All posts by Alex

Seattle’s Savior, Paul Allen

paulallenThere are many of us who still remember the lead news story on one fateful evening in February of 1996. As families turned on television sets across the region, we were informed that a caravan of moving trucks bound for Southern California had hit the road that day, packed to the gills with two decades’ worth of Seattle Seahawks history. Unceremoniously, our football team and all its belongings were gone, destined to become the Los Angeles Seahawks of Anaheim.

Owner Ken Behring, a festering pimple of a human being, was to blame for the heist. A real estate developer by way of the Bay Area, Behring had acquired ownership of the Seahawks in 1988 and proceeded to spend eight miserable years running the ballclub through the turf, beneath the concrete, and well below the surface of the ground.

While Behring, the real-life personification of a bumbling Scooby-Doo villain, acted quickly in shuttling the team out of town, the NFL and King County reacted with even speedier precision to halt the vans and return them to the Pacific Northwest. The shoddy relocation attempt was thwarted, and a humiliated Behring was forced to sell.

Almost immediately, a white knight emerged. He had built his fortune in the software industry, but his passion lay in sports, music, and later, philanthropy. He already controlled one major sports franchise – the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers – but had the bank account to afford another. Unlike his basketball team, this organization would be rooted in his hometown, rather than 173 miles south. With the stroke of a pen and a boatload of cash, Paul Allen committed to buying – and saving – the Seattle Seahawks.

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Clear the F*** Out: The Mariners Are Here

mariners

If it was a person, it would have a driver’s license.

It’d be wrapping up eleventh grade, might have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, may have just gone to prom. It’d be concerned about little more than finishing the penultimate year of high school before transitioning to a carefree summer filled with friends and fun. It’d be quite convinced it knew all there was to know in the world, yet still naïve to the reality that awaited later in life. It’d be a pain in the ass at times, an endearing goofball at others.

But it’s not a person. It’s a 17-year-old curse. A shadow that has loomed large, if not visible, over Safeco Field for nearly two decades. It has sucked the life out of a fan base that has become increasingly absent as time has passed. It has plagued a franchise and burdened a city.

Seventeen years without a playoff appearance. The longest drought of its kind in American professional sports. Even the Cleveland Browns have been to the postseason more recently than the Seattle Mariners. The biggest laughingstock in football somehow plays second fiddle to our baseball team.

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Six Radical Ways Baseball Can Be Improved Right Now

Baseball has spent much of the past decade looking for ways to speed up games, increase attendance, and attract a younger viewership. They’ve implemented changes like limiting mound visits, installing pitch clocks, and utilizing instant replay. But with each little change, few of the desired outcomes have been achieved. Games haven’t sped up all that much, attendance is about the same, and younger viewers are still gravitating towards other sports, like basketball and soccer.

So what’s baseball to do? They need help, and they need it fast. That’s why we’re here with some new ideas that will rock the boat and disrupt an entire industry. Some of these ideas are really stupid and mostly just serve as vehicles for throwaway jokes that the world would otherwise never read. But within the inanity there may be a gem or two. And before you ask, yes, alcohol was involved when this was written.

1. An expanded strike zone for pitchers who throw under 90 MPH

It seems like every big league pitcher throws his fastball 95-plus these days. Sure, velocity is fun to watch, but is it really fair to those guys who rely on finesse and savvy to get by? No, it is not.

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A Precursor to Greatness

One of my very first sports memories is the very first no-hitter in Seattle Mariners history. June 2nd, 1990. Randy Johnson, against the Detroit Tigers.

I was five years old and quite possibly the biggest little Mariner fan in the world. I wore a royal blue cap emblazoned with the team’s familiar gold “S” every single day (seriously, there are very few pictures from my childhood where I’m without that hat). The M’s were my entire being at that point in my life. I could name all the players on the team right down to the most obscure: Bryan Clark, a veteran relief pitcher; Dave Cochrane, the ultimate utility player; Jeff Schaefer, another utility man who was so irrelevant he would later be replaced on the front of his 1992 Donruss card by a picture of Tino Martinez. And of course I had my favorites, too: Ken Griffey Jr., Alvin Davis, Edgar Martinez, Omar Vizquel, and yes, the six-foot-ten-inch southpaw, Randy Johnson.

