I was a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Washington the first time I met Lorenzo Romar. It was the evening before Valentine’s Day, 2004, and the Husky Men’s Basketball team was getting ready to square off against the hated Oregon Ducks.
In an attempt to encourage students to arrive a) early and b) en masse, the athletic department’s marketing staff held a pregame meet-and-greet with the head coach that also included … wait for it … FREE FOOD. A Qdoba taco bar was set up in an auxiliary gym and, not surprisingly, a good number of students showed up to sample the fare.
My buddy, Charlie, and I had been attending games the entire season, but up to this point crowds had been slow to follow us to Hec Edmundson Pavilion. A string of pivotal conference wins had sparked a renewed interest in the team, however, and the athletic department was looking for every opportunity to capitalize on the sudden success.
Like any announcement of this significance, the moment was met with a variety of reactions across the public spectrum. Pundits and players alike weighed in on Sam’s revelation, with most initial offerings proving to be fairly positive in nature.
Seahawks linebacker (and Super Bowl MVP) Malcolm Smith was one of the first and most prominent athletes to share his take on the news, providing the following comments via Twitter:
The man who jubilantly bounded along First Avenue without pants on probably summed it up best. With arms raised skyward, he hopped up and down, shuffling parallel to the southern flow of traffic as a cry of unbridled excitement sounded from his gullet. A cameraman with lens trained upon Q13 Fox News field reporter John Hopperstad, the unwitting accomplice in all this, remained frozen to a spot for fractions of a moment as the pants-less man, twig and berries in full view, coincided with the focal point of the shot. In an instant, technology recorded the half-naked hoopla in all its ballsy glory. And as millions of people the world around became privy to the triumph of the man’s favorite football team, the video of the happy, bottomless Seahawks fan gained rapid exposure.
Sure, anyone could make jokes about the guy – he wasn’t wearing anything from the waist down, after all. But adorned from the belly up in the wolf grey replica jersey of the team’s quarterback, the message was clear: Seattle was in full celebration mode. What better way to celebrate than by removing one’s clothes?
This is what we’ve waited for since birth. For many of us, the entirety of our respective existences has been spent anticipating a championship. As a collective whole, we’ve been trophy-starved in the Emerald City since 1979, when our dear departed (soon-to-return) SuperSonics took home Seattle’s first and only major professional sports title. Those who actually remember that star-crossed basketball season are now 40 years of age or older. Those who haven’t quite ripened to that level of maturity have never experienced the thrill of winning it all. Together, we’ve yearned for an event that was beyond slow to arrive.
We’ve been dubbed the Worst Sports City in America on multiple occasions, most recently within the past year. We’ve ho-hummed our way through countless losing campaigns, shrugged our shoulders repeatedly through playoff time, and rallied more passionately for a franchise that was stolen from us than for some that still exist. We’ve been characterized by misery and become synonymous with defeat. The trademark rain that falls upon our shoulders as we sullenly languish under murky skies has served as a metaphor for scribes who detail our athletic failures. To date, it seems, the only thing we’ve been good at is losing.
We’ve been discordant and irritable and more likely to pick fights with one another than to gather together in serendipitous solidarity. We’ve spent more time divided than united, embarrassed than emboldened, incensed than inspired. We’ve been angry and bitter, morose and beat down, hurt and disappointed. We’ve been the laughingstock, the butt of the joke, the doormat upon which outsiders wiped their feet. No one’s had it worse, they’ve argued. And we’ve agreed. A lifetime of shortcomings has brought us to a certain Zen state of understanding when it comes to our place in this world.
We have never been the winners. Until now. Until February 2nd, 2014, Super Bowl Sunday. We were champions once, thirty-five years in our distant past, and after a multi-generational drought, we are champions again. We are that team. With those players. With that trophy. We are those fans, the ones who get to hold a parade, who get to witness the unveiling of a meaningful stadium banner, who will get peppered with TV ads for commemorative t-shirts and hats and DVDs and knick-knacks and whooziewhats. Us. It’s us. We are the winners.
There are plays that will define our conquest. There are names that will forever be burned upon the tips of our tongues, historic in their significance to our victory. There are coaches and players and sounds and images and so many memories to be sorted like phone numbers in the Rolodexes of our minds. We will quantify the importance of each isolated second of our journey to relevance and qualify the legacies of those who lived that odyssey with us, who gave us reason to rejoice. All of that will be done in time. But for now, we reside in uncharted territory. For right now, we live in a haze of elation that we don’t quite know how to navigate.
This isn’t just about a football team. It’s not about the trophy that will be inscribed with the name of our city or the accolades that will come with being designated as victors. This is about a group of people who have thirsted for this moment forever and ever and ever. It’s about an entire region that has come together to be a part of the magic that surrounds winning. It’s about the smiles and the fist pumps you’ll get from strangers you pass at the grocery store, the reminiscent conversations you’ll have with people you otherwise never would have talked to, the laughter you’ll share with friends and loved ones when you think back to that time we did it, we really did it, we won our long-awaited championship.
