Smurf Turf: Sleepless and win-less in Seattle

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Posted Wednesday, January 28, 2009 - 5:28pm

No, this story does not include a magical romantic ending, nor breaking off engagements to run off with a hunk. Sadly, this article doesn't offer Meg Ryan, or even Tom Hanks. Instead, it offers the likes of Ty Willingham and P.J. Carlisimo and Richie Sexson.

Okay, I admit it. Writing a story about sports in Seattle is a little like arm-wrestling with a wimp or challenging the slowest runner in PE class to a race around the track. It's too easy. You know who is going to win, or in the case of Seattle, you know who is going to lose.

To show I am not totally insensitive to the sporting woes of the Emerald City, I offer empathy to all sports fans in Seattle. Oh, how it seemed just yesterday that the beloved NBA Seattle Supersonics were the team to beat. They were one of the best NBA teams of the '90s. They had all the components of a successful NBA team in future NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton; a scary, power forward in Shawn Kemp, before he eventually got his number retired ... in the drug rehab home; the haircut-challenged but effective center, Jack Sikma; and German-born Detlef Schrempf, who may have had the best all-around game of anyone on that team. The Sonics were good. Really good. They had it all.

But they shared athletic glory with the local collegiate football team. The University of Washington won the NCAA football championship in 1991, and led to prominence throughout the '90s and into the 2000s by three Tuisassopo brothers and a contingent of fast, mean and confident players.

Still want Seattle success? Let's look at major league baseball's Seattle Mariners, who in 2001, were led by Ichiro to a record-tying 116 wins. They followed with 93 wins in the next two years, even though they missed out on the playoffs. The Mariners also hosted the all-star game and opened their state-of-the-art baseball facility, Safeco Field.

Finally, we have the NFL Seattle Seahawks. All they did was get to Super Bowl XL, along with winning their division from '04-'07, while sending a handful of players to the Pro Bowl.

Oh, those were the days of Seattle sports. Sports reigned. The city known for Starbucks, Microsoft and a laid-back attitude, might have been at the top of the city-sporting heap. It didn't stay there for long.

Enter losing records, a pro-basketball disaster, bad decisions, bad signings, bad performances, bad contracts, big egos, and you had the makings of a city and its sports team in a downward spiral. And of course it rains a lot there, too.

This past season when it rained in Seattle, it poured. Anybody need an umbrella? Not only did the Seahawks have a miserable season, but so did the Mariners, and the Huskies.

But we're missing one, right? Oh, the Sonics. How could we forget the beloved team name that some think is still a Nintendo 64 character? We did, but they are now the Thunder, and in Oklahoma City. Yes, that's right. Seattle lost its pro basketball team. To Oklahoma City. That's adding insult to injury.

Let us review the mess that Seattle sports has become. We start off with the Washington Huskies: 2008 NCAA football record: 0-12. Highlights: Only team out of 119 in its division to remain winless and the first PAC-10 history to get skunked for an entire season. Results: Coach Ty Willingham fired. Future: Not bright. They welcome USC and LSU in week's one and three next season. But the drought will end next fall when they should win at least one game against even-lowlier Idaho. Not at bat, the Seattle Mariners. Season record in 2008: 61-101. Highlights: The underachieving Marines had the second worst pro record in the majors last season. They became the first franchise in sports history with a losing record while having a payroll over $100 million. (Yes, that's right. Those sorry Mariners had a payroll of more than $100 million. For that much, you'd think they would at least run out ground balls. They didn't, proving that money may not motivate.)

Slumping first baseman Richie Sexson gets mad and sulks when he's benched and gets cut from the team for his attitude. Richie, your attitude should be amazing. You were paid $16 million last year. Results: From the general manager to the towel boy, they were all fired.Future: not good. They have no offense, which you need to win games. With management cleaning house, it will be a rebuilding year, the first of many.Third and long, so let's talk about the Seattle Seahawks.NFL 2008 record: 4-12, highlights: one pro-bowl player. They missed the playoffs for the first time in years. Results: Head Coach Mike Holmgren retired. Good thing. It saved the owners from firing him. Future: not all that bad. They return a good core, and have an experienced coach taking over, Jim Mora, reportedly a no-nonsense kind of coach. That may be what the Sorry Seahawks need.

And last, and probably least, the Seattle Supersonics.Their 2007-2008 NBA record: 20-62 (season 8-34), highlights: drafted Kevin Durant from Texas, who averaged 20.2 PPG in his rookie season and will be a Hall of Fame player. Results: Team moved to Oklahoma City, Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo got fired, and the team is awful once again.Future: No future in Seattle.

Remember, the team is in Oklahoma and with the state of the economy, there is no chance of an expansion franchise coming back to Seattle. My suggestion: It's a little like rooting for the guy who stole your girl friend, but become a Portland Trailblazers' fan. Now there's a team with a sunny future.The tally: combined record of 93-221, for a .296 winning percentage.

Okay, I'm done kicking a city when it's down. Things look up, because Seattle can't sink any lower. If a city ever had a sports jinx, it was Seattle in 2008.

It's about as sorry as it can get, so chin up Seattleites, at least your WNBA team is in second place.

So sit back, sip your latte, take a bike around Lake Washington, hitch a ride to the top of the Space Needle. It's not all bad. Sports isn't everything.

Look out there far enough toward the horizon, and you might just see that sunshine is in the forecast.

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