2008: A Seattle Sports Apocalypse

Originally Published:  September 22, 2012

For better or for worse (worse, it’s worse, it’s ALWAYS worse), 2008 is pretty much the reason Seattle Sports Hell became a thing.  In recorded sports history, 2008 is the worst year to ever befall a city.  Each and every major sport – both college and professional – either disappointed, sucked, TOTALLY sucked, or broke our fucking hearts.  This is something of a minor recap of the events of 2008; if I ever get my shit together and write a book on the dregs that are Seattle sports, I’ll certainly have a chapter devoted to this God-foresaken year.

October 31, 2007 – Seattle Supersonics Play 1st Regular Season Game

Since sports seasons overlap sometimes, you can’t start a discussion about 2008 without dipping back into 2007.  The Sonics played their first game of their final season in Seattle on Halloween in Denver.  They lost to the Nuggets 120-103.  Rookie (and future superstar) Kevin Durant scored 18 points on 7 for 22 shooting.  Damien Wilkins (remember him?  Because I’m not sure I do) led the Sonics with 21 points.  Delonte West had 19 off the bench.  Of course, it wasn’t enough as Carmelo Anthony had a game-high 32 points.  And so, a long, terrible season had begun.

November 13, 2007 – UW Husky Basketball Plays 1st Game

This Husky Basketball team directly followed my least-favorite Husky Basketball team, because THAT team featured one & done superstud Spencer Hawes.  What does a one & done superstud Spencer Hawes get you?  Apparently, not an invite to any post-season basketball, that’s for damn sure.  I had higher hopes for this 2007/2008 season, since Hawes was gone and everything, but in retrospect I probably shouldn’t have.

This team was young.  Impossibly young.  The only senior playing major minutes was Ryan Appleby.  Check out the Freshman class (either redshirt or true):  Venoy Overton, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday, Quincy Pondexter, and Darnell Gant.  This unit was still a year away from Isaiah Thomas, but this unit would eventually gel into something amazing.  In 2007/2008, though, they were still getting their feet wet.  Juniors Jon Brockman, Joel Smith, and Justin Dentmon tried to carry the load with Appleby, but it would be a rough go.

On this date, the Husky men’s basketball team kicked off its season against the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, trouncing them 88-47.  It would not be a sign of things to come.  The Huskies would go 9-4 in non-conference play, but they would lose to every ranked opponent they would face.

December 27, 2007 – Seattle Supersonics Play at Home vs. Boston Celtics

This date probably doesn’t mean a whole lot to most of you, but it holds great personal significance to me.  At this point in my life, I had just returned to Seattle from living in New York for a year and a half.  I had no job, little money, and a lot of debt squeezing the life out of me one day at a time.  But, I made an effort to go to Key Arena and see the Sonics play the eventual 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics.  It would be the last time I’d see the Sonics play in person.

They got beat by the Celtics, 104-96.  The Celtics improved to 24-3, the Sonics fell to 8-21.  At this point, the writing was clearly on the wall that there was a better-than-good chance this would be the final season the Sonics would ever play in Seattle.  We already knew of Bennett’s intentions to move the team to OKC (thanks to the infamous Aubrey McClendon article), we already knew that the proposed $500 million arena in the Renton area was shot down, we already knew things were headed towards litigation (the Bennett group to get out of the lease, the city of Seattle to hold them to their lease), and we already knew that Bennett had started things in motion on the NBA level to move the team to his hometown.  My friends and I had to go to at least ONE game before they left us forever.  We chose this one.

Even though the Sonics lost, I’m glad I got to go.  You have to figure, with the way this team was constructed, just about ANY game we’d go to would be a loss.  Kevin Durant flashed more of that superstar potential in leading the Sonics with 25 points on 10 for 23 shooting.  Paul Pierce led the game with 37 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists.  Ray Allen had a quiet 10 points, and Kevin Garnett (the third of their Big 3) had 23 points and 14 rebounds.  It was a somber occasion, and not just because the Sonics lost the game.