This is what it feels like. Forgive us for removing our pants, but we needed this so bad and now we’re enjoying it with all our junk hanging out because, frankly, we just don’t know what else to do. We aren’t used to celebrating, so we’ll celebrate the only way we know how, which means some of us might be naked and some of us might be clothed. But I promise you, we will enjoy this like nothing else, absolutely nothing else, because this is that very moment we’ve been waiting for.
The Seahawks are Super Bowl champions. For the City of Seattle, best city on earth, and the entire Pacific Northwest, beautiful place we call home, this is our time. Enjoy it. Enjoy every minute of it.
If you’re looking for a surreal experience, take a drive past the Seahawks practice facility over the next few days and feast your eyes upon the ghost town that sits upon the shores of Renton’s sliver of Lake Washington. The usually bustling Virginia Mason Athletic Center is vacant, save for a handful of cars in the parking lot and a few inconspicuous employees middling around the building, everyone else having departed for a game, just a game, to be played three-thousand miles away.
For a week, at least, the Seahawks belong not to the Pacific Northwest but to the nation, one of two teams that America will choose to root for come Super Bowl Sunday. These are your Seahawks, our Seahawks, Seattle’s Seahawks, certainly. But as the week wears on, a bandwagon will swell beyond capacity as onlookers the world around pick sides, opting between our squad and those other guys from Denver.
This is what we’ve always wanted, isn’t it? For the bulk of the past three years, as the Hawks have marched towards uber-relevance and the fan base has subsequently multiplied, the 12th Man has decried the lack of regard from those deemed nationally important. There were never enough segments on the radio, features on television, or inches in our favorite publications to satisfy our Blue Fridays – and Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, too.
Below is a response to a letter penned to Seattle by The Oklahoman columnist Jenni Carlson. Read at your own risk.
Dear Oklahoma City,
Truce? I don’t think so.
Here in Seattle, we’ve been watching your basketball team and its slobber-knocking run to an inevitable playoff ouster. We see the joy our former Sonics have created. We see the passion your fans have for this championship-losing bound bunch. We see the arm-waving, cousin-banging Thunder-up insanity of it all.
And we wonder if it’s time you went and fucked yourselves.
You’ve got a great, albeit unaccomplished basketball team.
We’ve got a great football team.
Can we all just agree that you’ll go fuck yourselves?
Sure, there will probably always be some people in Oklahoma City who want to get along with Seattle because they need validation and have a strong desire to be liked and accepted by all of society. They watched a couple years ago when the Thunder lost in the NBA Finals and felt that a future of fateful title defeats might be avoided if a bit of good karma was extended the Pacific Northwest’s way.
11. He’s from Compton.
Compton. You’ve heard about this place. It’s a scary, scary little neighborhood. The concrete jungle, they call it. Jungles are frightening. Concrete is also frightening. They shoot people there, supposedly. Gangs run rampant through the alleyways. Wannabe rappers approach you on street corners, Discmans in hand, demanding you listen to their mixtapes. There is nothing more petrifying than that.
And Richard Sherman, he’s from there, he’s from Compton. California! Everyone there smokes marijuana! And carries an AK-47, just like Ice Cube said! How did Sherman escape? He must be some sort of magician, or worse, a wizard. Not the good kind of wizard, either. He’s like Voldemort. The Voldemort of Compton. What do we do? WHAT DO WE DO?!
Out of curiosity, I dialed up the San Francisco 49ers ticket office Sunday night. I wanted to see if their phones, like their franchise, would quit after five rings, too. Alas, the hotline was designed to operate much like the Niners of 2014 — and of each of the prior 19 seasons, as well — going straight to a pre-recorded message and resulting, however unfortunately, in no rings.
As many are well aware, the world has been reminded numerous times over the course of this season that the Seattle Seahawks, unlike the mighty 49ers, have amassed a total of zero rings, zero Lombardi Trophies, zero Super Bowl titles throughout their 37-year existence. Niner fans love to bring up the past in that regard, not only because the days of yore are where all of their success lies, but in turn because the past, you see, allegedly has some bearing on the present in today’s NFL. The Seahawks of right now, ringless wonders that they are, are somehow inferior to all those title teams of years gone by because, you know, SCIENCE.
Are you a 49ers fan making the trip to Seattle for this Sunday’s NFC Championship game? Do you know a 49ers fan coming to town to attend the game? Are you this lady, who would prefer to hang out with 49ers fans because the Seahawks faithful are “alcohol-fueled bullies”?
Whatever your situation, if you plan to support that other football team from San Francisco this week, we’d like to welcome you to the Emerald City with this comprehensive guide of things to do, places to stay, and restaurants at which to eat during your time with us. You can’t say we aren’t a classy bunch up here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
Where to stay on your trip
Let’s start with lodging. You bought playoff tickets on a whim from a third-party reseller, dropping more than a thousand dollars of hard-earned cash that could have paid to send your kid to college bail your kid out of jail, and now you’ve only begun to piece the rest of your mini-vacation together. Not to worry, friend, we’ve done the legwork for you. When you visit Seattle, here are three of the best local inns for you to call your temporary home.
