I Feel Like We Should Be More Worried About Seahawks Ownership

Seattle has had to endure so many terrible owners and ownership groups in our professional sports history. Good God, seemingly each one was worse than the last!

People complained like crazy about Nintendo owning the Mariners (mostly because Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong proved to be totally incapable of running a winning franchise and pushing us to the next level), but people forget how horrid the two prior owners were through the 80’s and early 90’s (George Argyros and Jeff Smulyan); both threatened and tried to move the team to other parts of the country. The jury is still out on John Stanton, but this current rebuild will go a long way towards our opinion on the job he’s doing.

The Supersonics, obviously, rate as having the absolute worst owners in Seattle sports history. It’s hard for me to choose, honestly. I know Clay Bennett and the OKC guys were the ones who literally stole them from us and moved them to the midwest, but I would argue Howard Schultz was the absolute worst owner in franchise history. He tried to run the team like a business – looking to make a buck over winning actual basketball games – and he doomed us to our eventual demise by being the one to sell them to the OKC guys (knowing full well they’d stop at nothing to move the Sonics, but trying to pretend like he was the one who was bamboozled when obvious scumbags didn’t stick to their “promises”). The Ackerley Group were among the best owners in Seattle sports history, though they did cheap out on renovating what would become Key Arena, the beginning of the end of it all.

We can’t leave out the Seahawks, because the first sports villian of my young life was Ken Behring, when he tried to move the Seahawks to southern California in the mid-90s. That was after many years of meddling and stripping this team of any opportunity to compete in the AFC West by himself being cheap and sticking his nose into player personnel decisions that would doom us to an entire decade of mediocrity in the 1990s.

I think it’s without question that Paul Allen is far and away the BEST pro sports owner in Seattle’s relatively young history. He swooped in and saved the NFL for our fair city, and oversaw the greatest period of success on the field by leaps and bounds. He brought in Mike Holmgren, who instituted an immediate culture change. That led to our first Super Bowl appearance in 2005. The hand-off from Holmgren to the next guy didn’t go smoothly, but Allen didn’t settle for a loser in Jim Mora Jr. Instead, he went right out and hired Pete Carroll and John Schneider, who took us to back-to-back Super Bowls and won our first-ever NFL championship.

The Seahawks, during Allen’s tenure of 1997 – 2018, were a tremendous success. They were among the best-run franchises in the entire NFL. And, when you look at how some of these teams are run – Washington, Cincinnati, Detroit, Jacksonville, Houston, even Dallas if we’re being honest – it’s easy to be in a perpetual loop of awfulness.

Now, the Seahawks are in a trust, run by Allen’s sister Jody, who is the de facto owner for the time being. It’s anybody’s guess as to who’s calling the shots. How involved is she? Who does she have under her – and above Pete and John – who are advising her? The franchise seems rudderless at the moment. I don’t blame Paul Allen’s death for the way the Seahawks have declined in 2021, but at some point the buck is going to stop with who’s running the show.

Right now, the scapegoat is some combination of Pete and John, with a disgruntled Russell Wilson thrown into the mix. Once you start getting rid of one or more of those people, then you have to start looking at ownership, or lack thereof.

It seems inevitable that the Seahawks are going to be sold to a permanent owner, and that terrifies the BeJesus out of me. Good owners, in any sport, seem to be in VERY short supply. You get someone young and/or desperate, and you’re looking at a person who will overly-involve themselves in the day-to-day operations. You get someone old and/or who doesn’t give a shit, and you’re looking at a person who will let the team rot. You need a balance of someone who cares, but who will let the football people make football decisions (while at the same time, holding those football people accountable for those decisions when they start going wrong).

It’s a legitimate concern that maybe Pete Carroll has too much control over the players we bring in (and the players we keep around). It’s a legitimate concern that John Schneider’s skills at drafting and targeting quality trade chips and free agents have declined. They need to be held accountable, by a strong, disciplined owner. We need a plan in place to turn this franchise back around in a hurry.

It doesn’t seem like we have the ownership group in place to handle this properly. This is a very interesting look at the Portland Trailblazers, who are in a similar boat, as they were once owned by Paul Allen and now sit in that same trust as the Seahawks. It’s not a matter of finding a new ownership group immediately; it’s about finding the right ownership group. I don’t know who that is, because I don’t keep tabs on who all the eligible billionaires are who are also interested in being NFL owners. But, you better believe it’s going to be keeping me up at night, until the team is eventually sold.

Owners aren’t like head coaches or GMs; you don’t get out from under them in 2-3 years’ worth of losing seasons. You are STUCK with them! If there was any accountability for shitty owners, the Knicks would’ve been saved from James Dolan’s tyranny eons ago. Ken Behring was the shortest-tenured Seahawks owner and he still had the team from 1988 to 1996. That is such a long time, but there are no guaranteed floors. Once an owner is accepted into the NFL’s tribe, it’s pretty much like a Supreme Court seat; you’re there as long as you want to be. Dan Snyder is as despicable and inept as they get, and he’s been the owner in Washington since 1999, with no end in sight, in spite of yearly controversies and embarrassments to both the franchise and the league itself.

What if WE get the next Dan Snyder?! Well, there will be no end to our bitching about the Seahawks, that’s a given. But, who wants to be a fan of a franchise that’s so poorly run? At that point, are you better off just giving up and devoting your time to something else?

It’s all just a nightmare. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. Unless someone wants to give me a few billion dollars and vouch or me buying the team? You could do worse!

The Biggest Blunders In Seattle Sports History

There’s always a reason to be disgruntled about what’s going on with sports in the Seattle area. We’re far from burdened with championship squads, unless the MLS or WNBA is your bag (which is fine if they are, but they’re just not mine). I don’t have a good handle on the breakdown, but essentially most sports fans complain about one of two things: something unfortunate happened to our team that’s outside of their control, or our team did something fucking stupid that effectively sabotaged all hope for success.

If we were talking about the former, I’d bring up something like Super Bowl XL (where I’ll go down to my dying breath contending we were jobbed by the refs at every turn), various good-looking trades that just didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons (Percy Harvin, Vin Baker, the deal to bring Cliff Lee in), or the countless injuries to promising young stars/prospects who could’ve been great had their bodies only held together (Franklin Gutierrez, Malik McDowell, Danny Hultzen, our entire secondary right before Super Bowl XL).

But, I’m talking about the blunders! The dumb-looking shit that was dumb-looking at the time and only proceeded to grow ever more mind-boggling with each passing year. It’s a rough sketch, but here are the top ten worst self-inflicted wounds I can think of in Seattle sports history.

#10 – We Want The Ball & We’re Gonna Score

You gotta have stakes in this thing, so any individual event has to come in the playoffs at a minimum. This one happened in the Wild Card round of the 2003 season. It’s not JUST that the Seahawks won the coin flip heading into overtime and Matt Hasselbeck made that unfortunate guarantee (indeed, I thought it was cool then, and I would gladly welcome such bravado anytime), but combine that with the fateful call.

Let’s go back: remember, this was back when the first score of overtime wins, regardless; so all we needed to do was get into field goal range. We got a first down and had the ball at our own 45 yard line. A stuffed run and an incompletion made it 3rd & 11. And, for some reason, Mike Holmgren decided to call a 5-wide receiver set. For some reason on top of that, Hasselbeck decided to throw the ball to our 5th receiver, Alex Bannister. For some reason on top of THAT, it was an out-pass – the easiest one to undercut and run back for a pick-six – that the receiver didn’t even get beyond the 11 yards needed for the first down! And, of course, not for nothing, but the pass was simply terribly thrown. The rest is history, and so began our continued demise whenever we play a playoff game in Lambeau Field.

#9 – The Deal To Trade Cliff Lee Away

It was supposed to be the epitome of a no-brainer. Cliff Lee was heading into the final year of his deal in 2010. At the time, he already had a Cy Young Award under his belt and was probably the best left-handed starting pitcher in the game. The Mariners traded three nobodies to the Phillies to bring Lee to Seattle and the plan was simple. The M’s were coming off of a winning season in 2009, and Lee – paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez – was going to help push us over the top and back into playoff contention.

Unfortunately, Cliff Lee got injured in Spring Training, and didn’t make his first start until the last day of April. In spite of Lee going 7 shutout innings that day, the Mariners lost 2-0 to drop their record to 11-12 on the season. On July 9th, our record fell to 34-52, and it was clear no playoffs would be forthcoming. That’s okay! We had a backup plan if things fell apart in spectacular fashion (which they did, as we would go on to lose 101 games). Since Cliff Lee was so great – indeed, his numbers after two months with the Mariners were among the best of his entire career – his value should’ve been sky high for a pitching-needy team looking to cement their status as a championship contender.

But, we had Jackie Z at the helm, and our return – Justin Smoak and three other nobodies – was far from inspiring. This was supposed to jumpstart our big rebuild, and Smoak was supposed to be the centerpiece. Instead, we rode his wave of warning track power into mediocre season after mediocre season. You could throw any number of trades Jackie Z made for the Mariners on the list of greatest blunders, but I’m putting this one here because Cliff Lee was amazing, and we BLEW IT.

#8 – Steve Hutchinson Transition Tag

The Seahawks were riding high after their appearance in Super Bowl XL. The only thing we could do to screw it up was dick around with our best players.

