A few teams and a few remarkable games seem to lift an entire city. Even the most casual fans get caught up in celebrations
How long has this town been waiting for a fortnight like this? Through how many losing seasons and lousy losses has Seattle suffered?
How many brokenhearted games and broken-down teams has this town watched since that loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL?
Seattle has lost games and an entire franchise since then. And the city lost a lot of its sporting juice.
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren resigned. Future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey came and then disappeared. Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee made a cameo appearance in town.
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Legendary left tackle Walter Jones retired. Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell quit before he would have been canned. Holmgren’s replacement, Jim Mora, was unceremoniously dumped after only one season.
Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham was fired. So was Todd Turner, the athletic director who hired him.
Managers Mike Hargrove, John McLaren, Jim Riggleman and Don Wakamatsu all came and went without restoring hope to the Mariners.
And the Sonics left for Oklahoma City, taking the game and the best young player in that game, Kevin Durant, with them.
It hasn’t rained in Seattle sports. It’s poured. Man, it’s poured.
Then two weeks like these happen, and a few teams and a few remarkable games seem to lift an entire city. Even the most casual fans get caught up in celebrations.
Smiles cut through the gray, gloomy darkness of winter. The excitement of the anticipation of the next game, the next season and the next play is amplified.
Think about these last two weeks and all of the good sports news packed into them.
It started in San Diego.
The Huskies should merely have been happy to be at the Holiday Bowl. It was their first postseason game since 2002, and their opponent, Nebraska, already had beaten them 56-21 in September in Seattle.
But the Huskies won 19-7, and the way they won was so inspiring. They were better prepared. They were better coached. They played the way Seattle expects University of Washington football teams to play — with a smash-mouth certainty.
Washington dominated the Huskers. Senior leaders like Jake Locker, Mason Foster and Nate Williams got a bowl win and all of the bling and the blessings they deserved.
They punched Nebraska in the face in the first quarter and Nebraska never fought back. It was old-school Don James football and a sign the Huskies were emerging from almost a decade of disappointment.
That same weekend, Washington’s men’s basketball team swept the Los Angeles schools. In wins over USC and UCLA, the Huskies showed they didn’t have to run and gun to win.
It’s January and Washington is warming to the Pac-10 season, finding its stride the way coach Lorenzo Romar’s teams always seem to do. Despite losing starting point guard Abdul Gaddy for the season, the Huskies swept the Oregon schools this past weekend and are 4-0 in the conference, looking ready to make a long run in March.
Romar has found an answer up front, starting big men Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N’Diaye together. Guard Isaiah Thomas has become a leader, and this is the deepest, best-shooting team Romar has had.
Through all of the gloom and doom in Seattle sports, Romar has been the one enduring winner, able to win the right way. But this season, he could take the Huskies past the Sweet 16.
And there was Eastern Washington — with a roster filled with players from this side of the state — coming back from a 19-0 third-quarter deficit last Friday to beat Delaware 20-19 and win the school’s first FCS national championship.
Eagles coach Beau Baldwin made a few brilliant halftime tweaks. The defensive line smothered the Blue Hens’ offense. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell got hot and his receivers got open.
Eastern, which opens at Washington in September, returns many of its starters and should be a national threat against next season.
In just two weeks, Seattle sports have been resurrected.
And at Qwest Field on Saturday, Seattle celebrated the resurrection. The Seahawks turned the stadium into a revival tent with their 41-36 whopper of a win over defending Super Bowl champ New Orleans.
The Hawks were 6-10 in 2010 (including a January loss to Tennessee). They’re undefeated in two games in 2011. They won the NFC West, beating St. Louis with defense. Then they gained 415 total yards against the Saints, as a healthy, reborn Matt Hasselbeck played his best game in years.
In Seattle today, wrinkled 12th Man flags are flying again from balconies and poles and car antennas.
As the fireworks crackled in Saturday’s cold Seattle night sky and the players lingered on the field to feel the love floating down like snow, I thought about the long-ago political battle over building a new football stadium. I remembered the election-night angst, the close vote on whether Seattle needed a football stadium, or even a football team.
Without Qwest Field, we wouldn’t have had Saturday. There wouldn’t be these moments.
How important to the well-being of a city is a team in town doing what the improbable Hawks are doing?
“God bless the voters,” defensive tackle Craig Terrill said.
Seattle had its moments in 2010. The Storm won the WNBA title. The Sounders won their second consecutive U.S. Open Cup. Washington volleyball got to the NCAA’s Elite Eight. And the Huskies softball team advanced to the Women’s College World Series.
But really, it took these two weeks, all of these wins, to remind us how wonderful it is to be a fan and how important it is to be able to escape into the magic of the hometown games.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org