January 5, 2008 – UW Husky Basketball Plays 1st Conference Game

So, apparently, as of our first conference game, the WSU Cougars were #4 in the nation.  That doesn’t sound right, but apparently it’s true.  The Cougars would go on to lose in the Sweet 16 to North Carolina and finish the year 26-9.  The Huskies would go on to finish much, much worse.

The Huskies lost this game 56-52 at home.  They would go on to lose their first three conference games before winning their next three.  It would be that kind of season.  That 3-game winning streak was followed by a 4-game losing streak.  The Huskies would finish conference play 7-11, losing their final game to these same WSU Cougars in 2 overtimes, 76-73.  Four days later, they would lose in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament to Cal, finishing their regular season with a 16-16 overall record.

March 19, 2008 – UW Husky Basketball Loses in 1st Round of C.B.I.

One day after my birthday, this was the present I received from the Husky basketball team.  Since this was back when the Pac-10 was still a good conference, the Huskies held out hope that MAYBE the N.I.T. would invite us.  No dice.  Instead, the College Basketball Invitational (in its first year of existence) made Washington its #1 seed.  We got to host a game against Valparaiso in Hec-Ed.  We lost to Valparaiso 72-71.

Jon Brockman tried his damnedest, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 boards, but it’s clear that the rest of the team wasn’t all that jazzed to be there.  The Huskies ended that season 16-17, the worst finish in Lorenzo Romar’s storied Husky head coaching career (aside from his first season when the Dawgs went 10-17, mostly with inherited players).

Things would improve for the Huskies almost immediately – they would finish 26-9, first place in the Pac-10, and reach the second round of the NCAA tournament – but that would (for the most part) happen in 2009, outside of the dark cloud that was 2008.

March 31, 2008 – Seattle Mariners Play 1st Regular Season Game

The Seattle Mariners finished 2007 with an 88-74 record.  They were second place in the AL West to the Anaheim Angels, 6 games back.  They were also 6 games back of the wild card.  Those Mariners had a nice little over-achieving group of veteran hitters, they were 27-20 in one-run games, and in spite of two complete black holes in the starting rotation (Jeff Weaver & Horacio Ramirez), they still had Felix and they had one of the best bullpens in the game (punctuated with an exclamation point by J.J. Putz and his breakout season).

The front office believed that we were just a couple starting pitchers away from the playoffs.  That had every Mariners fan in Seattle believing the same thing.  So, Bill Bavasi went out and signed Carlos Silva to a 4-year, $48 million deal from the Twins.  Then, he signed Brad Wilkerson to a 1-year deal (letting Jose Guillen go in free agency, which was probably the most underrated bad Bavasi move of that offseason), essentially giving him the right fielder job.  And, finally, he would go on to trade five players (including Adam Jones and Chris Tillman; both major contributors to this 2012 Baltimore Orioles playoff run) for the rights to Erik Bedard (the most maligned bad Bavasi move of that offseason, as it’s the gift that keeps on shitting down the back of our necks).

The Mariners gave Bedard the #1 starting job and he went out on this day in 2008 and pitched 5 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball, with 4 walks and 5 strikeouts (or, as it’s known around these parts, The Bedard Special).  The Mariners beat the Texas Rangers 5-2.  Richie Sexson, Brad Wilkerson, and Jose Vidro would go hitless; remember those names.

April 16, 2008 – Seattle Supersonics Play Final Game

We didn’t officially know this would be the Sonics’ final game as a Seattle-based team, but we pretty much knew.

On this date, the Sonics went into Golden State and won 126-121.  Kevin Durant finished his rookie season with 42 points on 18 for 25 shooting, to go along with 13 rebounds and 6 assists.  Jeff Green finished his rookie season with 27 points and 10 boards.

The Sonics, in fact, won their final two games, including their final home game on April 13th against the Dallas Mavericks, 99-95.  Those two wins brought their regular season record up to 20-62; it would be their worst regular season finish in the history of the franchise.  Kevin Durant would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award (the only Sonic to ever win the award).  In June, the Sonics would partake in their final NBA draft.  They picked Russell Westbrook number 4 overall, then picked Serge Ibaka number 24 overall.  Both players would go on to be major contributors to the OKC team starting the very next season.