Tim Ruskell’s seat in Hell is being kept warm for him by the resentment and hatred of thousands upon thousands of Seahawks fans. What a buffoon! The offensive line was not only the backbone of the Seahawks’ offense, but it was easily the best part of the entire team, anchored on the left side by two Hall of Famers: Walter Jones & Steve Hutchinson. Through them, we had an MVP in running back Shaun Alexander. Through them, a sixth-round quarterback was able to play at a Pro Bowl level. We had the money, we had the desire, and indeed we had NO ANSWER for Hutch’s replacement when he eventually signed the Vikings’ Poison Pill contract!

The hit to the Seahawks was immediate and obvious. Bottom line was: the Seahawks were never the same again, and didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl until the 2013 season (with an all-new regime and set of superstars at the helm).

#7 – The Erik Bedard Trade

There’s no need to clarify; we all know which Bedard trade I’m talking about. In February of 2008, we gave up Adam Jones (5-time All Star center fielder; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), Chris Tillman (an All Star starting pitcher who would go on to have a 38-16 record from 2012-2014; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), and George Sherrill (an All Star reliever who would save 52 games from 2008-2009; NOPE, COULDN’T HAVE USED HIM!), among two other stiffs.

What we got back in return was a starter in Bedard who – like Lee before him – was brought in to be paired with a still-in-his-prime Felix Hernandez, coming off of a winning 2007 season. Instead, we got a guy who could never really stay healthy, whose style constantly saw his pitch counts inflated early in games, which meant you could only count on him for about 5 innings per start at best. On top of that, there were rumors abound about how he didn’t really give a shit about baseball or winning and was just in it for the paycheck (more power to you, I guess). He sucked so hard, the Mariners couldn’t even flip him for any semblance of value, which meant Bedard had to go down with the sinking ship that is our Mariners existence. On the plus side, this was the final straw to getting Bill Bavasi fired (on the down side, see: Jackie Z)

#6 – The Lowe/Varitek Trade

Woody Woodward stumbled into a lot of success in his tenure as GM of the Mariners. To our dismay, he had no idea what to do with this team once we started reaching those heights.

The 1997 Mariners were a fun bunch. Tons of heavy hitters all up and down the lineup. Led by Randy Johnson, the starting pitching was good enough to take us all the way, assuming the hitters hit and the relievers didn’t totally shit the bed.

As you might have guessed, there was A LOT of bed shitting in 1997; worst year for bed shitting I’ve ever seen, if I’m being honest! Woody Woodward, not knowing what he was doing or how he could rectify the problem, made two of the worst panic-deals for three of the worst relief pitchers I can imagine. The absolute worst was sending Derek Lowe (a 2-time All Star who would go on to win 176 games in his 17-year career) and Jason Varitek (a 3-time All Star catcher for the Red Sox over 15 seasons) for Heathcliff Slocumb (a turd).

Like most of these deals, this one wasn’t helpful in the short term (the M’s would go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs) and it was an outright disaster in the long-term (we either could’ve had two great players for the next decade, or at least flipped them for better players/prospects).

#5 – Jim McIlvaine Signing

Really the beginning of the end of the great run of Supersonics teams of the 90’s. Almost immediately following our hard-fought defeat in the NBA Finals to the greatest team of all time in six games, the Sonics looked like a team that could easily run it back and re-join the Bulls the very next year. You could argue center was our weakest spot on a team riddled with strengths all the way up and down the roster. So, enter Jim McIlvaine – a guy who had done NOTHING to that point – on a 7-year, $33.6 million deal (which was a lot at the time, trust me). He had a whopping TWO years under his belt at that point, as a reserve on the Washington Bullets, where his big claim to fame was averaging a hair over 2 blocks per game the year before in just under 15 minutes per.

This ungodly amount of money – for a guy who’d proven nothing in his brief pro career – obviously angered a lot of players on the Sonics, particularly Shawn Kemp, who effectively forced his way off the team in a deal that would bring in Vin Baker. Now, you can argue both Kemp and Baker – particularly after the strike season – did a lot to damage their own careers as we headed into the new Willennium, so who’s to say what would’ve happened to the Sonics had we gone in a different direction?

All I know is, McIlvaine instantly became entrenched in the starting lineup his first year with us, averaging 18 of the most worthless minutes of each and every game he was in, bringing NOTHING to the table. He actively made the team worse with his play alone, regardless of what happened to the chemistry in the locker room (which is exceedingly important in the NBA, with how long the season is, and how many games they have to play). We ended up losing in 7 games to the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals, and that was as good as it got for the rest of the decade.

#4 – Randy Johnson Trade

I did a deep dive on this a few years ago that you can check out (as chance would have it, a lot of these other blunders find their way into this piece!), but the bottom line is this: the Mariners were cheap, and Randy Johnson’s best years were still AHEAD of him.

Moreover, I would argue that while the value looked pretty good at the time – indeed, two starting pitchers and a starting infielder isn’t a bad return – the very best Mariners teams of 2000 & 2001 were in such desperate need for a true #1 ace, that Randy Johnson would’ve been perfect for those teams. I’m sorry, I like Freddy Garcia as much as the next guy, but he’s no Randy. Randy who would go on to win four Cy Young Awards from 1999-2002 (again, the years where the Mariners were playing the very best ball in franchise history); you don’t think he could’ve helped those teams get over the hump, and maybe even win a World Series title?

#3 – Not Drafting Brett Favre

Chuck Knox ran the Seahawks efficiently and to the best of his abilities from 1983-1991. You could argue he got more than anyone could’ve expected him to out of a bunch of ragtag guys, especially with at best a mediocre quarterback in Dave Krieg. When it finally came time to move on, Knox had one man in mind in the 1991 NFL Draft: Brett Favre. Ownership, however, refused to see it, and refused to listen to their legendary head coach, opting to go with Dan McGwire with the 16th overall pick (Favre would fall to the Falcons in the second round).

See, McGwire was 6’8. You know, that insanely crazy height that no NFL teams want, because it’s too damn tall to be an effective quarterback? If you don’t remember McGwire, you’re lucky; he was trash. Knox would leave the Seahawks following the 1991 season, and immediately we’d fall to such lows that we’d have to draft yet another dud in 1993 (Rick Mirer, with the #2 overall pick, after losing an opportunity to draft Drew Bledsoe). That went on to cost us the rest of the 90’s, before Mike Holmgren came to town and properly revived this franchise. Had we had Brett Favre? Who knows?! There’s an alternate universe out there where the Seahawks were one of the great teams of the 1990’s.

By that same token, there’s an alternate universe out there where we had to deal with Favre constantly threatening to retire, then return, then retire, and so on. So, maybe we lucked out in the long run?

#2 – Not Properly Renovating Key Arena

By the early 1990’s, the Seattle Center Coliseum was in shambles. Teams around the league were updating their own arenas and it was time for Seattle to join in. Unfortunately – even though this was set up prior to the Kingdome implosion being a twinkle in any of our eyes – the city and county ultimately went the cheap, tight-ass route in renovating the arena. By the time it re-opened in 1995 – while it was a fine place to enjoy a basketball game, from a fan perspective – it was already out-of-date by NBA standards, and apparently impossible to derive any sort of profit from, again by NBA standards.

Say what you will about the league, or about tax payers funding sports venues, but you can’t deny the fact that the Sonics were the first in this city to start the trend of venue renovations, and they fucking blew it HARD. By the time subsequent ownership groups demanded the funds for a proper NBA facility, the Seahawks and Mariners had already gotten brand new stadia. Considering it had been such a short time since the opening of Key Arena, combined with public fatigue over the matter, it’s not shocking in the slightest that the Sonics were shot down.

You could obviously argue the biggest blunder was selling the Sonics to Howard Schultz, or the Schultz Group buying the load of horseshit from the OKC people. But, all of that stems from the inferior building that was presented to the world ahead of the 1995 season. Had we just gotten THAT right, everything else would’ve fallen into proper order, and we’d still have our fucking basketball team. Instead, 25+ years later, we’re finally getting around to doing what we should’ve done then, and for our troubles we get the NHL instead. An okay consolation prize, but obviously not what I’d prefer.

#1 – Slant At The Goalline

It’s hard to top losing a fucking NBA franchise on the list of biggest sports blunders, but costing your team a championship in the most demoralizing way possible? Yeah, I’d say that qualifies.

I would hope, by now, that consensus has found its head when it comes to the decision to throw in that scenario. The Seahawks had one time out remaining, it was second down. Run it and fail, and we’ve got zero time outs and they know we’re throwing two consecutive times (considering how that play ended up, you can’t tell me it wasn’t on the docket for at least one of those possible attempts).

Long story short: throwing was the correct call. Throwing a fucking SLANT at the goalline, to a fourth receiver in Ricardo Lockette (shades of the Bannister play up top), was absolutely the biggest blunder in Seattle sports history.

If you’re going to throw a slant, throw it to Baldwin or Kearse! But, no, DON’T THROW A SLANT! Throw literally anything else! Throw a fade to Chris Matthews – who, to that point, had been carving up the Patriots’ defense – or shit, just throw the ball 30 yards out of bounds! Anything but that!

