I'll never forget the day that it happened. It was almost too surreal to process -- the idea that someone could actually do this to an entire city -- that I wasn't even mad about it at the time. I just sat there and took it like a good boy should. I was flat in the middle of the five stages of grief, and I would be stuck on denial for a long time. I still think that I am in denial, as are many others.
It was almost as if I had received a call from Kevin Durant.
"Yeah, Kenny. Everything is fine. We just arrived- oh my God."
"What is it Kevin?"
"Oh my God. A man just broke into the house, he's hitting Nick Collison."
"Kevin, get under the bed. Clay Bennett is going to take you."
/Clay Bennett gets on the phone
"Mr. Bennett, I know who you are and I know what you want. If you are looking for an expansion basketball team, I don't have one. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over 25 years of living in the Pacific Northwest. That skill is that I can put a dark lining on everything, even a bright sunny day, because nothing good ever happens to Seattle sports teams. If you let the Sonics go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not stage a sit-in outside of your house and I will not boycott Starbucks -- as if that would do anything anyway. As if every Starbucks is in Seattle and not like 99-percent of Starbucks consumers don't give a shit about the Sonics. Not as if most of us won't give up this fight almost immediately because we know we are powerless against David Stern. We're only the people that give the NBA the money, no big deal. But if you do take the Sonics, I can promise you this: I will complain about it, I will whine about it, and I will wear it around for all to see that people in Seattle are shit on constantly."
"Oh, I don't need luck, Mister!" (line edited out from original movie.)
This is how we live our lives. When teams are bad, it's almost as if that's how we want it. Like an abused spouse, "Oh it's okay, the Mariners don't mean to suck the most sucks!" It allows us the freedom to bitch about sports on a daily basis, because that's all we've ever known. When teams are good, we're lost puppies, looking around, waiting for someone to tell us how to act.
I get on this "www.twitter.com" and seriously every single tweet about the Mariners is a negative one. That Lloyd McClendon is stupid for taking a job with our bullshit team and that our bullshit team was stupid for hiring Lloyd McClendon. That this is the worst team since 2008. That nothing will ever work out for this team. That every player save Felix and Seager are worthless a-holes. None of the prospects will work out, none of the veterans will stick around, none of the free agents will want to play for us.
Very few people have anything good to say about the Seattle Mariners, and I get that, this is a team that hasn't made the playoffs in 12 years and has lost 90 games in six of the last nine years, but that doesn't mean that nothing good has ever happened. Nobody identifies that Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager were prospects, or that Felix has signed two long-term contract extensions with Seattle, or that in baseball you can pretty much sign any free agent if you offer him the most money but there's simply no offer that the Angels or Dodgers or Yankees can't match since there is no salary cap.
Yeah, I get it, baseball is sort of a shittily-run league. And in the grand scheme of the "strikeout" of rebuilding a baseball team, where it takes four or five years to really build from the ground up, when you miss on a rebuild that means you have to start on the next five year plan. But you know what else is a fact? It's not "29 teams and the Mariners."
A lot of baseball fans have it bad. A lot. Only one has one of the best pitchers of the last 25 years.
I don't pay attention to the NBA very much anymore. I was at a bar last night with a few friends and respectively they are fans of the Lakers, Mavericks, and Bulls. The Lakers were playing the Rockets and of course most of the fans were rooting for LA, but I really didn't care what happened. I guess you could say that a small part of me wanted to see the Lakers to lose, because they are the Lakers.
"Because they are the Lakers."
We unite as fans of singular teams, such as the Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls, or Seattle Suuuuppppersonics, but that's not where unity ends. Much like in The Hunger Games, where people have been divided into separate districts and must fight one another to the death, we can also unite against something:
The all-powerful entity that makes us feel weak and powerless. The ones that seem to have everything and give us nothing, even when we beg and feel guilty about begging.
The Lakers. The Yankees. The 49ers. The Red Sox. The Crimson Tide. The Blue Devils. The Celtics. The Patriots.
