It was somewhere around the time I steered our car into the centerline to high-five the passengers in oncoming cars that I thought of Citizens for More Important Things.
Remember them? They are the local group that for nearly two decades has been arguing, semi-successfully, that we have better things to do as a society than cater to professional sports.
Surely that’s true? I agreed with the group wholeheartedly about the now-departed Sonics, who demanded a new arena almost entirely paid for by us while all profits would go completely to them. That our city said “no,” that one time, still feels like it was the tough but right call.
But what’s going to happen Wednesday in downtown Seattle is more than just Exhibit A for the other side. It’s the whole case.
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The Super Bowl victory parade may end up the largest public gathering held in the 150-year history of Seattle. The city is wild-guessing a crowd of 300,000 to 500,000. But just as the Seahawks were lowballed, so might be the 12s.
The other like-sized events we could find in the archives include the parade for the Sonics in 1979 that drew an estimated 300,000, as have some Seafair Torchlight parades. The first Gold Cup hydroplane race in Seattle in 1951 allegedly drew half a million, with fans camping out in sleeping bags on the shores of Lake Washington the night before.
For weeks now, some readers have been complaining that the Seahawks hype is out of control. One wrote me to say, “Your rag has turned itself inside-out shrieking support for a sporting event about as significant as Halloween.”
Another critiqued that The Times is “bordering on condoning hysteria. Where’s the sense of perspective?” While another bluntly dubbed it all a “sportsgasm.”
But if you were out and about on Sunday night after the game, you maybe couldn’t help but have a hysterical sportsgasm grin plastered on your face.
People poured into the streets, jumping and yelling. Some neighbors shot off fireworks. We drove honking down to First Avenue, the kids shouting out the back windows. We aren’t true, long-suffering Seahawks fans, but man was it fun just to see Seattle so happy. (Plus we made it home in time for “Downton Abbey” so it was perfect.)
Put it this way: In 25 years living here, how many times have I driven along our staid streets high-fiving complete strangers out the window? Once, now.
I’m not sure what the return on taxpayer investment is for that, if any. But maybe mass happiness is a “more important thing”?
This same issue of priorities was raised again Tuesday in a community appeal from a third-grade Seattle public-school teacher. It called on everyone from the mayor to Richard Sherman to urge kids not to go to the parade. Many Seahawks lend their names to stay-in-school efforts. So doesn’t a hooky parade undermine that message?
“Let our students know where your priorities lie,” the letter says. “Tell them that a single day of school is more important to their future(s) than ditching class for a parade.”
The subsidization of big-time sports was getting out of hand, so it’s good Seattle pushed back on that. But it has a unique power. It’s said that people are increasingly divided — by red/blue politics or class or culture — yet here is this one thing, sports, that still has the juice to draw hundreds of thousands onto downtown streets in a common cause of tribalism and joy.
Plus you might see Seahawks riding in Ducks!
So here’s what I say to the kids: Kids, it’s true, there are way more important things. And we’ll get cracking on those on Thursday.
Danny Westneat’s column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org