July 2, 2008 – Supersonics Move to Oklahoma City

Without question, the darkest day in Seattle sports history.  The city of Seattle essentially sold the final two years of Sonics basketball in exchange for $45 million.  The team immediately moved away and Seattle was left without a professional basketball franchise.

In just two years, the OKC team would make the playoffs.  In just three years, the OKC team would make the Western Conference Finals.  In just four years, the OKC team would make the NBA Finals.  As of the date of this posting, there is still no professional basketball franchise in Seattle.  But, we’re halfway there

August 30, 2008 – UW Husky Football Plays 1st Game

In 2007, the Washington Huskies finished 4-9.  The team was mired in its longest streak of non-winning seasons since before the Don James Era.  But, there was still some reason for optimism, even as many Husky fans were panning the Tyrone Willingham Era as a total bust.  Jake Locker was a redshirt freshman in 2007.  With a full season under his belt, the 2008 Huskies would go only as far as Jake Locker could take them.  The Huskies decided to retain Willingham for the season in hopes that a little stability at the top might turn things around.

On this date, due to a scheduling quirk, the Huskies opened up their schedule in Oregon against the #21-ranked Ducks.  The Huskies lost 44-10, and an abomination of a season was on.  The very next week, Jake Locker ran in a 3-yard touchdown with 2 seconds remaining in the game against #15 BYU.  A bogus celebration penalty (resulting from Locker simply tossing the ball over his head upon scoring) knocked the Huskies back 15 yards and the PAT was blocked; the Huskies would lose by that 1 point.  Two weeks later, the Huskies would suffer their worst home defeat since 1929 in getting drubbed by #3 Oklahoma 55-14.  Following a bye week, in the Huskies’ fourth game at home against Stanford, Jake Locker was knocked out for the season with a broken right thumb.  Ronnie Fouch would go on to start the remaining games.  I don’t think I need to tell you how that would turn out.

September 7, 2008 – Seattle Seahawks Play 1st Regular Season Game

The 2007 Seattle Seahawks finished as the #3 seed in the NFC in winning yet another NFC West title, that year at 10-6.  They beat the Redskins at home, then proceeded to go to Green Bay and ratchet up a 14-0 lead early in that game.  They would go on to lose, being outscored the rest of the way 42-6.  That miserable stretch of game would be a nice bit of foreshadowing for what the 2008 Seahawks would have to endure.

2007 was notable for the demise of Shaun Alexander’s illustrious Seahawks career.  Tim Ruskell, seeing that he had the core of a team (albeit an aging one) that had only a couple of seasons prior been in the Super Bowl, opted to try and reload for another NFC West title and another playoff run.  In the offseason, he signed Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett to big free agent contracts as the next phase of the Seattle running game.  Matt Hasselbeck was still in his prime.  They had what they thought was a nice little receiving corps with Deion Branch, Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson, and newly drafted tight end John Carlson.  They had a defense still anchored by elite linebackers Tatupu, Hill, and Julian Peterson.  And they hoped first round draft pick Lawrence Jackson would help bolster their youthful pass rush opposite Darryl Tapp.  If the secondary, headlined by Trufant and Big Play Babs, could hold things together, why COULDN’T these Seahawks make another deep run through the playoffs?

Then, the Seahawks played their first regular season game and all hell broke loose.  Hasselbeck missed most of the pre-season with a back injury, so he came into the regular season rusty.  Nate Burleson was lost for the season in this game in Buffalo (where the Seahawks were heavily favored and expected to dominate), which was just the beginning of an injury-plagued year for the ‘Hawks.  The Seahawks lost this game 34-10.

The Seahawks lost the following week – at home against San Francisco in overtime – then beat the hapless Rams in week 3 for a 1-2 record to kick things off.  After a week 4 BYE, the injuries would really start to mount.  The Seahawks lost Hasselbeck for five weeks in a massacre to the Giants.  That loss in the Meadowlands kicked off a 1-9 stretch that was defined by one injury after another on offense and defense.  Seemingly no one could stay healthy, and those who did weren’t any damn good.

