JERSEY CITY - The best-known Seattle Seahawks fans, the leaders of the city's famed 12th Man phenomenon, gathered at a quiet bar Friday. With laughter, tears and a toast, they saluted the man they called a friend, mentor and legend: the greatest Denver Broncos fan in history.
The gathering was a glimpse inside the tight knit fraternity of the NFL's super fans, the most recognizable cheerleaders of each team.
Tim McKernan put on the barrel for the first time in 1977, on a $10 bet with his brother. The Broncos went to the Super Bowl for the first time that season. This is the team's first Super Bowl without the Barrelman, who died in 2009.
"He was the epitome of the fan we all aspire to be," said Brad Carter, better known as Seahawks super fan Cannonball. "You may wear different colors, but you have the same passion."
Carter and several other fans who, like McKernan, are in the Pro Football Ultimate Fan Hall of Fame, talked of growing up watching the Barrelman.
"You knew when you were hanging around Tim that you were around something special," Carter said.
The super fans exemplify a spirit of sportsmanship which isn't always found in the stands.
"We go to war for four quarters and at the end of the day we shake hands, sit down, talk about the game, and then we resume our friendship," Carter said.
Sharing Super Bowl week with their friend would have been the honor of a lifetime, several said.
"I know how Tim would feel," said "Mr Seahawk" Jeff Schumaier. "Whoever wins, we're both happy."
"I'm over the moon at the chance to finally grasp one of those Super Bowl Lombardi trophies in my hands and always have it forever," Carter said. "But I don't forget for one second that this is Tim's Super Bowl, too."
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