Okay, that’s all. I have to go lay down now. Where’s my fainting couch?!

Mount Rushmore: Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

Yesterday:  Seattle Sports Announcers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of Stand-Up Comedians?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Tig Notaro, and Dave Chappelle, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different names.

Today, I’m going to delve into the head coaches and managers of the various local sports teams.

In spite of the fact that Seattle is far from Titletown, U.S.A., this was actually a pretty difficult exercise.  Ironically, because there were TOO MANY good coaches to choose from!  I’ll tell you right now, this one is bound to be my most controversial Mount Rushmore of the week, but IDGAF.  Come at me, broseph!

For starters, right or wrong, I’ve put OVERWHELMING emphasis on those head coaches who led their respective teams to championships.  I mean, it’s obscene, which is why I’m going to start this post with my Honorable Mentions, and I’m going to lead off those Honorable Mentions with probably the most glaring omission (but hear me out):  Lou Piniella.

Look, I love Sweet Lou as much as the next guy, and if I were simply ranking managers of the Seattle Mariners, he’s obviously at the top of the list.  And, while much of this isn’t his fault, I would argue he’s not entirely blameless for the fact that the Mariners only made it to the playoffs 4 times in his 10-year career.  And in those 4 years, they failed to get past the American League Championship Series (often never really making it much of a challenge).  Those teams were absolutely LOADED with talent!  Are you kidding me?  Not even a single World Series appearance in the bunch?  I know, the organizational management of those teams was severely lacking; they bungled a bunch of trades, mishandled two of our greatest players (Griffey and Randy) to the point that both wanted out of the organization, and refused to pony up the cash to keep the best player on the planet – Alex Rodriguez – when he became a free agent.  That having been said, I’ve never really had much respect for baseball managers; what do they do besides write a lineup and make bullpen decisions?  Manage player egos?  Ooo!  Big whup!  Head coaches in other sports do that too, and they do a lot of other stuff that has more of an impact.  Naw, I’m not buying baseball and I’m not buying Lou Piniella.  If Mount Rushmore had 5 people on it, I probably STILL wouldn’t have him on it!

Because that leads me to my next omission:  Mike Holmgren.

At least he took the Seahawks to a Super Bowl!  I would argue both he and Piniella have to be credited with changing the culture of losing for their respective Seattle-based teams, but they JUST didn’t quite get it done when it mattered most.  There were some extenuating circumstances with Super Bowl XL and the officiating that I won’t get into here, but alas, Holmgren just misses the cut.

Some other Honorable Mentions include, in no particular order:  Chuck Knox (very underrated as the leader of the Seahawks in the 80s); Nate McMillan (doing a lot with a little in a mis-managed Sonics organization, particularly in the Howard Schultz years); Gil Dobie, Enoch Bagshaw, Hec Edmundson, Tippy Dye, Marv Harshman, and some of those other old-timer Husky football and basketball coaches (who are obviously WAY before my time); Jim Lambright (who somehow held the Huskies together after sanctions and an acrimonious split with Don James); and Lorenzo Romar (whose ignominious end to his tenure should do nothing to tarnish what was a tremendous achievement for Husky basketball).

So, without further ado, I present my Mount Rushmore of Seattle-based head coaches.

At the top of the list was the easiest pick of them all:  Don James.

The Dawgfather.  Head coach of the University of Washington football team, from 1975-1992.  He’s the closest thing we had to a Bobby Bowden, Bear Bryant, Steve Spurrier, or Joe Paterno (without all the child rape).  He led the Huskies to a National Championship in 1991 and was poised to continue to do so for years to come if not for the Lack of Institutional Control scandal that ultimately led to him resigning in protest for the unfair sanctions on the team.  Also, not for nothing, but the Huskies were robbed of a second National Championship in 1984 (to a bum BYU team who played a cupcake of a schedule), but that’s another post for another time.

Don James was the G.O.A.T.  We can only hope and pray Chris Petersen someday ascends to that level.

Next on my list, I’ve gone with Pete Carroll.

Like I said, championships are a premium to me when it comes to my Mount Rushmore of Head Coaches, and Big Balls Pete has one, with another Super Bowl appearance to boot.  He’s 17 wins away from being the winningest Seahawks coach of all time, which should go down in 2 years, tops.  After a couple of 7-9 rebuilding seasons, he’s won no less than 11 games every year (including playoffs).  Overall, he has 4 division titles in 7 years, 6 playoff appearances in 7 years, at least 1 playoff victory every time they’ve made the post-season, and with John Schneider (who certainly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of local GMs) built one of the best rosters in the history of the NFL, in the 2013 Seahawks.  He could retire right now and I don’t think there will be another local head coach that will bump him off my Mount Rushmore in my lifetime.

Third on my list:  Lenny Wilkens.

Oh yeah, here it comes.  I told you, titles baby!  Lenny took over as a player-coach for the Sonics in 1969 before being fired in 1972.  When he returned to the Sonics as just a head coach in 1977, he took a good team and led it to greatness.  Those Sonics teams went to back-to-back NBA Finals against the Washington Bullets in 1978 and 1979, winning it all the second time around.  The Sonics ultimately went another direction starting in the 1985/1986 season, but he still sits at #2 all time in franchise history winning percentage (keeping in mind, of course, that the Sonics died in 2008, and whatever record the head coaches of that team in OKC may have amassed has no bearing on the Seattle Supersonics).

Finally, the fourth name on my Mount Rushmore:  George Karl.

You may take umbrage with Lenny Wilkens’ inclusion on my list, and that’s fine, I understand.  You may take umbrage with the fact that I have George Karl over the likes of Piniella and Holmgren, and again, that’s your right.  But, you know what?  George Karl won a shitload of games in Seattle!  He has the best winning percentage of a head coach by a million miles over the other professional teams’ coaches at .719.  He took the Sonics to the playoffs every year of his tenure, won 4 division titles in 7 seasons, had the Sonics in the 1-seed twice (best regular season record in the entire league once); led the franchise to two Western Conference Finals, and led the franchise to the NBA Finals once (against the best team of all time, the 95/96 Chicago Bulls).  AND, not for nothing, but took the Bulls to 6 games when they probably had no business getting past Game 4.

I could go on and on.  Maybe only the Pete Carroll Seahawks have had more talent than the George Karl Sonics, but for all his greatness, there was a lot of failing.  George Karl led the first #1 seed to lose in the first round in NBA history.  His Sonics teams squandered two Michael Jordan-less years when they were ripe for back-to-back championships (the Houston Rockets, instead, took advantage of that glitch in the matrix).  And, ultimately, George Karl was destined to be run out of here by poor personnel management by Wally Walker (featuring the obscene signing of Jim McIlvaine and the trading of Shawn Kemp for Vin Baker).

Nevertheless, those Sonics teams were beautiful and exciting and ultimately tragic.  They ignited a love affair with sports within me that burns like a thousand suns to this very day.  At a time when the Seahawks were mediocre, and before the Mariners were relevant, we had the Supersonics and nothing else mattered.  There may have been better teams out there in the 90s, but no team was as thrilling to watch on a nightly basis.  When they were on, they were unbeatable!  When they were off, they were combustable; that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  But, George Karl had his hands all over that team, and was the main reason why we were able to take the next step to elite status.  Ultimately, the biggest tragedy of all is that George Karl doesn’t have an NBA title to his credit; he might be the best head coach in NBA history not to have one.

Okay, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to let me hear about it.

Why I Worry About The Carolina Panthers

The date:  May 7, 1994.

The location:  Seattle, Washington.

The situation:  Number 1 seed from Seattle in a do-or-die game against a bottom-feeder in the playoffs.

The matchup:  Seattle Supersonics vs. Denver Nuggets.

The result:  A 98-94 overtime defeat.

I won’t rehash the specifics, nor will I pull the iconic photo/video, as I’m sure any of you around at the time must be picturing the giant’s massive hands clutching the basketball while laying on the court, laughing maniacally.  I’ll just say this:  in 1994, the Seattle Supersonics were the consensus Best Team In The NBA (thanks to Michael Jordan “retiring”).  And, with that defeat, the Seattle Supersonics became the first Number 1 seed to ever lose to a Number 8 seed.  While that feat has happened a number of times since then, everyone will always remember the first time.  That’s just the way it works.  Dikembe Mutombo may or may not ever be a Hall of Famer, but he’ll always be remembered for this achievement.

The 1993/1994 Supersonics weren’t the best squad in team history, but you could argue that the 1994 playoffs were our best chance at winning an NBA title in my lifetime (dating back to 1981).  We had a 2-year window without Michael Jordan lurking in the Eastern Conference.  We blew year-one of that window in spectacular fashion.

As a fan of Seattle sports teams, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over my insecurities.  The Sonics teams from 1993 thru 1998 were some of the best teams in the league.  In the 1993 playoffs, we reached the Western Conference Finals as a 3-seed, only to get screwed out of our shot at a championship by the refs in Game 7 against the Phoenix Suns.  In 1994, we had the best record in the NBA by five games over second place.  In 1995, we had the 4-seed and again lost in the first round (though, admittedly, that team was pretty flawed).  In 1996, we were back to being the best in the Western Conference, our regular season record only overshadowed by the record-setting Bulls who went 72-10.  We would go on to lose in the Finals that year to those very same Bulls, and I’ll go to my grave believing that was the greatest team in NBA history.  In 1997, the Sonics were a 2-seed in the West, losing to the Rockets in the semis, 4-3.  Finally, in 1998, the Sonics were again a 2-seed in the West, losing to Shaq and the Lakers in 5 games in the semis.

