Somewhere in Greenland, maybe, there’s someone who hasn’t heard that Peyton Manning is making his return to Indianapolis on Sunday.
It’s a story that has gotten more play than Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance and for reasons — does Jim Irsay really want to try to sell the idea that the Manning era in Indianapolis was a failure? — that are just about as insipid.
Irsay’s comments this week have only added to the intrigue of how the crowd in Indianapolis will respond to a player who just about saved football for that city, and gave it its only real national sporting identity outside of basketball and IndyCars.
USA Today devoted a front-page story Friday wondering how fans will react, one saying he’ll have no choice but to root for Manning ahead of his usually beloved Colts.
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It’s a quandary Seahawks fans have never really faced.
Of the eight players in the team’s Ring of Honor, only one ever played in Seattle after leaving the Seahawks — quarterback Dave Krieg, who played for seven years after leaving town in 1991.
He returned the next season in 1992 as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, leading them to a 24-14 win.
As recalled by the next day’s Seattle Times, Krieg received a standing ovation during introductions before the game. Later, he admitted to getting “a little bit emotional’’ about it all. The game, though, wasn’t fraught with anywhere near the same kind of meaning as is Manning’s. The team facing Krieg that day was probably the worst Seahawks squad ever, the Tom Flores-coached group that went 2-14.
Otherwise, most of the greats in Seahawks history have ended their careers with the team, played sparingly after leaving (anyone really remember Jacob Green’s two games and one tackle with the 1992 49ers?) or simply not made it back. (Matt Hasselbeck, for instance, is in his third post-Seattle season but did not return with Tennessee and won’t anytime soon with the Colts, though he was on the other sideline against the Seahawks a couple weeks ago in Indy.)
The thought of the Manning return, though, had me remembering other notable returns by Seattle athletes, that (usually, anyway) left fans faced with the question of how to treat a former athlete now wearing an opposing jersey.
Here are five that stand out:
• Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati Reds, 2007: Griffey wondered ahead of time if he’d be booed as he returned with the Reds for his first game in Seattle since leaving in 1999. Instead, it was pretty much a coronation. He was cheered at every turn, hitting two home runs in one game in a weekend that set the stage for his return as a Mariner in 2009.
• Lenny Wilkens, Cleveland Cavaliers, 1972: In perhaps the first big pro sports controversy in the city, Wilkens was traded to the Cavs in 1972 after having been a player-coach the previous three seasons. Wilkens had agreed to come back as a player only before management decided that might not work so well with new coach Tom Nissalke. He returned with the Cavs on Nov. 13 with Seattle’s season already in disarray, and the Seattle crowd made it clear what side it was on. Sonics fans cheered Wilkens throughout as he led Cleveland to a win, and the Sonics’ seventh loss in a row. Nissalke was fired soon afterward, and a few years later Wilkens returned as coach.
• Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks, 1999: The sixth game in Safeco Field history also was a return for Johnson, who had been traded the previous season to Houston, then signed with Arizona. Seattle again proved its love of past stars, cheering Johnson enthusiastically throughout as he hurled a 6-0 shutout.
• Gary Payton, Los Angeles Lakers, 2004: The Glove heard the love throughout this one, too, as he made his return with the usually hated Lakers (by way of Milwaukee, where he spent a little time in 2003 after being traded in a deal that netted the Sonics Ray Allen). Payton scored 24 points but Seattle won the game, 111-109.
• Alex Rodriguez, Texas, 2001: OK, so Seattle’s benevolent feelings for its former stars only go so far.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta