I’m an optimist. A “glass half-full” guy. So when I read Paul’s article about “Why It’s So Hard to Be a Seattle Sports Fan” I felt compelled to respond.
In the article, Paul sums up the difficulties of following the professional and collegiate sports teams in Seattle. And, boy has it been difficult. The City of Seattle has not had a professional sports championship since 1979 (with all due respect to the Storm). Our last major collegiate championship was in 1991, with Huskies football steamrolling to an undefeated record. We understand heartbreak, as evidenced by Super Bowl XL. In 2008, Seattle’s sports woes culminated in likely the worst year in sports for a city…ever.
But at the end of his article, Paul states: “Let’s hope the next decade is better than the last.” I’m in the camp that believes Seattle sports has seen the worst, and that a revival is on the way. Here’s why:
The Seahawks have plenty of room for optimism. Paul Allen might not be the most vocal, most extravagant, or most legendary of sports owners. But he’s the richest majority owner in American sports and he’s reinvigorated Seattle’s professional football team. Allen was instrumental in building CenturyLink Field (RIP: “Qwest”), the biggest home field advantage in the NFL. Instead of attending games in the cavernous Kingdome, fans are treated to one of the loudest environments in all of sports.
Consequently, Allen has not skimped on coaching salary. Mike Holmgren was likely the highest paid coach in the NFL in each of his final three years (2006-2008). Allen had no problem firing Jim Mora after one year as head coach, and signing Pete Carroll to a five-year, $35 million contract. Simply put, Allen is not afraid to bring in the best leaders, no matter the cost.
Carroll has brought a high energy, high expectations atmosphere up from Southern California. It’s hard not to feel excited about the future of the program after a Carroll press conference. Say what you want about his coaching philosophy, his controversial stint at USC, or the team’s losing record last season, but the man exudes optimism. Adding Tom Cable as offensive line coach only solidifies our future at the all-important position: along with young talent Russell Okung (get well soon!), James Carpenter, and John Moffitt.
On the field, the Hawks have struggled with poor free agency moves and unfortunate injuries since their lone Super Bowl appearance in 2005. Still, the Hawks have assembled some talented young pieces on defense, including Aaron Curry and Earl Thomas. On offense, offseason acquisitions of Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, and Sidney Rice have generated optimism for this season and beyond. Added to a revamped offense under new OC Darrell Bevell, the Hawks could look explosive with current receivers Golden Tate and Mike Williams. We will all just have to wait and see how Tavaris Jackson performs, but all signs point towards a competitive future for the Hawks.
M’s fans are uniquely attuned to the ups and downs of following a team. That’s why, despite the unfathomable depths of the past few seasons, fans are still optimistic. Names like Hernandez, Pineda, and Ackley have regenerated a fan base with hope for the future.
Our offensive ability is downright atrocious right now, but the additions of Mike Carp (currently standing on a 17-game hit streak), Trayvon Robinson, and Justin Smoak, give M’s fans reasons to hope that we’re going in the right direction.
NBA in Seattle
Ok, so a triumphant NBA return to Seattle within the next ten years may be a stretch. And Oklahoma City has built a powerhouse basketball franchise by allowing the team to tank during the last season in Seattle (that one’s for you Sam Presti).
But there is room for optimism. Steve Ballmer has formerly expressed interest in bringing the NBA back to Seattle. And he has roughly $1 billion more in “walking-around money” than the aforementioned Paul Allen (about $14 billion total). Seattle is the 14th largest media market in the U.S., and has demonstrated that it can support professional basketball in the long-term. With the struggles of smaller market teams (Sacramento, Atlanta, Detroit), and disinterested fan bases (Toronto), a team could be relocated to Seattle if a suitable arena could be found (or built). Although unlikely, it’s just too prominent of a basketball city to be without an NBA team in the long run.
The situation in Montlake is looking up. Always one of the most prominent teams in Seattle, the Dawgs have been down in the dumps since 2003. The “Ex-Notre Dame Coach Who Shall Not Be Named” left his mark on the program – in the worst way possible.
Although the departure of Jake Locker will be felt, both on and off the field, the quarterback position will be in good hands for at least the next 5 years. Redshirt sophomore Keith Price has shown a steady hand in spring practices, and highly-touted redshirt freshman Nick Montana will certainly make a push for the starting job within the next few years. Incoming recruits Jeff Lindquist (Elite 11 selection) and Cyler Miles (#4 ranked dual-threat QB recruit) will compete for the starting job from the moment they step onto campus. All-world running back Chris Polk will probably be playing on Sundays next year, but Bishop Sankey has turned heads in the spring, and could be the next great Husky RB.
Coach Steve Sarkisian has the team headed in the right direction. After the stunning bowl win over Nebraska, a sparkling new stadium in 2013, the trouble brewing in Eugene, and the quality of recruits coming to Seattle the past few years, it’s only going to get better.
Long an afterthought in the city’s sports scene, the UW basketball program has risen to unprecedented heights under Coach Lorenzo Romar since 2004. And after winning two straight Pac-10 tournament championships, it’s only going to get better. Next year, Garfield High’s own Tony Wroten makes his debut, hoping to display the skill and talent that enables him to blow by defenders with ease, or make Magic-esque passes. Tabbed to reel in some of the top recruits in the country in 2013 (please, Jabari Parker?), the Dawgs will be competing for PAC-12 championships, and possibly Final Four berths, within the next decade.
Ultimately, there are many positives to look forward to in the coming seasons. Added to the fact that we are in the midst of an explosion of soccer interest in the NW, our WNBA team is the current world champs, and Seattle University basketball is attempting to return to greatness, this will be an exciting decade to come. Break out the Ray-Bans, we’re in for a bright future for Seattle sports.