We didn’t always stay all nine innings back then. I was young enough to necessitate an early bedtime and my brother was even younger, so attending a full game was, for us, as rare as a no-hitter. But on that particular day I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the ballpark along with my dad. And we weren’t leaving until the final out was recorded.

Through the fog that shrouds the memories of childhood, I remember standing and cheering during the ninth inning. We were in our usual spot in the Kingdome, 300 level, first base side. When Tigers catcher Mike Heath swung at a high fastball to end it, everyone on hand went nuts. There hadn’t been much to cheer about in the annals of Seattle Mariners baseball and this was one of the franchise’s first noteworthy triumphs. It was a memorable evening, one nobody in attendance would ever forget.

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Mariners Fans Don’t Deserve This – But the Franchise Does

Mariners fans know aggravation.

With every ill-advised decision their favorite baseball team makes, the frustration boils and festers until it can’t simmer any longer. It’s the kind of maddening anger that widens the eyes and quickens the pulse and feels as if it can only be satiated with destruction and rage. Unleash a fury of haymakers upon a punching bag. Smash a Louisville Slugger upon the ground until splinters fly in every direction and sweat drips to the earth. Throw a TV out a window, scream to the heavens, sprint until a lung bursts, whatever it takes to ease the angst. And yet the angst never eases.

The club’s latest maneuver has nearly everyone wondering whether the brass on the corner of Edgar and Dave have any clue what they’re doing. On Sunday, the M’s optioned outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for the activation of pitcher Erasmo Ramirez. In doing so, they elected to keep outfielder Ichiro Suzuki on the big league roster – despite the fact that Heredia had outplayed Suzuki in every facet of the game to begin the year.

Though any of number of excuses could be conjured to justify keeping the 44-year-old future Hall of Famer around, the reality is that the organization chose to honor a legend rather than invest in the on-field success of the ballclub. Anyone with two eyes and a passion for the game could see right through the front office’s intentions – and that, above all else, was incredibly irritating to a fan base that has suffered long enough.

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The Addicts

They slowly wither away in dark rooms illuminated only by the iridescence of a television set, mainlining ROOT Sports coverage of Seattle Mariners baseball like heroin junkies slumped upon the dusty plywood surface of a neighborhood drug house.

They find comfort in Brad Adam, take solace in Angie Mentink. This is what they know, what they crave, what they need to survive this day and the next. They know they should quit, but how does one loosen the firm grasp of addiction?

They are lifers, these people. They bleed every shade of Mariners blue that can be bled: royal, powder, navy, teal. They’re in it for the long haul, despite the utter misery of the situation in which they find themselves.

For the most part, they are passionless, barely functional, hardly human. Losing is what they’ve come to understand, and each subsequent loss registers no more than a facial twitch or a shrug of the shoulders. Wins, those fleeting moments of abbreviated happiness, result in tempered celebrations that only serve to worsen the dependence upon this poisonous chemical.

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The NBA Wants You to Kiss Its Ass

Fuck the NBA.

Those homewrecking charlatans. Those self-indulgent jerks. Those bastard sons of bitches.

We were in a relationship once, you know. For 41 years. Happily married. We entrusted them with our hearts and our souls. And then one day they ripped them to shreds.

But they didn’t just stop there.

The divorce was bitter. They took everything and left us with nothing but memories. They had all they needed, but still wouldn’t quit. They spun a dirty narrative: that we weren’t any good to them, that we didn’t do enough to keep them around, that it was our fault, that we were the bad guys.

What had we done besides faithfully devote ourselves to them? We showed up en masse, filled an arena to its gills, lived and died through the good seasons and the bad. They weren’t satisfied with leaving, though. They needed the rest of the world to scorn us, too.

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For the 12s: Houston Texans

Joe Jurevicius, a receiver who played for the Seahawks prior to 2012, scores in a 2005 matchup versus the Texans

For the 12s is a recurring installment at Seattle Sportsnet. Every week we’ll preview the Seahawks’ upcoming opponent, with each gameday primer geared towards those individuals who have been fans of the Seattle Seahawks since no earlier than 2012.

Big news in Seattle!

