We already know the worst year: 2008 in a landslide. But, what year was the best?
Lots of variables. Lots of ins and outs and whathaveyous. For some, maybe the best Seattle sports year was 2013, when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl (for the purposes of this exercise, when I talk about years, I’m talking about years where the bulk of the regular season takes place; when it comes to basketball – like the 95/96 Supersonics that went to the NBA Finals – I will be referring to the year in which they participated in their post-season, so they will be the 1996 Supersonics going forward). Maybe your definition of “the best” involves the most teams going to the post-season in the same year. I’ve gone on record as to my favorite sports year, but here I’d like to be a little more objective (or, at least as objective as one can be in this type of thing).
In the grand scheme of things, for instance, 1996 (my aforementioned “favorite sports year”) isn’t all that great. Yeah, the Sonics cracked the Finals – and they were my favorite sports team at the time – but the Mariners failed to make the playoffs, the Seahawks were 7-9, the Husky basketball team lost in the first round of the NIT, and the Husky football team lost in the Holiday Bowl after finishing second in the Pac-10.
In the two years a team actually won its championship – the Seahawks in 2013 and the Sonics in 1979 – they were the only teams that year to play in a meaningful post-season game. The 2013 Mariners were awful, the Husky basketball team wasn’t much better, and the football team won the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. The 1979 Seahawks were 9-7, but missed the playoffs, the Mariners lost 95 games, the Husky basketball team was 8th in the Pac-10, and the football team got stuck playing in the Sun Bowl after finishing 2nd in the Pac-10. Not super awesome. If you want to tack on the 1991 Husky football team (co-national champs), then you get a .500 Sonics team losing in the first round, a near-.500 Seahawks team just about to bottom out a year later, a Mariners team that managed its first-ever winning season (but no playoff appearance), and a Husky basketball team that finished dead last in the Pac-10.
If it seems like it’s impossible for everything to gel for Seattle sports teams in the same year, you wouldn’t be too far off. From 1975 through 2014 (spanning 40 years!), Seattle has had a meaningful post-season participant in every year but one (2008, naturally). For the purposes of this post, “meaningful” means the NCAA Tournament for the Husky basketball team (no NIT or CBI appearances here) and it means a BCS Bowl for the Husky football team (Rose and Orange; they’ve never played in the Fiesta or Sugar). But, Seattle has only had two or more playoff teams in the same year in 17 out of 40 times; three or more playoff teams in 3 of 40 years.
From a sheer volume perspective, the best year for Seattle sports may very well have been 1984, when Seattle sent 4 of 5 of its teams to the post-season. The Husky basketball team was co-conference champions and made it to the Sweet 16. The Sonics were 5th in the conference and lost in the first round of the playoffs. The Seahawks finished the regular season 12-4 (coming off of an AFC Championship Game appearance in 1983) and lost in the divisional round to the Dolphins. And, the Husky football team finished the season with 1 loss, ultimately handling Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and finishing #2 in the country (behind BYU, who went undefeated thanks to their cupcake schedule; the Dawgs were robbed of yet another national championship). If you want to throw in the Mariners, with a near-.500 record and a Rookie of the Year Award for Alvin Davis, I won’t fault you for it.
That’s a pretty damn good year for Seattle sports. For my money, I don’t think you’re going to top it. The year kicks off with one of the best Husky basketball teams of all time, followed by one of the MANY playoff Sonics teams doing what they do. You’ve got a summer of somewhat adequate baseball out of the Mariners (especially considering they were a laughingstock from their inception through the entirety of the 1980s). And, you wrap it up with some of the best football we’ve ever seen in these parts thanks to the Huskies and Seahawks.
As for honorable mentions, I’ll name a few. In the year 2000, Seattle sent three teams to the post-season. The Sonics finished 8 games over .500, but were a 7th seed and lost in the first round in five games. The Mariners won 91 games and the Wild Card, then swept the White Sox before losing to the Yankees in six games in the ALCS. The Seahawks and Husky basketball teams were total trainwrecks, but the Husky football team more than made up for it by being Pac-10 co-champs, winning the Rose Bowl, and finishing the season #3 in the nation (11-1 overall). It’s hard to remember this now, as it’s been so long, but there’s nothing quite like a top 5 college football season.
Another big honorable mention is 2005. Of course, the Mariners and Husky football teams were complete disasters. But, the Husky basketball team finished 2nd in the Pac-10 and made it to the Sweet 16. The Sonics won the Northwest Division and as a 3-seed lost to the Spurs in 6 games in the second round of the playoffs (this would be the final time the Sonics ever made the playoffs, for what it’s worth). And, of course, the Seahawks went 13-3, and as the top seed in the NFC went all the way to the Super Bowl before being jobbed by the refs and their own poor play in losing to the Steelers.
So, you know, take that for what it’s worth. I say 1984 is the best Seattle sports year (and lest you think I’m some old fogey sticking up for a bygone generation, rest assured I was born in 1981 and have absolutely no recollection whatsoever of anything that would have happened that year). But, I won’t fault you for saying 2013, 1979, 1991, 2000, 2005, 1996, or shit, even 2014. Just, for the love of God, stay away from 2008, or else we’re going to have beef.