That was the entirety of our championship window.  It was a spectacular six seasons, with the Sonics going 357-135 (that’s an average record of 59.5-22.5 per season).  The Sonics fired George Karl after that 1997/1998 season and fell into a death spiral shortly after.  And, what did we have to show for it?  Two oustings in the first round, two defeats in the second round, two trips to the Conference Finals, and a meager six games in the NBA Finals (with only two Finals victories).  Until these Seahawks teams under Pete Carroll came around, those were the greatest teams I’d ever rooted for in my lifetime.  And, yet, a lot of flukey shit led to that championship window closing without a dent in the history books.

***

The date:  October 22, 2001.

The location:  Bronx, New York.

The situation:  Team from Seattle with the best-ever regular season record in a do-or-die game against a team that won 21 fewer games that year.

The matchup:  Seattle Mariners vs. New York Yankees.

The result:  A 12-3 defeat to lose the series in five games.

I’ll give you that this isn’t really apples to apples when compared to the heartbreak of having a #1 seed lose to a #8 seed; but, we’re talking about the greatest regular season record in MLB history!  116 wins!  The second place team in the AL West – Oakland – won over 100 games and was FOURTEEN games back in the standings!

The Mariners had a championship window from 1995-2003.  In that time, we had four playoff appearances, losing in the ALCS three times and losing in the ALDS once.  In this 9-year window, there were two losing seasons and three other winning seasons where the Mariners DIDN’T make the playoffs (including back-to-back 93-win seasons where we were nipped by superior Athletics teams).

Baseball’s a different beast than most other sports.  It requires enduring success through a too-long regular season, followed by a hot spurt through a large handful of post-season games.  In the NBA, the best team almost always wins it all, thanks to the sheer number of teams granted admission into the playoffs and the number of games they’re supposed to play in every round.  In baseball, all you have to do is make it in and let the chips fall where they may.  The best team DOESN’T always win in MLB, that’s what you gotta remember.

The 2001 Mariners were the best team in franchise history, hands down.  And yet, they were made into mincemeat by the Yankees, who were “built for the post-season”.

Like the Sonics before them, this championship window by the Mariners closed with a whimper.  There hasn’t been a playoff team for the Mariners SINCE 2001.  While many believe 2015 will be the beginning of another Mariners championship window, that still remains to be seen.  162 games need to be played, against some fierce AL West competition.  So, we’ll see.

***

The Seahawks play the Panthers on January 10, 2015.  The Seahawks are the top seed in the NFC, and a consensus favorite to reach the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots of the AFC.  The Panthers are just the second team with a losing record to make the playoffs.  They defeated an injury-plagued Cardinals team in the first round.

Why am I worried about this game?  It’s the same reason why I SHOULD have been worried about the ’94 Nuggets and the 2001 Yankees.  Truth be told, that Nuggets series was my first real taste of the brutality that is being a sports fan.  There’s A LOT of heartache for not that much elation.  As a 13 year old basketball fan just starting to garner interest in the sport and follow it with some knowledge of the game, I was probably overwhelmingly confident in the Sonics going all the way.  Having the rug ripped out from under me was the start of a long, painful decline into the twisted wizard you see before you.  Until the Seahawks threw off the shackles I’d had wrapped around my mind in last year’s Super Bowl, I would go into these types of games EXPECTING to lose.  And, honestly, that feeling never really goes away.  I’m an abused pet living with new, kinder owners.  They’ve proven to be caring, loving people, but at the same time I still wince whenever an arm or a voice is raised.

The Seahawks SHOULD win this game.  If I were a more confident man, I’d go so far as to say the Seahawks WILL win this game.  In the entirety of the NFL playoff teams, the Panthers are the second-best option I’d choose for a Seahawks opponent (behind only the defeated Cardinals and their Lindley-esque shit offense).  While there is cause for real concern about this Panthers team (the defense is improved over the last month-plus, the rushing attack is improved with the return of Jonathan Stewart), it’s pretty obvious that this team is the most eminently beat-able in all of the NFC.  I was positively outraged at the notion that they’d go into Green Bay to play the Packers in the second round if Detroit had held on to beat Dallas last week.  Green Bay would throttle them by 40 points!  And WE’D have to battle a nasty defensive line of the Lions and a potentially explosive offense if they ever got their shit together.

As a quick aside:  don’t you think the #1 seed should be able to choose its opponent for the Divisional Round of the playoffs, pending the results of the Wild Card Round?  Why should we have to play an 11-5 Lions team (had they won) over a 7-8-1 Panthers team, simply because the Panthers were deemed to be a 4-seed while the superior Lions team a 6-seed?  When the NFL gets its own shit together and fixes the playoff system, maybe let’s make this a priority as well as never letting a team with a losing record host a playoff game, huh?

Anyway, getting back, my insecure fan-self is a little encouraged by the fact that there has already been a losing-record playoff team who defeated a playoff team with a superior record.  In fact, these loser teams are 2-1 in the playoffs, thanks to the 2010 Seahawks paving the way by defeating the Saints before going on to lose to the Bears in Chicago the following week.  BUT, what hasn’t happened – and what is rocking me to my very core as I sit and anxiously await tomorrow night’s game – is one of these loser teams going on the road and winning in the Divisional Round.

From the 1980s up until the Seahawks Super Bowl victory last year, there has been a bevy of reasons why Seattle sports teams have been laughingstocks.  Take, for instance, the first 20-or-so years of the Mariners playing professional baseball.  Or, the Seahawks almost moving to Los Angeles.  Or the Sonics signing Jim McIlvaine.  Or the Sonics drafting an endless string of worthless centers.  Or the Mariners getting crushed by the Yankees in the ALCS in back-to-back years.  Or the Seahawks getting referee’d to death in Super Bowl XL.  Or the Sonics being sold & uprooted after 40-some-odd years.  Or the best team in Seattle for the longest time being the women’s professional basketball team.  Or the Mariners plowing through a million managers over the last decade.  Or the fiasco with the Seahawks at the end of Holmgren’s tenure.  Or, the fact that all three franchises had – at one time or another – some of THE worst owners/general managers in all of professional sports (Ken Behring, Jeff Smulyan, Howard Schultz, Lincoln/Armstrong, Wally Walker, Tim Ruskell, Bill Bavasi).

I could go on and on with that list.  The 2013 Seahawks championship team has done the lord’s work in rectifying some of our past indiscretions.  But, a defeat to the Panthers a year later would do absolutely everything to undo all of that goodwill.

This current Seahawks unit is in the midst of a championship window that started in 2012 with a surprise late-season run into the playoffs.  When this window closes remains to be seen, but I think we can all agree it will be various degrees of open as long as Russell Wilson and the core is intact and still playing at a high level.  Whether that’s 5-10 years or more, the fact of the matter is:  these championship windows don’t grow on trees.  They can close in an instant and they may never reopen again in our lifetimes.  We can’t take these seasons for granted!

The Seahawks wrangled one championship and were 30-some-odd seconds away from fighting the 49ers for a second championship in the playoffs two years ago.  They currently sit poised in the catbird seat:  top seed in the NFC, with either Green Bay or Dallas being forced to come all the way out here in a potential NFC Championship showdown.  In spite of an early-season loss to the Cowboys at CenturyLink, we match up really well against both of those teams.  More importantly, WE’RE different than we were back in October.  I’ll be a lot more confident if we can just get this Divisional Round game out of the way.

The thing with the Panthers is:  they match up pretty well with us.  Earlier this year, we scratched and clawed our way to a 13-9 victory.  It took a late 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown and pull it out.  In the 2013 season opener, we scratched and clawed our way to a 12-7 victory.  It took a 4th quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; and a late 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  In 2012, we scratched and clawed our way to a 16-12 victory.  It took a late 3rd quarter drive to finally score a touchdown; a late 4th quarter goalline stand by our defense; and a later 4th quarter fumble recovery to pull it out.  Margin of victory for those three games:  4 1/3 points.  In the NFL, that’s nothing.

The notch in our belt is that all three of those games were on the road, in Carolina.  It’s notoriously difficult to win on the road, so you cherish any victory, even some ugly-ass shit like those games I just mentioned.  This game is in Seattle.  In the evening.  In front of what may be the rowdiest crowd we’ve seen all year (or, at least, since the week 1 showdown against the Packers).

Another notch in our belt is the level of competition the Panthers have beaten to get to this point.  The Panthers needed a 4-game winning streak to even make the playoffs.  If they would’ve lost any of these games, they would’ve been eliminated.  In those games, they faced the Saints, the Bucs, the Browns, and the Falcons.  The Saints had one of the worst defenses in football; they surrendered 41 points to the Panthers in New Orleans.  The Bucs were the very worst team in the NFL, earning the #1 draft pick in this year’s draft; they lost by 2 points to these very same Panthers.  The Browns were going with Johnny JamBoogie at quarterback, who left injured late in the first half; with Hoyer coming in in relief, the Browns would go on to lose by only 4 points to these very same Panthers.  The Falcons were just an absolute trainwreck on both sides of the football for most of this season, yet they would have made the playoffs with a win over the Panthers in week 17; they surrendered 34 points to the Panthers in Atlanta.  And, to top it all off, the Panthers hosted the Arizona Cardinals in the playoffs last week, taking full advantage of the Lindley-pocalypse (Apoca-Lindlypse?) to get to this point.

