Despite being a world-class city, Seattle long has danced a waltz of mediocrity and disappointment in major-league sports.
Between baseball’s Mariners and football’s Seahawks and basketball’s late, lamented SuperSonics, there have been 116 seasons at the major-league level and one championship to show for them — by the Sonics in 1979. And don’t forget the Seattle Pilots, who played one season of Major League Baseball before being purchased by a car dealer named Bud Selig and moving to Milwaukee.
So, yes, Seattle’s history with professional sports is checkered at best. The Mariners have played 37 seasons, most of them ranging between awful and “wait ’til next year,” and have yet to appear in a World Series. The Sonics left town in 2008 for Oklahoma City, where they have turned into one of the best and most exciting teams in the National Basketball Association. And the Seahawks have played in one Super Bowl since their inception in 1976; one, that is, before today.
You might have heard a little something about it. About how Seattle is facing the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, and how Peyton Manning is quarterbacking the other team, and how Seattle defensive back Richard Sherman has become a media focal point for his outspoken manner and his excellent play. You might have heard about all this because the Super Bowl tends to receive an apocalyptic amount of attention.
For football fans, this is a dream matchup. The teams tied for the best won-lost record in the league this year, and Seattle has the NFL’s best defense while Denver has the league’s best offense. The Broncos, in fact, have the highest-scoring offense in the history of the NFL, which probably doesn’t concern the 12th Man legion of Seahawks fans because defense wins championships, right? Huh? Right?!? Actually, Seahawks fans wouldn’t know what wins championships, which is kind of the point of this afternoon’s contest (3:30 p.m. kickoff, Fox, Ch. 12).
In sports, Seattle hasn’t quite plunged to the depths inhabited by Cleveland, which has gone 140 combined team seasons since its last championship and has watched LeBron James leave for another team. But the Emerald City and residents throughout the state have been underserved by their professional teams over the past several decades.
This might not be of vital importance, but it does matter. Boeing and Microsoft and Amazon might be more important to the Puget Sound region and to the state, but it’s unlikely that Washingtonians greet friends from across the country with, “How ’bout that Amazon! Woo-hoo!” The Seahawks on the other hand? Well, a Super Bowl championship could make the entire state seem a little warmer and sunnier.
The same can be said on the other side of the Columbia River. The Portland Trail Blazers have been the surprise of this NBA season, posting many more victories than had been expected and appearing well on their way to an appearance in the playoffs. We won’t say the Blazers are ready to contend for a championship quite yet, but their performance certainly has boosted morale for their vast fan base.
That can be the magic and the power of sports. Athletes typically have little native connection to the area they represent; even in big-time college sports, they usually are mercenaries brought in from afar. Yet they generate an indescribable and inescapable bond with the area they represent simply because of the uniform they wear. Seattle long has had the best fans in the NFL; today it proves that it has the best team, as well.