meanings. The common reference of the 12th man are fans who are very supportive during a football match. These fans make a considerable amount of noise that aims to motivate their team to play harder. This is based on the number of players of a match, which is 11. The 12th player then, who is metaphorically part of the team because of their contribution, refers to the fans.
The football term is also used when fans or spectators perceive a referee to favor a certain team. The quote, “There is a 12th man on the pitch” usually confirms fans’ perception regarding a referee’s bias.
Thirdly, the 12th man can also mean a player who is not part of the starting line-up or the first starting eleven players. Though this player is not part of the first eleven, he usually comes off the bench throughout the game just like the sixth man in basketball.
History of the 12th Man
It was in September 1900 when the term, “12th man” was first recorded. This was in a magazine that the University of Minnesota published. By 1922, an important event under the Dixie classic was famously dubbed as, “The story of the 12th Man”.
In 1930, W.H. Adamson, the Oak Cliff High School principal of Dallas was labeled as the 12th man of his school’s football team by a local reporter. This was due to the motivational speeches he gave to players before every game. The fans of the school’s team as well as those of opposing teams were also labeled the same.
Another important event in the history of football that paved the way to the usage of the 12th man term was the game between Dartmouth and Princeton in 1935. During the game that was wrapped with snow and freezing temperatures, George Larson of New Jersey left the stands to join the defensive line of Dartmouth. He was the only one to do so out of more than 50,000 fans and spectators. He was then referred to as the “12th Dartmouth Man” by a local newspaper.
Effects of the 12th Man
The effects of the 12th man comes in a wide variety, but can be grouped into two types. These include psychological and physical. The psychological effect includes how a 12th man or fans can make the home team feel that they are appreciated while showing the opposing team that they are unwelcome. The physical effect on the other hand can be directly related to the noise created by the legions of fans and its deafening effects.