Not that the Seahawks had all that difficult of a road to hoe in getting the top seed the final six weeks of the season (only two playoff teams faced, and both of those teams were the Carson Palmer-less Cardinals), but I’d say we’ve looked MUCH more impressive in getting to this point.

Here’s the bottom line:  the Seahawks have the best defense in football.  Yes, we’re particularly good against the pass, but we’re also among the best against the run (indeed, we’re THE best against the run of the remaining playoff teams, but that’s neither here nor there).  If we can prevent the Panthers from gashing us in the run game, they should stand no chance.  On the flipside, while they have a good front seven, they’re not unstoppable.  We should be able to do what we want to do on the ground, while at the same time taking advantage of holes in their secondary.  An important thing to note is this game features the two very best middle linebackers in all of football with Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner.  Overall, though, the Seahawks have MUCH more talent from top to bottom than the Panthers.  In fact, the Seahawks hold a distinct advantage in nearly every position group.  And, if all that wasn’t enough, Cam Newton is a staggering bundle of injuries being held together by duct tape and painkillers.  There is ZERO reason why the Seahawks should lose this game.

And yet, it’s not entirely impossible.  There was zero reason why the 1994 Supersonics should lose to the Nuggets in five games.  There was zero reason why the 2001 Mariners should fail to make the World Series.  Sometimes, shit just happens.  Sometimes, a matchup materializes that goes against everything one team stands for.  Sometimes, players just have a bad day.

The Panthers have been a tough matchup for the Seahawks for the last three years now.  Regardless of the fact that those prior three games were all played in Carolina, we’re still talking about a mini version of ourselves.

  • Mobile quarterbacks
  • Unheralded offensive lines
  • Lack of game-breaking talent in the receiving corps
  • Tough, hard-nosed running backs
  • Underrated and stout defensive lines
  • Freakishly athletic linebackers
  • Mostly-conservative gameplans & coaches (in spite of Ron’s riverboat ways in 2013 and Pete’s alleged “big balls”)

In the NFL, it only takes one bad game to derail an entire season.  That in and of itself should be enough to terrify us to no end.  I don’t necessarily fear the Cowboys/Packers because I think we match up exceedingly well against them.  Their defenses aren’t anything special, and their offensive attacks play right into our L.O.B. hands.

But, the Panthers pose a tough matchup BECAUSE they’re so similar to us.  Because their defense can harass Russell Wilson and potentially knock him out of the game.  The Panthers – more than any other team remaining in these playoffs – have the capability to hold our offense in check.  And, if they do that, and it comes down to a battle of who wins the fourth quarter, then you’re looking at no better than a flip of a coin.

I don’t like that.  And neither should you.  We JUST have to get past this one game and I’ll feel more at ease.  The thing is, I don’t think anyone’s taking this game seriously.  I know, for the most part, fans are already booking plans for the NFC Championship Game.  But, they’re going to feel pretty damn stupid if we reach the end of Saturday night, with the Panthers celebrating on our field like the Nuggets did on our court 20-some-odd years ago.

Here’s to hoping the Seahawks take this game a little more seriously than the 12th Man.  If they don’t, we’ll be looking at the absolute worst defeat in franchise history, and a defeat far surpassing those aforementioned Sonics & Mariners achievements of yore.  2014 will be just another drop in the bucket of Seattle being Sports Hell.

My Feelings About Steve Ballmer Buying The Los Angeles Clippers

This week’s 24:  Live Another Day moment:  “Jack wants her, Jack needs her:  Jack gets her!”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.  History’s greatest hero and national treasure – Jack Bauer – is also a Grade A #1 Heartthrob and an otherworldly ladies man.  Granted, in this week’s episode, the “her” in this situation is Cute Blonde C.I.A. Agent, and the reason he “gets her” is to use her as bait so he can infiltrate this coven of bad guys to upload a virus whereby Goth Chloe can learn all their secrets – including, hopefully, the whereabouts of Scary Terrorist Lady.  NEVERTHELESS, as expected, Jack Bauer figures out a way to save the day and pull Cute Blonde C.I.A. Agent to safety (after she did a good amount of ass-kicking in her own right).  Is this a match made in heaven?  Only time will tell, I suppose.  Jack’s playing this one close to the vest, so we’re not even sure if he’s interested in Cute Blonde C.I.A. Agent yet.  And, as we all know, all it takes is Jack being interested for the targets of his affection to be putty in his hands.  Also, MOLE ALERT!!!  Benjamin Bratt, you walking Scum of the Earth!  You’ll get yours!  (P.S.  I’m very curious to see who’s on the other end of that phone conversation) …

Sonics fans have a lot of conflicting feelings about last week’s news of Steve Ballmer buying the L.A. Clippers.  What does this mean for our chances to get a new team?  Does he know something we don’t?  Will the NBA be as willing to give this ownership group a new franchise when it doesn’t have Ballmer attached?  Will he move the Clippers to Seattle?  If he doesn’t, does that make him a traitor?

First of all, let’s PLEASE put to bed the whole Clippers to Seattle talk.  Never, in a million years, will that EVER HAPPEN.

Here’s my opinion on the matter.  Yes, I do think Ballmer knows something we don’t.  I think he’s heard first hand from the commissioner and other high ranking officials that Seattle isn’t getting a team anytime soon.  We all know the league is doing whatever it takes to prevent teams from leaving cities, so that’s not a very valid option.  And, I just think there’s zero incentive whatsoever for the league to expand when things are going as good as they are now.  MAYBE in a decade, but I can all but guarantee that we’re not getting a team in the next three years, when this current MOU is still valid (and, after that, who knows if we’ll be able to get another agreement with the city in place, but that’s a thought for another day).

I also think Steve Ballmer really wants to own an NBA franchise.  Like, REALLY wants to.  Like, it’s one of his lifelong dreams.  Knowing that Seattle wasn’t happening anytime soon, and knowing that teams rarely get put up for sale on the open market like this, Ballmer took this opportunity to pounce and realize his dream.

In that sense, I don’t begrudge the man.  I also don’t think it affects our chances very much at all, because Chris Hansen has proved to be most dedicated to this cause.  It’s all going to boil down to having an arena deal in place when the opportunity arises for a new team to be introduced into the league.  And, for the record, I do like having Ballmer in there already, as an advocate for Seattle getting a new franchise.

Here’s my main hang-up:  where the FUCK was Steve Ballmer in 2005 and 2006?

Look, I don’t believe you go from being indifferent about the NBA, to paying two BILLION dollars for your very own NBA franchise, in the blink of an eye.  In this day and age, if you’re getting into the sports franchise ownership business – which is a difficult nut to get into – it’s because you have a real passion for sports franchise ownership.  Specifically, it’s because Ballmer has a real passion for the NBA.  I don’t know his story intimately, but I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that he’s at least a lifelong NBA fan.

Taking that for granted, and knowing he was probably as rich in 2005 as he is now (or, at least rich enough to afford the Sonics in 2005/2006), why didn’t he make more of a push to buy the Sonics when he had the chance?  Who cares if he didn’t grow up in Seattle?  He obviously had ties to Seattle then, and continues to have ties here now.  It may not have been his dream as a child to own the Supersonics, but he had the opportunity and the convenience to own them as an adult, when he was a resident of the area!

Why did it take him until 2008 to even get in the fray?  At which point, he made an empty promise to put up $150 million of a proposed $300 million to renovate KeyArena – after the point where things had soured irreparably and Clay Bennett already had the team 9/10 out the door and on the way to OKC.  Why didn’t he make a REAL attempt at saving the Sonics back when the Sonics could be saved?

That’s what really irks me in this whole mess.  Yeah, Steve Ballmer has his team.  Good for him.  Meanwhile, this time next month will mark six full years since the NBA left Seattle, and we’re still twisting in the wind wondering when we’re going to get our shot again.

People keep saying to be positive.  That we’ll get our chance, it’s only a matter of time.  I’m afraid that the Kings were our one true chance and they too were taken from us.

Steve Ballmer could have bought the Sonics, paid for 100% of a brand new arena, and STILL had over $1 billion to shove under his mattress.  So, even if you’re irritated with Ballmer like I am, at least know that his petty indecisiveness and his lack of foresight cost him an extra billion dollars.

I may not go so far as to hate the man, but I’m also not going to praise him either.  He seems to be this beloved figure in some circles even though he’s done NOTHING for the Sonics.  He had a lot of good intentions, but I can’t build my house on good intentions.  What did he really do?  He came in WAY too late to offer to help renovate KeyArena.  Then, he joined up with Chris Hansen in his deal.  But, he hasn’t actually DONE a damn thing!  Steve Ballmer wanted to be an NBA owner, but apparently not bad enough to actually buy the Sonics when Howard Schultz was selling.  Now, he is an NBA owner, and good for him, I guess.  But, forgive me if I don’t spend the rest of my life kissing the man’s ass for doing the LEAST amount of work possible in order to save/bring back our Sonics.

