In 1992, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama published a book, The End of History and the Last Man, arguing that the demise of the Soviet Union and the triumph of liberal democracy meant that humanity may have finally found the final form of human government. It remains a controversial theory, to be sure, and it’s a political one (YEAH, NO POLITICS), but trust me where I’m going with this.
Fukuyama had just witnessed the end of the Cold War. If we consider Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech to mark the beginning, and the fall of the Berlin Wall to be end, we’re talking about a period of 43 years. That’s half a lifetime, and it was a nervous lifetime at that. I grew up at the tail end of it, but I still remember the duck-and-cover drills (yes, even in the 80s), as well as the constant fear of getting obliterated; The Day After remains one of scariest things I’ve ever seen. I grew up on a small town that had a volunteer fire department, so every time there was a fire they had to use an air raid siren to summon all the volunteers. It being an air raid siren scared the hell out of me, and I’d wake up in the middle of the night and nervously wonder if it were just a fire or if the nukes were finally inbound and that I only had a few minutes more to live. Needless to say, it sort of messed me up for a long time.
As I sat in Safeco yesterday, watching the victory parade on the big screen, I was reminded of a different sort of twilight struggle.
I was at the Sonics parade in ’79, perched atop my father’s shoulders and watching those heroes go by. Prior to yesterday, that was the last time we saw a professional sports victory parade in this city. Think about that for a minute. 1979. Jimmy Carter was still president. Everyone was wearing disco shirts. TV remotes were the new-fangled technology; most of us still had to turn the dial and tweak the bunny ears because, yes, even cable wasn’t prevalent. They didn’t even air the NBA Finals live on television back then, so we had to listen around a radio cabinet (yes, a cabinet) to keep up with the game. And I remember dancing around in my makeshift basketball uniform as the sound of victory came in.
Little did we know that our own nightmarish Iron Curtain was coming down after that. But, in retrospect, we all know what happened next. All the budding promise and hope snuffed out by disappointment and defeat. The long years of malaise and mediocrity. Between 2014 and 1979 is 35 years, almost as long as the Cold War itself. That’s half-a-lifetime of professional sports disappointment, frustration, and heartbreak. We even lost our first love, betrayed by the NBA and our leaders. Needless to say, it messed all of us up for a long time.
And then yesterday happened, and I watched as 10% of the state showed up in downtown Seattle, all of us with unbridled joy and happiness in our hearts. And I looked at my young nephews, both just starting elementary school, and I envied them. They'll never know of the decades of hopelessness. They’ll never know the heartbreak of the 1994 Sonics. Or the disappointment of the 2001 Mariners. Or the tears of XL. They'll never know of the other moments where we felt hope only to see it get crushed, leaving us to simply endure.
We’ve kept the faith and have finally been rewarded. And we’ll continue to keep the faith, because that’s all we know how to do. But everything feels different now. We have the deepest, most talented football team in the NFL, and it's also one of the youngest, so we're just getting started. We’ve reached the end of history where we were the losers. Let us begin our new history, where we become legend.