September 28, 2008 – Seattle Mariners Play Final Game of the Season

On this date, the Seattle Mariners won their final game at home against the A’s, 4-3.  In fact, the 2008 Seattle Mariners swept the 3-game series against the A’s to finish 61-101.  Why is that important information?  Well, let me tell you, this one is a DOOZY.

Going into that final 3-game series, the Seattle Mariners were 58-101.  Going into their final 3-game series, the Washington Nationals were 59-99.  The Mariners played the A’s, as I said above, and they won all three games.  The Nationals went into Philadelphia and were swept; they finished their season 59-102.  Going into the final weekend of the season, the Seattle Mariners were the worst team in baseball and the Washington Nationals were the second-worst team in baseball.  The Nats leapfrogged the Mariners thanks to their ineptitude and were handsomely rewarded with the #1 overall draft pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball amateur draft.

All season in 2008, the Mariners stunk.  Bedard went down with injury.  Brad Wilkerson was so God-awful that he was released on April 30th.  Richie Sexson’s batting average was under .200 for most of his absolutely repulsive final season in a Mariners uniform; he would also be cut before the end of his contract.  Jose Vidro was the absolute worst designated hitter in the history of the designated hitter.  He would not play another season in the Majors.  Carlos Silva was a bust the moment he put on a Mariners uniform.  The bullpen kind of fell apart, and all of those nice veterans having career years in 2007 regressed so far back to Earth many of them would never play the game again.  Bill Bavasi was fired in June of that year as was manager John McLaren.  The 2008 Seattle Mariners were the first team in Major League Baseball history to have a payroll over $100 million and lose 100 or more games.

The ONE thing we as Mariners fans were rooting for above all else was for THIS Mariners team to lose as many games as possible (once we realized just how bad they really were).  Because we knew that the team that lost the most games would get the opportunity to draft the single greatest pitching prospect since Roger Clemens (or, maybe Kerry Wood, but his potential was that of a would-be hall of famer).  That would be Stephen Strasburg.

And the Mariners had to go out in the final weekend of the season and sweep the fucking A’s.  The Mariners finished with the 2nd overall draft pick (a final fuck you from a year that was just the absolute fucking worst) and went with drafting Dustin Ackley.  Stephen Strasburg, in spite of losing most of a year due to arm troubles, looks like a machine.  Dustin Ackley, in a year and a half in the majors, looks like … I dunno.  But, he doesn’t look good, that’s for damn sure.

December 6, 2008 – UW Husky Football Loses Final Game

Two weeks prior to this game, the Huskies went into Pullman for the Apple Cup.  Going into THAT game, the Huskies were 0-10.  They had played one of, if not THE toughest schedule in all of College Football.  Nevertheless, without Locker, this was a BAD Husky football team.  Had Locker not broken his thumb, maybe 2008 wouldn’t have been quite as nasty.  But, he did, and it’s what makes 2008 just so fucking dreadful.

Going into the Apple Cup, the Cougars were only 1-10.  Their lone win was against a lower-division Portland State team at home.  Both the Huskies and the Cougars were tied where it counts:  both were winless in the Pac-10, the Huskies 0-7, the Cougs 0-8.  The loser of this game would hold the distinction as one of, if not THE worst major college football team in the nation.  But, let’s face it, the winner of this game wouldn’t be ranked all that much higher.

The Huskies pretty much controlled most of what was an extremely ugly contest.  They took a 10-0 lead into halftime, but then gave up a long run for a TD in the third quarter to make it 10-7.  Still, going into the final minute, the Huskies had a chance to end their 2008 misery.  Then, the Cougs somehow managed to drive 69 yards (thanks mostly to a 48-yard reception as the Huskies let a receiver get behind them) for the game-tying field goal as regulation expired.  The teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime (as Willingham employed his notorious vanilla offense in what was surely an attempt not to WIN the game, but to try and not lose it).  Then, the Huskies missed their kick in the second overtime, opening the door for the Cougs to nail the deciding field goal in a 16-13 victory.