Let The Hockey Rumors Begin

You ever wonder how the present will be perceived in 50 or 100 years?  When you think of a major historical event, unless you’re some kind of expert or history buff, you just know the broad strokes.  Then, you see the volumes upon volumes of books on this very subject, and you realize there were a ton of intricacies involved to get you to those very broad strokes.

One thing in particular I wonder about when all is said and done:  how will people choose to remember the whole Sonics debacle in 2007 and 2008?  Because all those little things that got us to where we are today will eventually coalesce into one small footnote.

At the time, we held Clay Bennett in the highest of contempt, because he was actively lying to us, we KNEW he was lying to us, and yet he continued right on lying.  Once the team left and the sting started to subside, we all adopted the platform we still hold to this very day (and will likely hold at least through the point where we get another team):  Howard Schultz is an ass clown and it’s HIS fault we lost the Sonics.

But, I’m beginning to wonder, when it’s all said and done, in those aforementioned 50 or 100 years from now, when the Sonics are back in Seattle, emotions are settled, and we can once again focus on the GAME of basketball and not the politics of basketball, will we still hold the biggest grudge for Howard Schultz?  Sure, maybe some of the old-timers, who are old enough to remember these lawless times when men were men; but I bet when this is just a speck of dust on the overall History of the NBA, the consensus reason for the Sonics originally leaving Seattle will be because the city and state government totally and completely dropped the ball.

We’ll see.  I think this conversation will become much more clear in the ensuing years.  As the city of Sacramento is taking its well-deserved victory lap, the wheels of my theory have already been set in motion.  As a local and state government, only a wild pack of ninnies lets a major professional sports team walk away for practically nothing!  You’re SUPPOSED to scratch and claw and do everything at your disposal to keep the team in the city.  You’re SUPPOSED to exhaust all options.  And, in the end, you’re SUPPOSED to cave in to the demands of the sports league.  Because it’s just smart business.  A little fucking taxes to pay for a fucking arena never hurt nobody!

Because, in the end, when you come to your senses and realize how important that franchise was to your city, it’s going to cost you a LOT more to try to bring them back than it would have to just keep them here in the first place.

I mean, honestly, what was Schultz asking for?  A couple hundred million?  I don’t remember the figure off the top of my head, but I know it wasn’t a lot.  He wanted a couple/few hundred million to renovate Key Arena.  The NBA signed off on it, so we were a go!  But, the city shut that movement down, so the team was sold.  What was once a $200 million deal for a renovated Key Arena turned into a $500 million deal with Clay Bennett to build an arena in Renton.  Well, of course, if $200 million was denied, $500 million was out of the question!  Now, it’s going to cost generous billionaires nearly a billion dollars to bring this team back, while the city gets its peach of a deal.  But, at what cost?  Well, so far, it’s been five full seasons without the NBA and counting.  For other cities who have lost their teams, it has been a lot longer still.

Smart cities don’t get in the business of losing their franchises, because they spend the rest of eternity trying to get them back!  We’re somewhat lucky to be in Seattle, because we have a bigger market than most, so the NBA and the NHL would like to get into bed with us.  If you’re Kansas City or San Diego or Vancouver, you’re not quite as lucky.  You’re likely to spend a lot longer waiting than we will.

So, now we have this whole mess with Glendale and the Phoenix Coyotes.  Once again, Seattle is the Big, Bad Boogie Man, just like the deal with the Kings.  If I’m 100% honest, I have a little more confidence in the NHL getting here before the NBA, but I’m reluctant to jump right into this belief that the Coyotes are coming to town.

If Glendale is smart, they’ll figure out a way to keep their team, just like Sacramento was smart and kept their team.  If they flip off the NHL, then Seattle gets a new franchise and the Phoenix area waits about a hundred years before they get another taste of pro hockey.

A lot of people like to place the blame on the greedy-ass owners or the corrupt league commissioners.  But, when push comes to shove, what it really boils down to is the greedy-ass AND corrupt local politicians who are only in it for their own interests.  And, suffice it to say, their interests don’t coincide with sports leagues or the sports-loving common man.

But, just watch how fast they pull money out of their asses for another God damned art museum or classical music theater.

The Worst People In Seattle Sports History, Part III

We continue from Saturday’s post on all the hated Seahawks, which was continued from Friday’s post on all the hated Mariners.

Seattle Supersonics

A lot of real obvious candidates here.  It’s just a matter of organizing them in the proper order.

I, along with many of you, have Howard Schultz smack dab at the top of this list.  In fact, I would have to say – even though it’s been nearly five years since the team moved, and even though it’s been nearly seven years since he sold the team to those OKC goons – that Howard Schultz is Public Enemy Number 1 (regardless of sport) in the Most Hated Seattle Sports Figure list.

Really quick, my top 5 looks like this:  1. Schultz, 2. Behring, 3. Lincoln & Armstrong, 4. Bennett, 5. Bavasi

Easy, right?  For the record, Lincoln & Armstrong are a package deal; they have morphed into this singular blob of incompetence.  Also for the record, Ruskell is a close 6th on that list.  My most hated PLAYER is and might always be Richie Sexson, because I’m irrational like that.

Anyway, getting back, I think it should be obvious why Schultz heads this list.  He’s the worst.  THE.  WORST.  First, let’s just get this out of the way:  he had NO BUSINESS getting involved with the NBA.  He should have just stuck with his season tickets and his corporate sponsorships and been happy with that.  He didn’t have the stomach to properly run the organization; instead, he tried to run it like a business.  This isn’t Starbucks, this is sports.  It’s a completely different ballgame (so to speak).  If your goal is to buy a team and try to turn a profit every year, then congratulations, you’re the Seattle Mariners.  You go forever without winning, you scale back payroll, you trade away your superstars for nothing, and you do just enough to turn a small profit every year (which, hey, beats losing money).

If your goal is to run a winning franchise, then guess what?  You can’t be all-consumed by the money coming in.  Turning a profit can’t be goal #1.  It’s got to be a residual from sustained success.

The Seattle Supersonics, as far back as I can remember, were a well-oiled machine.  Yeah, they’d have some down years, but they’d bounce right back and be contenders in short order.  That includes a lot of the 70s, most of the 80s, and most of the 90s.  Then, Howard Schultz bought the team in January of 2001.  In the five full seasons the Sonics were owned by Schultz, they made the playoffs twice:  once as a 7th seed and once as a 3-seed.  Both times, they lost to a far superior franchise, the San Antonio Spurs.  In the other seasons, the Sonics ended up 10th, 11th, and 12th in the West.

Schultz was involved with a controversial trade of Gary Payton.  He also let head coach (and Mr. Sonic) Nate McMillan walk (over to Portland where he coached the hell out of a mostly-mediocre team).  He did battle with the local & state governments over getting financing for a new arena, but once that failed he essentially threw up his hands and gave up.

Schultz had no interest in keeping the Sonics in Seattle.  If he had, he wouldn’t have sold them to a group that so clearly wanted to move the team out of state.  He can sit there and pretend he had “no idea”; he can cry out about how they “misrepresented” themselves when they purchased the team; but if he’s being honest then he’s the biggest fucking moron the world has ever known.

Here’s the thing:  Schultz isn’t being honest when he gripes about how he was duped (along with the rest of Seattle).  I’d like to point out that from the moment this deal was made, I knew those fucks from OKC would do everything in their power to move this team.  If I know that, and I’m just some yahoo fan with a pottymouth, then Howard Schultz sure as shit knew that too.  He just didn’t care.  All he cared about was receiving $350 million for a team he paid $200 million to acquire five and a half years earlier.

And that’s all you need to know about the Howard Schultz Era.  He was a greedy old man who let the Sonics move away.  He ran the team like a business, but not like a business he gave two shits about.  He ran this team like Ken Lay ran Enron.  Schultz may not have faced decades in prison, but he probably should.  If I had it my way, he’d be rotting in prison until the Sonics return to Seattle, but that’s neither here nor there.

If we’re jumping on the whole Sonics leaving Seattle saga, I’d rank former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels number two on this list.  That spineless weasel forced an agreement down our throats letting those OKC fucks take the team while the city received $45 million in return for the last two years of the KeyArena lease.  Had we forced them to honor those final two years, who’s to say what might have happened?  But, he was never officially a member of the Sonics organization, so fuck Greg Nickels.

Truth be told, I hate Clay Bennett’s puppetmaster – David Stern – far more than Mr. Bennett himself, but we’re sticking with a theme here of people specifically related to the Sonics organization.  Clay Bennett’s a rat bastard, to be sure, and when all is said and done I’d like to know what kind of buttfucking arrangement he has with Stern to make them so buddy-buddy; his blowjobs must be SOMETHING ELSE.  As such, now he does whatever David Stern says, essentially making them both one and the same.

It takes a lot of work to keep up a lie for so long.  Bennett bought the team in July of 2006.  Nearly two years went by before we finally got the official word that his intentions all along were to move the team to OKC; and even then, “official word” came in the form of e-mails to his cronies that were uncovered in the days & weeks leading up to the team leaving.  To the bitter end, Bennett affirmed his bullshit, and he has been rewarded with one of the best and most exciting teams in the NBA today.  There is no justice in this world if that team ever wins a championship.

