To fully appreciate the current embarrassment of wealth that exists in Seattle sports, you need to recall how grim it once was.
Remember the monster known as 2008? If you’re smart, you’ve completely repressed that memory, but allow me to go back and make you shudder:
- The Huskies football team went 0-12 under Tyrone Willingham, their worst season in history and the only college football team without a win that season.
- The Mariners become the first MLB team to have a $100 million salary and lose 100 games. That year, they signed Carlos Silva to a four-year, $48 million deal and traded Adam Jones and others to Baltimore for Eric Bedard, re-triggering your gag reflex. Then swept the Padres in the final series of the season and lost the chance to draft Stephen Strasburg.
- The Seahawks went 4-12 under lame-duck coach Mike Holmgren to pave the way for a glorious Jim Moura era — one that lasted all season. At least all the losses landed him the No. 4 pick in 2009…which ended up being Aaron Curry.
- Most ruthless layoff: In July 2008, the Sonics traveled to Oklahoma City, leaving a gap in the region’s collective psyche that still hasn’t healed.
“Sports in this city is terrible,” an avid fan named Anthony Ray — better known as Sir Mix-A-Lot — told The New York Times, which is One of the national media outlets that did a lot of coverage of the sport’s misery that year was in Seattle. “Has any other city done such a bad thing?”
This is a matter of speculation. But now, few cities are doing better. So let’s take a few minutes to savor how things are going.
The Husky football team finished a dismal 2021 season with a 11-2 record under new coach Kalen DeBoer and finished the season with seven straight victories. They finished No. 8 in the final AP 25 poll, and with a string of key players announcing their return in 2023 — including Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Penix Jr. — they have Opportunity to compete for a spot in the national playoffs.
The Seahawks just finished a season that predicted doom after the Russell Wilson trade, only to make the playoffs instead. With four top-52 picks in April’s NFL draft, one can imagine a prosperous future that seemed out of reach last March.
The Mariners are in the playoffs for the first time since 2001 with an exhilarating sweep of the Blue Jays in the wild-card round after coming back from an 8-1 fifth-inning deficit in their final game. Spring training is less than a month away, and while some fans were disappointed by the offseason moves, hopes are still running high.
The Kraken, a team that didn’t exist in 2008 or even more than a decade later, became one of the surprising teams in the NHL the following year. They’re firmly on the road to the Stanley Cup playoffs, with all the intensity and excitement that comes with a venerable tournament. What’s more, Climate Pledge Arena’s lavish redevelopment provides the venue for what looks increasingly like the NBA’s eventual return—it’s a question of “when,” not “if.”
The Sounders — another team that didn’t exist in 2008, at least in its MLS incarnation — are about to compete in the prestigious men’s Club World Cup in Morocco. They earned a spot in May, becoming the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League — a pinnacle achievement in league history. The Sounders were a win in a match against one of the sport’s giants, Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, OL Reign, established in 2012, has just found out that star winger Megan Rapinoe is returning to her 11day Seasons and Reigns. After reaching the playoffs as the No. 1 seed last year, the Reign had already engineered their first title, but lost to the Kansas City Trend in the semifinals.
The Storm have been a constant source of success, having captured four WNBA championships since 2004. Last year’s disappointing loss to eventual champion Las Vegas in the semifinals also marked the end of Suberd’s illustrious career. The Storm will once again be a title contender — provided they keep superstar Breanna Stewart, a hot unrestricted free agent.
That’s very positive for a city. I wouldn’t call it a golden age because we’ve all seen the cyclical nature of these things. Let’s call it the golden hour of time and savor it while it lasts.
Consider the influx of young talent this season alone. Glamorous Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez flashes in a style not seen since the days of Ken Griffey Jr. and is the runaway American League Rookie of the Year. The Kraken’s Matty Beniers could be after him in the NHL’s version of that award, the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Seahawks have two finalists for the NFL Rookie of the Year award, one from each side — running back Kenneth Walker III and cornerback Tarek Woolen.
Mind you, all of this doesn’t mean it’s uninterrupted victories in Seattle sports. There are the usual setbacks and painful failures, management decisions that can be second-guessed, and cases of maddening underachievement by select athletes and teams.
It’s just that the current sports landscape, even with its intermittent visual impairments, is a heart-wrenching place compared to what used to be the norm.