As a Seattle sports fan, I don’t often have much cause to cheer Seattle’s sports teams. Each year it seems that one of Seattle’s major sports teams perform well while the others underachieve. In Seattle’s grand sports tradition, the team that does perform well always loses in the first or second round of the playoffs. In the 1990’s, we Seattle fans were fortunate that the Seattle Mariners (Major League Baseball) and the Seattle SuperSonics (NBA basketball) both excelled, although neither brought home a championship. The SuperSonics lost to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1996, and in 1991 the University of Washington Huskies football team won the Rose Bowl and shared the NCAA College Football championship trophy with the University of Miami. The Mariners made it to the American League Championship Series in 1995 and 2001, and the Seattle Seahawks (NFL Football) have been swept in every NFL Wild Card game the team has played since the 1980’s (in 1984 the Seahawks lost the American Football Conference championship to the Los Angeles Raiders, who went on to win the Superbowl).
It is very hard to be a hapless Seattle sports fan. Boston Red Sox, who waited 88 years for a championship, could at least take solace in championships by the other three major Boston sports teams, most recently by the New England Patriots. Chicago Cubs fans who still suffer, 97 years and counting, can savor six Chicago Bulls championships in the 1990’s. I did some research on U.S. cities with at least three major professional sports franchises, and I discovered that Seattle is the city with the longest championship drought, despite three professional franchises. No professional Seattle sports team has won a championship since 1978, when the SuperSonics defeated the Washington Bullets in the NBA championship. Before that, you would have to go back to 1917, when the Seattle Metropolitans, Seattle’s only professional hockey franchise, won the Stanley Cup. That’s it. Two championships in 100 hundreds, including one by a team that no longer exists. You would be hard-pressed to find an American city with such a dearth of sports success.
Seattle fans have long been accused of being fair-weather fans. Critics claim Seattle fans only show up to root for their sports teams when they’re winning. Can you blame us? The Atlanta Braves have trouble filling Turner Field because Braves fans are so jaded. That’s what happens when your team wins one World Series in 14 straight playoff seasons. New Orleans may lose its NBA team, the Hornets, to Oklahoma City, and its football team, the Saints, to San Antonio, because of Hurricane Katrina and the fact that both teams lack a strong support base in the New Orleans. Seattle fans are accustomed to watching losers and winning teams that suffer repeated letdowns, such as in 2001, when the Seattle Mariners, with the winningest season in Major League Baseball history (117-65), lost to the weaker New York Yankees 4-1 in the American League Championship Series.
Who can blame us for our tepid reaction when the 8-2 Seahawks become the top seed in the National Football Conference by beating the 2-8 San Francisco 49ers 27-25? While the ‘Hawks looked weak against the 49ers last weekend, it’s encouraging that they won a game that they would normally have lost. On October 23, the ‘Hawks beat the Dallas Cowboys 13-10 in a game they should have lost. There’s something different about the ‘Hawks this year–they’re very good, and they’re winning close games. I don’t think the ‘Hawks have been this good since the 1980’s, when Dave Krieg was quarterback and Chuck Knox was head coach. The ‘Hawks have two more major tests ahead of them when they play the 7-3 New York Giants and the undefeated (10-0) Indianapolis Colts. If the ‘Hawks win both games, they will have defeated most of their likely playoff contenders. The upcoming December 24 (Christmas Eve) matchup between the Colts and Seahawks is shaping up to be a classic, perhaps a Superbowl preview. I digress. As a true Seattle sports fan, I am in denial over the Seahawks. I just can’t believe they’re good enough to win the NFL Championship until they go 14-2 and win a Superbowl berth. Until then, it will be a fun ride.