By Erik Schmidt
Erik Schmidt, 24, grew up in Maple Valley and attended Western Washington University and has been a Seattle sports fan since he was a kid.
Over the last five years the sports landscape has dramatically shifted for Seattle. Once overlooked, the Pacific Northwest is making a comeback by competing at an elite level and grabbing national headlines.
The year 2008 was a dark time for Seattle sports fanatics. In fact, it was quite possibly the worst year any sports city has ever had to endure.
The Mariners had their first 100-loss season in 25 years, complete with a 12-game losing streak. We trotted out infamous Mariners like Erik Bedard, Carlos Silva and Richie Sexson, who summed up the frustration by charging the mound on a ball that wasn’t even close to hitting him.
Three seasons removed from a Super Bowl run, the Seahawks finished 4-12. It ended a streak of four consecutive NFC West championships and was their worse season since 1992. It was such a bad year that John Madden elected not to attend the “Sunday Night Football” game at Tampa Bay, paving the way for Chris Collinsworth to eventually become SNF’s co-host.
Washington was winless in football in 2008 and outscored 463-159. Remember when Jake Locker was called for excessive celebration after scoring a touchdown with two seconds left against Brigham Young? It created a 35-yard extra-point kick that was blocked and, well, you know the rest. It was the only season in which a Pac-10 football team finished without a win. That was the end of the forgettable Tyrone Willingham era at UW.
Worse than losing seasons and giving birth to Chris Collinsworth on SNF was the fact that the only modern men’s professional sports franchise in Seattle to win a world championship, the SuperSonics, were stolen. Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett bought the Sonics and moved Seattle’s first major-league pro sports team while NBA commissioner David Stern watched.
Yes, rock bottom was surely reached in 2008 with uncompetitive teams and incompetent leadership. But five years later, in late 2013, we find a vastly different narrative for the Emerald City.
The transformational success Seattle has undergone is best described by Alec Baldwin’s character, Blake, in the 1992 movie “Glengarry Glenn Ross”. Baldwin’s character declares that “coffee is for closers.” Seattle is drinking in success in 2013. And much like the burst you get from a good cup of coffee, Seattle teams are now energized, alert and strong.
The Mariners are making moves, signing Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal. They outbid the Yankees! Yes, the New York Yankees! Mariners fans haven’t felt this good taking a Yankee player since Jay Buhner, better explained by Frank Costanza. Cano’s new contract is the fourth largest in Major League Baseball history.
Steve Sarkisan gave the Husky faithful a punch to the gut when he left Washington for USC, becoming the only coach to voluntarily leave UW for another school since the 1950s. The pain was temporary, though, as the Huskies upgraded at coach by luring sought-after Chris Petersen from Boise State. Petersen had been the head coach for BSU the past eight seasons, with a record of 92-12. Credit Washington athletic director Scott Woodward for closing the deal with Petersen, a feat that UCLA, USC and Oregon could not accomplish.
The Seahawks are the NFL’s team to beat, poised to make a strong playoff run. Seattle’s CenturyLink Field is a huge home-field advantage because of the 12th Man, and the Seahawks will play at home until Super Bowl if they win one of their last two home regular-season games or San Francisco loses. The Hawks are perceived as the cool team in the league, with visits and shout-outs from pop culture stars like Magic Johnson, Snoop Dogg, Drake, LeBron James and Will Ferrell. Seattle’s success has been predicated on educated gambles in the draft and through free-agency, and instilling a philosophy of competition. Expectations are sky high.
From Richie-to-Russell, Seattle is just five years removed from the worst nightmare any sports town could imagine. Strong franchises, quality players and generally competent leadership have propelled Seattle back into the national discussion. Championships and successes are still to come, but the culture of sports has moved from apathetic to anxious.
People at the coffee shop are talking and believing. The Pacific Northwest is thirsty. And in the land of coffee, it’s time for a cup.
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