Three days from now, the Seahawks will take to the field for the first time in two weeks and kickoff what everyone hopes and expects to be a run to the Super Bowl. They’ll meet the New Orleans Saints in the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field and undoubtedly the atmosphere will be beyond raucous, beyond chaotic, bordering on anarchic, absolutely insane.
Fans will be amped up after a fortnight away from football, and the energy won’t ooze from the stadium so much as it will rage like storm water through a collapsing levee. The Saints, bless their unfortunate souls, will be lucky to leave Seattle with their eardrums fully functional, their spirits still intact, and their appendages all firmly attached to their collective torsos. Beyond that, the outcome should favor the hometown eleven (or twelve, if you believe in the power of the home crowd, which most do), leaving little doubt over what will occur the following week in that very same venue: an NFC Championship bout with either the hated 49ers or the less-hated Panthers.
Remember 2010? It will forever be etched in time as the Seattle Mariners’ “Believe Big” year. Believing big didn’t really work out the way everyone hoped, but the optimism was warranted. Coming off a promising 2009 campaign in which the team posted an 85-77 win-loss mark, the ’09-’10 offseason was full of giddiness and excitement.
Neglecting the various warts in a lineup pockmarked by over-performers and aging veterans, the M’s front office pulled off two major moves that offseason. The first came on December 8th, 2009 in the form of diminutive free agent infielder Chone Figgins. The Mariners inked Figgins to a (ugh) four-year contract that day, then waited just eight more days before pulling off their next big move. On December 16th, the team acquired starting pitcher Cliff Lee from Philadelphia for a hodgepodge of middling prospects. The move was heralded as a franchise-changer, the type that would take the organization from okay to great. With Lee and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners would be unstoppable. Never mind the fact that, assuming both aces stayed healthy, the duo would appear in just 40-percent of the team’s games. This was it! This was the Mariners’ year!
It was Thursday afternoon. I had just acquired a carne asada burrito from Casa D’s — one of the greatest hole-in-the-wall food establishments in the entire world, for the record — and was enjoying lunch in my car while listening to sports radio. I don’t usually eat meals in my car, but on this particular day I needed a break from the office. So I sat there and listened to my pals Jason Puckett and Ian Furness discuss something I half-paid attention to while downing a gigantic flour tortilla filled with wholesome goodness.
The banter ceased. A commercial break hit. I neglected to change the station. I picked up my phone and scrolled through a seemingly endless Twitter feed. A fast-talking pitchman took the airwaves in a taped advertisement for a car dealership. “Win $35,000!” he said. I continued to scroll. “If the Seahawks shut out the Giants…12 winners…no purchase necessary…” And still I scrolled. The ad came to its end.
Geoff Baker, that rascal. He retires from his job as Mariners beat writer to take a new gig as The Seattle Times’ Chief Investigator, Pain In The Ass division. All that stuff he could never say about the M’s when he was an objective reporter? It shall now flow onto the interwebz like champagne in a nightclub frequented by Pacman Jones, splashing liberally onto the breasts of intrigued onlookers who soak up the spillage with smiles on their faces. This is a new era of badassery in local sports media, an era punctuated by whatever Baker shall uncover when he is not sailing the skies in hot air balloons or sampling fine cabernets in exotic locales.
As you may have read over the weekend, Baker’s inaugural foray into the world of sports business reporting (or whatever that title he’s inherited proclaims he does) was a bit of a ground-breaker, an earth-rumbling piece about the Mariners’ front office and their unique brand of dysfunction, the kind that paralyzes fans everywhere into a veritable dumbfounded/angry/terrified hybrid of a stupor. Sure, we’ve known for years that the Mariners were run by a bunch of bumbling idiots. But Baker’s piece not only highlighted the stupidity of the team’s decision-makers, it got reputable sources to speak on record about that stupidity in expansive detail.
Screw reality. This is everything we’ve ever wanted rolled up into a single moment in time and it’s goddamn beautiful. You want Chris Petersen? You got Chris Petersen. You want Robinson Cano? You got Robinson Cano. You want the best team in the NFL? You got the best team in the NFL. If you have a wish to make, a prayer to be answered, a request you absolutely must have fulfilled? Today is your day.
You and I, we aren’t conditioned for this. This is sleet in November, triple-digit temperatures in July. We aren’t used to what this feels like. Happiness? Euphoria? This is Seattle. Seattle. When it comes to sports, we’re the perennially disappointed, the consistently underwhelmed. We live in a snow globe where it simply rains all the time. We fall short of expectations, come up empty-handed at year’s end, tank the off-season, blow the big game, flub every opportunity at every single turn, and wallow, miserably, wretchedly, in the cynical aftermath of the emotional nuking our psyches continually endure.
They’ve called us the Worst Sports City in America. On multiple occasions, no less. It sucks to be us, they’ve pointed out. And for the most part, they’ve been right. It has sucked to be us. We haven’t done shit. We haven’t won shit, we haven’t achieved shit, we haven’t been shit. We’ve been nothing. Some cities fly under the radar; we haven’t been on the radar.