When it's championship time, and one of these teams is involved, it's usually "Fuck that team" unless they're going up against another version of "the capitol." You've had enough and we've had nothing. Nothing. And if it can't be our district, then let it be another district that also has little. Someone else for us to root for, someone else we can relate to.
Even if it's, say, the 2004 Red Sox. And then we've done it! And then they've had another. And another. And now we hate them. "Filthy capitol-loving scum."
I checked up on the NBA standings today and was surprised to learn what NBA fans have known for quite some time. That the Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors are good. That the Pacers are
4-1 5-0, have the number one defense in the NBA, and have a young star named Paul George (or as I hope he is called, Paul George John Ringo.) Or that the Warriors are 4-1, have the number one offense in the NBA, and have a young star named Klay Thompson. Okay, I might already know about Klay, but I didn't know that he is now one of the top scorers in the league.
Imagine that. An alum of Washington State, one of the top basketball players there is. An underdog story that I think many people ('cept dirty dawgs) can get behind.
Now, I don't look upon teams like the Warriors, Pacers or Philadelphia 76ers and think "Aww, fuck them! Haven't we had enough of the Warriors success already?!" Of course, if I was going to root for an NBA team this year, I would root for the Warriors, or Pacers, or 76ers, or Clippers. I would root for teams that have a long history of having nothing. I'm not a part of the captiol! How dare you accuse me of being so!
I root for the Mariners, and Pirates, and Royals, and Blue Jays. One of us. One of us. One of us.
I root for the Seahawks, and Lions, and my favorite AFC team is the Texans. One of us. One of us. One of us.
You've heard the stories of woe and how Mariners fans will bitch about anything they can get their grubby little hands on, pretending as if they're not getting more pleasure out of failure than they might out of success, but what about those tales of victory? What about rooting for a Seattle team that's actually good?
I'm not sure that I approve of how we are doing that either. The Seattle Seahawks are one of the best teams in the NFL, if not the best.
I see a certain sense of guilt around the internet from Seahawks fans. Every time we display confidence in our team someone seems to want to chime in that, "Oh man, fans of other teams must hate us!" and "We don't know how to act!"
Well, I guess I've got good news and bad news.
The good news is that the Seahawks are good. That one thing that we've been claiming we've want for the last 35 years is actually here. Beyond the success of the mid-2000s, this is something even more special. This is a team that has more stars than that team had, is more dominating on defense, and has the first franchise quarterback in team history that we actually drafted on our own. This is a team that's going to be a Super Bowl contender for the next 5-10 years. That's exactly what you want, right?
The bad news is that success can come with certain sensibilities and characteristics that you've come to despise over the last 35 years. You've spent so long hating everyone else that has ever won anything that you now also hate the very trappings of success. Any display of confidence in the team is now also associated with being cocky, or perhaps we'd call it, "Hawky."
"Don't be Hawky, be Hawkfident."
If this team is as good as I think it is, there's a chance we will become part of "the capitol of the NFL." There's no two ways around it. As we all know with cake, you either get to have it or eat it but you can't do both. Sorry cakelovers.
But at this moment, outside of San Francisco, I hope you realize that I don't think other fans hate us. We're a district, not the capitol. We're still the Seattle Seahawks. We're still a team without a Super Bowl. We haven't had any cake at all, whether to have or to eat, and in the same way that I looked at the NBA standings and was happy to see the Pacers and Warriors at 4-1, why wouldn't a person in Cleveland look at the NFL standings and think, "Nice, the Hawks are 8-1!"?
That's what I would do if the Browns were 8-1. I love the Browns! One of us. One of us. One of us.
I can't promise you that one of these days the Seahawks won't be so successful that we're a part of the dirty capitol. I can't promise you that one of these days, someone will say they're rooting against a team "because they're the Seahawks." I can't promise you that we're not starting to cross over to the other side, as if Pete Carroll is our Gandalf, that once did the same for a USC team that I came to loathe so much. And I can't promise you that we're not three months away from our first NFL championship.
Why would you want me to promise you any of those things anyway? This is too much fun.