The Huskies would go on, two weeks later on December 6th, to lose at Cal 48-7.  They finished 0-12, the only winless team in major college football.  It was the very worst season in Husky football history and it will be the season every other terrible college football season is compared to.  Tyrone Willingham knew about midway through the season that he would be fired, but to his credit he stayed with the program and coached them to the bitter end.

On the plus side, this would result in Steve Sarkisian being hired; I don’t know if we would have fared so well had we hired a new coach BEFORE the 2008 season.  But, since this is college football, there are no #1 draft picks looming right around the corner.  College football programs that go 0-12 have the most difficult road to hoe.  Three years later, they are still digging through the wreckage at Montlake.  We’re still suffering the effects of the Willingham Era.  Recruiting is finally on an upswing, but coach Sark is winning games with mostly smoke and mirrors at this point.  Good times are on the horizon, but thanks to 2008, we’ve been forced to wait half a decade to reach them.

December 28, 2008 – Seattle Seahawks Play Final Game of the Season

The Seahawks were 2-11 going into their final three games.  These were the final games of the Mike Holmgren Era, as he had decided going into 2008 that this would be his final year in Seattle.  Well, depending on who you ask.

The real story is that Mike Holmgren was more than content to keep going on 1-year deals, but Tim Ruskell and Co. wanted a definitive answer one way or the other:  contract extension or retire already.  If you want my opinion, I think the Seahawks just wanted the Holmgren Era to end.  Once a popular head coach is entrenched for too long in one situation, it’s hard to extricate yourselves, and you probably just get tired of the ego clashes all the time.  It’s no secret that Holmgren and Ruskell didn’t get along (Hell, Ruskell was the one who took his GM job when the organization stripped him of it), nor did they agree on who to draft or who to bring in via free agency.  Holmgren was getting up there in years and was starting to grow weary of the NFL grind.  Sure, he probably would’ve stayed on for a year or two beyond 2008 if the Seahawks had been more receptive, but would his heart really have been in it (especially after this death march of a 2008 season)?

So, Tim Ruskell brought in His Guy, an eventual replacement for Mike Holmgren in Jim Mora Jr.  Mora was the secondary coach for 2008, but with the writing on the wall, it’s not hard to believe that some (or many) of the players were playing for future coach Mora and not present coach Holmgren.

Nevertheless, with Hasselbeck out for the season with his lingering back issues, (he came back from his knee injury against the Giants, played in three more games, and endured one of the worst Thanksgiving performances of all time in suffering seven sacks in Walter Jones’ final game in the pros against the Cowboys) the Seahawks won back to back games in St. Louis and at home in the snow against Brett Favre and the Jets.

The regular season (and the Mike Holmgren Era) would end, however, with a 34-21 loss in Arizona against the eventual NFC Champion Cardinals.  The Seahawks would finish 4-12, with the #4 pick in the following year’s NFL Draft.  The team had not lost its confidence in Tim Ruskell just yet – in spite of draft after draft of inadequate personnel decisions – and let him make what most were touting as the Safest Pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.

That pick turned into Aaron Curry.  He would go on to be terrible.  These Seahawks would go on – under Jim Mora Jr. – to go 5-11, THEN they would clean house and hire Pete Carroll & John Schneider.

And there you have it.  The only team to make the post-season was the college basketball team, and even THEN, it was the third-best tournament in its first year of existence AND we lost in the only game we played.  The Mariners finished dead last in the AL, yet still managed to screw up getting the #1 overall pick.  The Seahawks finished as the 4th-worst team in the NFL, then proceeded to draft a total bust.  The Supersonics finished dead last in the Western Conference, then they moved to another city.  And the college football team only had the worst record in all of major college football.

  • Husky Basketball:  16-17 (.485 winning percentage)
  • Seattle Mariners:  61-101 (.377 winning percentage)
  • Seattle Seahawks:  4-12 (.250 winning percentage)
  • Seattle Supersonics:  20-62 (.244 winning percentage)
  • Husky Football:  0-12 (.000 winning percentage)

Overall Record for Seattle in 2008:  101-204 (.331 winning percentage)