Your Seahawks made a noteworthy move this week, signing veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney to shore up a defensive front that recently lost Cliff Avril to a season-ending injury. While many 12s may recognize him as a journeyman who bounced around the league throughout the duration of their fandom, Freeney was actually really good prior to 2012!

A seven-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team in the 2000s, the 37-year-old established his Hall of Fame career as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. Freeney’s wisdom and unquestioned talent should be a welcome addition to a Seahawks defense that will be facing a tough task this Sunday.

The Houston Texans come to town and are certainly no pushover. Though their brief 15-year history makes Houston the youngest franchise in the league, they are coming off two consecutive division championships and are a perennial power in the AFC, which is a conference in the NFL in which the Seahawks used to play.

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For the 12s: New York Giants

Seattle’s Cortez Kennedy tackling New York’s Rodney Hampton in a game prior to 2012

For the 12s is a recurring installment at Seattle Sportsnet. Every week we’ll preview the Seahawks’ upcoming opponent, with each gameday primer geared towards those individuals who have been fans of the Seattle Seahawks since no earlier than 2012.

The only thing giant about New York’s second-best football team right now is the number of losses they’ve accrued in the season’s first six weeks. At 1-5, the lowly G-men somehow managed to escape their winless start to 2017 with a wholly unexpected road victory in Denver a week ago. The thin air, it seems, must have kept Eli Manning’s passes from being intercepted.

Once upon a time, however, the Giants were quite good! They’ve won a pair of championships in the last decade and are the only thing besides Roger Goodell and fully inflated footballs that seem to slow down the New England Patriots.

Interestingly enough, the rise of New York’s Super Bowl contending teams coincided with the evolution of the Seahawks as we know them today.

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For the 12s: Los Angeles Rams

For the 12s is a new installment at Seattle Sportsnet. Every week we’ll preview the Seahawks’ upcoming opponent, with each gameday primer geared towards those individuals who have been fans of the Seattle Seahawks since no earlier than 2012.

The Rams are back! You may have heard this recently and been thoroughly confused. Where did the Rams go? Were they ever really gone? Haven’t the Rams always been terrible? All valid questions.

Over the course of the past five years, the Rams have indeed been quite bad. While the Seahawks have dominated the NFC West and the 49ers and Cardinals have flirted with the postseason, the Rams have been entrenched at the bottom of the standings. Perhaps the only consistency has been their ability to play Seattle tougher than almost any other opponent during this time; which, in and of itself, is quite admirable.

Interestingly enough, the Rams haven’t always struggled! In fact, prior to 2012, the Rams, at times, excelled. Believe it or not, they even won a Super Bowl in the 2000 season behind a high-flying offense dubbed “The Greatest Show on Turf” – a moniker earned due to the team playing its games on AstroTurf, an artificial surface that has since been replaced by Field Turf.

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Hookers, Media Feuds, and the Ego that Binds Them

Long before Mitch Levy allegedly plunked $160 in cash upon a bedside table in anticipation of a good old fashioned happy ending, The Seattle Times had already determined they’d be severing a long-standing association with Levy’s employer, Sports Radio 950 KJR.

The newspaper and the radio station had no real reason to be on the outs were it not for Frank Blethen, the publisher and CEO of Seattle’s paper of record. Blethen, who has been at the Times’ helm since 1985, was done with the relationship for various reasons – chief among those being a certain level of frustration over KJR’s criticism of the Times’ controversial stance on two different Seattle arena proposals, as well as perceived criticism of the paper itself. As a result, Blethen chose to enforce a moratorium on Times writers appearing on both Sports Radio 950 KJR, as well as “competing media” in the local Seattle area. The Times would later clarify its stance, singling out KJR as the sole outlet from which writers were explicitly forbidden, while also adding that some semblance of managerial permission would be required for employees to appear on-air with other local entities. Previously, this lack of autonomy had not existed.

By now we know that the Times cited “off-color” and “sexist” remarks from KJR radio personalities as the reasoning behind their imposed operational changes. However, that language didn’t emerge in an official statement until Thursday, August 31st, which might not mean much if it weren’t for Levy and his fateful blunder nearly a week earlier.

