Being a Seattle sports fan is often associated with being miserable. At times this is very true, but we have had some great moments as well. It's kind of like the idea that 'it always rains in Seattle.' Yes, it rains here a lot, but it's also 76 degrees and sunny, "I got my swimtrunks, and my flippy floppys" caliber weather here at times too. We Seattle fans have had our days in the sun, so to speak, over the years and these brief moments of glory manage to keep us hooked. It's why we don't move to California and why we still root for our Mariners and Seahawks.
With all due respect to the Sounders and Storm (and OKC Thunder), if you're like me, the Mariners and Seahawks are all that matter. We have had to savor our brief victories as of late, and often, we have to settle for individual player victories over championships. Players are the elemental pieces that make up a team and Seattle sports teams have had some really great heroes to cheer for over the years. I looked up to a lot of players when I was growing up. For the Sonics (RIP), I absolutely LOVED Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton, and still do.
The Mariners I worshipped growing up were Ken Griffey Jr, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez and of course, the most ridiculously phallically named person ever, Randy Johnson, aka the Big Unit. The Sonics and Mariners teams of the 90's were occasionally very exciting and gave us immortal sports stars and heroes. The players I mentioned above will forever be faces of the city and still do a good job of representing Seattle. Shawn Kemp still lives here, has a radio show on KJR, and owns a bar in Queen Anne. Gary Payton still reps the Sonics and spurns the OKC Thunder, further winning the hearts of Seattle residents. Ken Griffey Jr is still a part of the Mariners organization and Jay Buhner routinely shows up for M's games to provide some color commentary on the telecasts. All these guys had great character and true grit that made us all fall in love with them.
Over the years though, these types of players have become more few and far between. I loved Ray Allen when he was with the Sonics for a few seasons, but past him I have a hard time really finding memorable plays or players in the twilight seasons for the Sonics. The Mariners 2001, 116 win season was awesome - Arthur Rhodes, Jamie Moyer, Mike Cameron, and of course Ichiro were great. Manager Lou Pinella is an all-timer. Outside of that though, what Mariners' season or player really stands out as of late? The 'common fan' probably couldn't tell me what happened in 2004. Do you remember how the Mariners did in 2007 or who the star player was? Well, I don't. Jose Vidro? Adrian Beltre? Jeff Cirillo? Great memories from those seasons? I don't have any, not with any specificity or fondness anyway.
Now, because I'm a Seahawks' fan to the core, I suppose I should bring them up as well. The problem is, though, that I didn't become a real 'Hawks fan or fan of the NFL in general until 2005 so I cannot really speak much on the Seahawk heroes of old. What I do know is that the Seahawks' 2005 season was glorious and ignited my fandom. Heroes were made in Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander, Lofa Tatupu, Walter Jones and many others. As the years have gone on since the '05 season, these heroes have deteriorated from age and injury and really only Tats and Hass remain.
The last few seasons, we've had the opportunity to watch fan favorites *cough* TJ Houshmanzadeh, Brian Russell, Deion Branch, and a Seahawks team led by Jim Mora Jr. and Tim Ruskell. Mike Teel, Josh "Pistol" Wilson and Nick Reed were about the only players to get excited about, but they're all gone now too. Not a whole lot of 'face of the franchise' players or coaches to get pumped up about. Up until last season, the Seahawks, much like the Mariners, in general were very, very boring to watch.
The 2010/2011 Seahawks and Mariners' seasons may be a turning point in Seattle sports fans' misery and boredom. We've now got some legitimately likable players worth rooting for. Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and Dustin Ackley have triggered some of the most brazen and fervent man-crushes I've ever witnessed. The Mariners fan-base is excited again and there is a young pitcher on the hill worth watching nearly every single night they take the field. We have a tough, no-nonsense, mustachioed, and there's no other way to put it, a badass manager in Eric Wedge. We've got a baseball-savant GM, Jack Zduriencik, with a history in scouting that is building what we hope becomes a dynasty: through the draft, free agency, and key trades.
The Seahawks have a similar situation. The dead weight, boring and ineffective guys for the most part have been jettisoned and the team is made up of young, energetic and big-character players. We all got to witness and take part in the comeback-story of former Draft bust Mike Williams. We all got to be a part of the feel-good story of Leon Washington's journey from a broken leg and career uncertainty to a reemergence as a top-tier kick returner and Seahawks' team defibrillator. We got to witness Earl Thomas' burgeoning greatness. We got to see Russell Okung's gutsy performance on one leg for most of the season.
We got to witness the Beastquake.
We have a high-energy and infectiously positive coach in Pete Carroll. To juxtapose this, the Seahawks 'muscle' is now the charmingly thuggish and curmudgeonly Tom Cable. Our GM is a precocious and hard-working football wunderkind that is building what we hope becomes a dynasty: through the draft, free agency, and key trades.
We've now got players, coaches, and front offices in Seattle that I really want to root for and really enjoy watching. Even if the dynastic championship teams are several years away, it's fun to watch the culture changes happening and the career infancy of promising young players. My two favorite teams, the Seahawks and Mariners, have exciting and talented nuclei of future superstars, and I just get the feeling that good times are on the way.
In simplest terms, it's fun to be a Seattle fan again.