From what I’ve been told, Wally Walker has been instrumental in the behind-the-scenes efforts to bring the team back to Seattle.  Also, from what I’ve been told, Wally Walker was dead-set against selling to those OKC fucks in the first place.  Nevertheless, Wally Walker appears on this list, because his tenure as GM of the Sonics was rocky at best.  You can’t have a Most Hated list without having a few GMs appear first.

For the record, yeah, Walker has been instrumental in working with Hansen & Ballmer, but he was also instrumental in getting Howard Schultz to be our primary owner in the first place to start this whole fucking mess.  It’s complicated with Wally Walker; he tries his fucking best, but God bless him, in the end he’s just a fuck up who can’t seem to ever get things right.

He joined the Sonics in 1994, right as this team was on its rise to the elite of the NBA.  In 1996, the Sonics were in the Finals, losing to the greatest team of all time, the 1996 Chicago Bulls.  From that moment, this franchise started on its long, slow decline to mediocrity, and it all starts with the next name on this list:  Jim McIlvaine.

Jim McIlvaine was signed to a 7-year, $33.6 million deal in July of 1996.  To that point, Jim McIlvaine had been a worthless pile of crap.  He would go on to continue being a worthless pile of crap.  So, not only was he overpaid and useless, but he also served as a reminder that this ownership group – and this general manager in particular – would rather reward potential from outside the organization than reward the superstars already IN this organization.  Shawn Kemp was resentful and rightly demanded a new contract.  He was denied, so less than a year after signing McIlvaine, Kemp demanded a trade.  Just before the 1997/1998 season, Shawn Kemp was traded for the NEXT name on this list:  Vin Baker.

One could argue that the Sonics dodged a bullet by trading away Shawn Kemp.  He went on to Cleveland, sat on his ass during the Lockout, got fat, and was never the same.  One could also argue that had the Sonics rewarded their budding superstar, he would’ve been kept in shape and kept in line by team leader, Gary Payton.  In Cleveland, Kemp was the big kahuna, and nobody was going to tell him what to do.  There was veteran leadership in Seattle that could’ve prevented such a fate.

Oh yeah, by the way, don’t forget that Vin Baker also sat on his ass during the Lockout, also got fat, and was a huge drunk to boot.  So, why didn’t this veteran leadership keep HIM in line like I’m saying they would’ve kept Kemp in line?  I dunno, probably because you can’t rationalize with a fucking alcoholic!  Also, probably because you have to have the Want To in order to succeed.  Vin Baker lacked that passion, that drive.  He took his solace in a bottle and that’s all there is to it.

Mind you, this chain of events all started with Wally Walker meddling with a good thing, then bungling things away.  More often than not, Walker made moves just to make moves.  Sometimes, you just need to let a team settle and grow on its own.  You don’t have to keep adding and subtracting to make things JUST RIGHT.  Just leave it be and hope things shake out as best as they can!  If it ain’t broke, don’t fucking fix it!

Any number of bumbling big man buffoons could also make this Most Hated list (Calvin Booth, Jerome James, Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene), but that would ignore the real problem with the Sonics at the turn of the century:  Rick Sund.  Remember him?  God, I wish I didn’t.  Rick Sund took over for Wally Walker (as Walker was promoted to president or some damn thing) in 2001 and proceeded over one of the longest stretches of ineptitude in team history.

Seemingly every year, this team needed a big man.  Seemingly every year, this team went after a big man, either spending an ungodly amount of money in free agency, or by squandering a high draft pick.  Seemingly every year, this team failed to bring in a big man of any quality, and so seemingly every year this team struggled under Rick Sund.

Finally, there’s a name on this list I won’t ever forget.  Kendall Gill.  Back when Bob Whitsitt was still in charge, he traded a number of quality supporting players (Dana Barros, Eddie Johnson) to the Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill.  In his previous two years, Gill averaged 20.5 and 16.9 points per game.  We brought him in to be our starting shooting guard next to Gary Payton.  As chance would have it, he arrived on the scene in 1993/1994, as the Sonics had the best record in the Western Conference.  We would go on to lose in the first round to the Denver Nuggets.  The very next season, this team would make the playoffs again, and once again it would lose in the first round.

I’m not blaming it ALL on Kendall Gill, but he sure as shit was not a good fit for this team.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that as soon as he was traded (back to Charlotte for Hersey Hawkins and David Wingate in June of 1995), the Sonics would go on to make a run to the NBA Championship.

Gill didn’t get along with coaches or teammates.  He was a ballhog who shot too much.  Oh yeah, and he SUCKED DICK.  He immediately saw a dip in his scoring average (14.1 and 13.7 points per game in a Sonics uniform).  His pissy attitude didn’t endear him to Seattle fans either.  In short, Kendall Gill was a worthless dickhole and I can’t believe he managed to have such a sustained NBA career, considering what a joke he was.

Sacramento & Seattle: One City Will Get Screwed

Well, apparently I have chosen to spend the whole weekend inside writing sports blog posts …

The way I see it, someone is going to get screwed in this deal.  Here’s an update from the Seattle perspective, and here’s one from the Sacramento perspective.

Here’s where we are:  the Maloofs have sold the team to Chris Hansen’s group.  There was a $30 million non-refundable deposit given, which many see as a way to force the hand of the NBA into allowing the deal to go through and not let anyone back out.  Seattle has the arena deal in place, with a few minor lawsuits and environmental studies left to get out of the way.  No one sees these blips as anything that would overturn a team’s move to Seattle.

However, on the other side, we have Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, a former point guard in the NBA who knows how important having an NBA franchise is to a city – especially a city like Sacramento without any other teams in the other major professional sports.  Ever since word came down that the Maloofs agreed to sell to Seattle, Kevin Johnson has been busting his ass to get his own ownership group together.  Per reports, the NBA has agreed to let Kevin Johnson state his case for why the team should NOT be sold to the Seattle group, but instead sold to local investors who aim to keep the team in Sacramento.  At the same time, Kevin Johnson is working to secure a new arena deal to replace the old one they had in place at this time LAST year, when the Maloofs originally agreed to stay, then ultimately backed out.

My read on the situation is this:  Seattle just has to sit here and wait for the Board of Governors to meet sometime in April.  In the meantime, it looks like Kevin Johnson WILL have his investors in place, they WILL be able to make an offer on par with what Chris Hansen has offered, and they WILL figure out a way to finance a new arena.  Anything short of all of that happening, and Sacramento can kiss their team goodbye.

As a quick aside, I’m legitimately curious:  is the Sacramento city council just going along with WHATEVER Kevin Johnson decides to do?  Do they not have to get together and vote on these things?  And, if so, how do we get that kind of support up here in Seattle?  I mean, Jesus Christ!  If Seattle had a tenth of the competent leadership back in 2008, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first fucking place!

I have nothing but the utmost respect for Kevin Johnson.  And a small part of me (that small part of me that died in 2008 when Seattle gave the Sonics away for nothing) kind of hopes that he succeeds.  But, the overwhelming majority of me hopes he falls flat on his face and Seattle has an NBA team this time next year.

An interesting aspect of this Seattle Waiting Game is the fact that there’s really nothing Seattle can do to strengthen our position before the April BOG meetings.  We’ve done everything that has been asked of us.  We have an arena deal.  We have local political support.  We’ve had meetings with David Stern and other high-ranking NBA officials.  We have an ownership group comprised of respected, wealthy public figures who are passionate about the sport of basketball and the city of Seattle.  Seattle, as it stands right now, is everything the NBA is looking for in a city:  affluent, supportive, and most of all, subservient.  Seattle crossed the NBA one too many times in the years preceeding our loss of a franchise and the NBA opted to make an example of us.  Now, we have the arena deal in place, it meets NBA expectations, and we’ve done nothing but kiss the ring of David Stern and everyone else throughout this entire process to try to bring the Sonics back.  At this point, we can do no more.  And, if we DID try to do more – like send Chris Hansen down to Houston at this All Star Week to schmooze it up with owners and NBA officials, it would look desperate and in poor taste.

For Kevin Johnson, it’s dramatic and heroic.  He’s doing literally EVERYTHING in his power to save his team.  He’s the Little Engine That Could, Rudy, and the Miracle on Ice all rolled up into one smooth-talking politician.

Which leads me to believe that Kevin Johnson has a real chance to win this thing.  In any political race, it almost always boils down to the final weeks of any campaign.  It’s not how you start, but how you finish.  Kevin Johnson is going to have ALL the momentum going into these BOG meetings.  And, if he does succeed in getting the financial backing to purchase the team AND secure a new arena, we’re essentially looking at a 50/50 proposition.  There will be a 50% chance the Kings move to Seattle and a 50% chance the Kings stay in Sacramento.

So, what holds more weight?  One little nugget Sonics fans in Seattle have clutched onto like it’s their Precious is this notion that David Stern doesn’t want to retire until Seattle has its Sonics back.  This, in spite of the fact that David Stern has never publicly stated this; it’s all ENTIRELY hearsay and conjecture!