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Update: The Seattle Times Bans Sportswriters from Local Radio, TV

*Updated 8/31/17

In what is sure to be hailed as a brilliant public relations maneuver by absolutely no one, The Seattle Times has decided to prohibit their entire sports writing staff from appearing on local radio and television for the foreseeable future.

Beginning September 5th, Times sportswriters will be barred from the Seattle airwaves at the behest of management, preventing reporters and columnists from fulfilling previous commitments to local sports radio stations and television outlets. Once imposed, the ban will primarily have an impact on entities like Sports Radio 950 KJR and 710 ESPN Seattle, where many of the Times’ stable of writers would often appear.

Citing “competing forms of media” as the reason behind the embargo, the Times seems willing to sacrifice much-needed exposure for… ego, perhaps? Because make no mistake about it, this decree comes straight from the top and is a direct result of hurt feelings and a bruised manhood.

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The Perfect Protest

It’s the perfect protest, really.

Silent, peaceful, powerful, and set against the backdrop of something Americans care about. This isn’t just a march through the streets on a lazy weekend afternoon. It’s an act of rebellion against the flag and the anthem, two symbols of this nation that still mean something to all of us.

The forum is ideal. A football field, the epicenter of Americana, the one sport that seems to rally citizens to come together, sit on their couches, drink beer, wear replica jerseys, and watch. Were it a basketball court, the outrage would be minimal – just ask former NBA guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who staged his own sit-down protest in the mid-1990s, and has all but been forgotten since. Even in Major League Baseball, where Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado took a seat in the early-2000s, such an act was similarly overlooked. But football? Don’t mess with football.

If this wasn’t a big deal, columnists across the country wouldn’t be churning out opinions firmly entrenched on either side of this issue. Talking heads wouldn’t be devoting segment after segment to discussion of the topic. And those people you only kind of know on social media? They wouldn’t be lashing out at one another over differing viewpoints on the matter.

In today’s society, how else are you supposed to get everyone’s attention? We’ve created an atmosphere that rewards the loudest and most selfish of our species. We’ve designed online platforms that highlight how important we are and how much more cool stuff we can do than our so-called friends. Our cameras have been redesigned to take pictures of our own selves instead of the world through our eyes, and as a result the most ubiquitous type of photo we now produce literally oozes with egocentrism: the selfie.

Face it, in order to seize the public consciousness, we have to be a precise combination of brash, unique, and outlandish. And somehow, in sitting quietly while a song plays and colors are unfurled, a group of football players have managed to achieve the right mix.

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Explaining Seattle’s Love Affair With a Legend

Maybe they were bound to one another long before that fateful evening some nine years ago – an evening that, unbeknownst to many at the time, signaled the end of the Seattle Supersonics.

There was no naivety, however. Every fan in the building that night had an inkling the team could be moved in the offseason. But the prevailing thought was that they’d stick around, that the legal system, if nothing else, would bestow at least one more year of Sonics basketball unto Seattle.

Still, the audience took no chances.

In the waning moments of the season’s final contest, the capacity crowd began chanting “Save our Son-ics.” It was a murmur, at first. But then it grew, as all good chants seem to, spreading from section to section, filling the cheap seats and skyboxes alike, covering each crevice and corner inside Key Arena until every last basketball fan in the building spoke in unison.

At the epicenter, atop the hardwood floor that gave the room its heartbeat, there stood a young man, still a teenager, who heard every word the crowd shouted.

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Mariners Memories

I remember being four or five years old and dragging my dad into our front yard to teach me how to do a leg kick like a big league pitcher. Like Mark Langston and Mike Moore, two of Seattle’s very best, whose games I had actually seen with my own eyes. I could already swing my red plastic bat like Alvin Davis and could throw and catch a little bit. But now we needed to step it up. I wanted to bring the heat.

I failed at first. Where Langston and Moore stood poised like cranes on the front of their baseball cards, the rendition I put together, in retrospect, probably looked more along the lines of a miniature Chris Farley doing a karate kick, then chucking a tee ball with all his might. But I kept practicing and eventually got the motion down. Shortly thereafter, my parents stuck a pitchback screen on the lawn and let me while away the afternoons tossing to a net, whispering the names of all the great hurlers I knew as I fired fastball after fastball into a red rectangle.

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