Yes, having the Sonics leave Seattle after 41 years was probably the biggest black eye of his tenure as NBA Commissioner.  But, truth be told, having ANY franchise move from one city to another is a black eye.  With Seattle, it was especially galling because it was 41 fucking years!  But, with Sacramento you’re still talking about a team that’s been there for 28 seasons, that’s nothing to sneer at.  On top of that, the Kings are the only game in town!  Seattle still has the Seahawks and Mariners to fall back on.

And, furthermore, if David Stern was so preoccupied with the plight of the city of Seattle before he retires, why wouldn’t he just use all of his remaining clout with the owners to force them to accept an expansion team?  After all, he’s FUCKING RETIRING!  What does he have to lose?  Being beloved by a group of 30 owners for holding firm on their shares of the financial pie isn’t going to make his retirement any more worthwhile.

So, no, I’m not really buying this whole absurd notion that David Stern feels any obligation to the city of Seattle whatsoever.

In the end, it’s going to come down to one of two things:  does the NBA choose to recognize the agreed-upon deal between the Maloofs and the Hansen Group (and thereby recognize Seattle’s right to fucking EXIST), or does the NBA overthrow the deal and let the Kings stay in Sacramento (and thereby fuck Seattle over yet again, as an opportunity this sweet surely won’t come around again anytime soon).

Truth be told, that last paragraph was written from the perspective of a jaded, pissed-off Seattleite, but you can really see both sides of the argument if you take a step back.  Yes, Seattle would be fucked over by the NBA overturning a supposedly-binding contract to sell the Kings franchise.  It would open up a whole can of worms with that $30 million non-refundable deposit as well.  Lots of lawsuits, lots of drama, lots of headaches would follow.  Should Seattle succeed with that route, I’m damn certain Seattle would be a pariah among the rest of the NBA nation.  But, hey, at least we’d have a team back.  Or, if the NBA didn’t want to deal with all the lawsuits, maybe they could make a back-alley deal of their own to just give us what we wanted all along:  Howard Schultz & Clay Bennett’s severed heads an expansion franchise.

On the other hand, though, if Kevin Johnson does everything he has vowed to do – find the financial backers, secure the arena deal, confirm local political support – and the NBA still takes their team away and gives them to Seattle … I know if I was a Kings fan, I’d be very fucking upset at such betrayal.  At that point, in all honesty, it would be a betrayal far worse than that they bestowed upon Seattle in 2008, because in 2008 Seattle didn’t do SHIT to deserve to keep a franchise compared to what Kevin Johnson has done.

So, you know, that’s where we are now.  By this time, two months from now, we will know one way or the other.  Either Seattle can go fuck itself, or Sacramento can go fuck itself.  The agita is fucking destroying my insides …

You Did This, Howard Schultz

How do you feel, Mr. Schultz?  Does it feel good to be you?  A multi-millionaire with your own corporation, presumably with a wife and kids and a big house somewhere far away and fenced-off from us regular folk … must be nice, right?

Now, if only you weren’t a rash, short-sighted, limp-dicked cretin, you would seemingly have it all!

I hope you’re watching these NBA playoffs, Mr. Schultz.  I hope you’re sick to your stomach as our erstwhile Sonics are inching their way towards a second NBA championship while wearing a different city’s jerseys.  I hope you feel like the ass that you are knowing that some other city gets to enjoy some of the best basketball in the world because you were too much of a spineless, gutless, yellow-bellied coward.

You deprived this city of memories that would last a lifetime.  You stole from us seasons upon seasons of entertainment.  Of community.  Of a community banding together in celebration of something truly great.

I hope you’re fucking miserable.  I hope you’re as miserable as all of us REAL Sonics fans are, right now, watching what we’re forced to watch.  Real Sonics fans, if they had millions upon millions upon MILLIONS of dollars … wouldn’t cut and run if they owned their hometown basketball franchise when the going got tough.  I hope you understand that.  And I hope, if we ever get a new team, you continue to be the coward that you are by never showing your face at a game.  Because in spite of all your money, you’re worthless.  We don’t want you associating with us.  Go root for the team in Oklahoma City.  The team you gave away.  The team whose history we’re forced to share.  The team who is going to win its second world championship in a matter of days.

You’re not welcome here.

I hope you rue your decision until the day you die.  I hope it haunts your every waking moment.  I hope you dream about your decision nightly.  I hope you will never forget what a nut-less fuckface you are.  And I hope you live to be a hundred, so your wretched time on Earth can be plagued by what you did.  What you did to this city.  What you did to so many thousands upon thousands of fans of the Sonics who you left for dead.

And then when you finally do die, I hope they take your ashes and flush them down the toilet.  It would be a fitting end for such a piece of shit.

Seattle Is Never Getting Another NBA Franchise

Prove me wrong, world.  Prove me wrong.

Douche

Anybody read this over the weekend?  Let me just point you to a couple of choice quotes from David Stern:

Right now what I’m working hard to do, in a perverse kind of a way, from Seattle’s perspective, is to sell New Orleans to stay in New Orleans, and get a building for Sacramento that will enable the Kings to stay in Sacramento.  I can’t say for sure [that a new arena in Seattle is] a pathway [to a replacement for the Sonics], but I will say that the only way to have a team these days is to have a world‑class building.

And here’s something else, also from Stern:

I just don’t see a North American addition,” he said. “We’re at 30, and we’ve got teams that we are working hard on to keep in their cities, to make strong through revenue sharing in our system, to grow their value, their fan base and the like.

What does that tell you?  I’ll tell you what it tells me!

First, that it’s going to be damn near impossible to move a franchise from another city into Seattle.  Why is that?  Because the NBA doesn’t want to be known as the kind of league that’s constantly moving teams around from one city to the next!  You can’t build a fanbase like that.  Not with that kind of flux.  The NBA wants to retain the THREAT of moving (proven with the situations in Seattle, Vancouver, Charlotte, etc.) to get what they want (taxpayer-funded Arenas to help build their North American empire), but they don’t want teams willy-nilly moving around from city to city like a bunch of fucking gypsies.

Plus, you know, it’s just HARD to move a team.  You’ve got to have a situation where everything totally breaks down and/or you need to have an ownership group idiotic enough to sell to out-of-state buyers with the sole purpose being to move that team to their home state.  Seattle suffered the perfect storm, that’s all.  That’s why our team was ripped from us in the snap of a finger, while a city like Sacramento gets all the chances in the world to figure out a deal.

And also, I don’t know if anyone hipped you to this or not, but Seattle SERIOUSLY disrespected his majesty David Stern.  They didn’t treat him like the North Koreans were forced to treat Kim Jong-Il and in turn, he had the city of Seattle executed.  Don’t ever forget THAT.  Our city and state governments may have let us down by not figuring out a way to finance a new arena that didn’t soak the taxpayer, and Howard Schultz might have been a super-collosal fucktard, but there’s a third element in play here.  An element that let those Oklahoma shitheads steal our team in seconds flat.  That element is a spurned David Stern who’s a fucking crybaby tyrant who will forever hold his grudge like the little, little man he is.

It’s simple, really.  WHY did Sacramento get a million chances to keep their team?  Because their mayor kissed Stern’s ass like the little brown-noser that he is.  Why does New Orleans get special treatment?  Because it would be a public relations DISASTER if Stern let a franchise leave New Orleans after all they’ve suffered and continue to suffer from the after-effects of Katrina.  I’m sure every other city whose arena is shoddy will learn from Seattle’s mistakes and kiss Stern’s ass just the same.

Which leads me to my next point:  why CAN’T Seattle get an expansion franchise?

I ask around and all I get are stock answers:  it’s not possible economically.

To which I counter:  what difference does it make?  If a city can prove that it can support an NBA franchise (which Seattle did for 40 years), then doesn’t that mean we’re pulling our weight?

But, then I read the second quote from above, you know, the one about revenue sharing.  It has NOTHING to do with diluting the talent pool – as others have expressed.  If the NBA could make money by throwing a bunch of cripples onto a basketball court, they’d surely do that and not think twice.  No, it’s not about anything altruistic, it’s about money.  Specifically, it’s about PRESERVING money.  There are 30 teams involved in this revenue-sharing venture the NBA is involved in.  Adding a 31st team simply means that’s 1/31 less money to be spread around to the NBA teams already in existence.  WE CAN’T HAVE THAT!!!

The only way you’re even THINKING about adding another team in expansion is whenever the NBA opts to re-negotiate their TV contract.  But, again, at that point what is their incentive to add another franchise?  Who wants to dilute their share of the pie to let Seattle have a brand new team?  No one.

No, you know what it’s going to take for Seattle to get another team?  The end of David Stern.  And I don’t just mean David Stern retiring; that could happen any time.  I mean, the next guy put in charge of the league CAN’T be a huge David Stern sympathizer.  Otherwise, you’ll run into what we have in baseball with Bud Selig (with regards to the Pete Rose situation).  As long as Selig is in charge, Pete Rose will never be in the Hall of Fame.  Why is that?  Because Selig has a big ol’ hard-on for Fay Vincent, who in turn had a big ol’ hard-on for HIS predecessor Angelo Giamatti.

In short, all of you optimists out there can keep holding your breath for a franchise to play professional basketball again.  As for me, I live in the real world, where it ain’t fucking happening.