Twenty or 30 years ago, when times, unbeknown to most of us, were good, and Seattle’s courtship with big-time sports was still young and fresh, it would have been so different.
The prospect of an NFL playoff game here, on Jet City turf, against the reigning Super Bowl champs would’ve brought out the pompom in us. Northwesterners would have spent all week painting banners, exhorting friends and reserving entire rooms of the local chowder houses — or any other public place with one of those gigantic rear-projection, big-screen TVs that looked like a hot tub standing on its side — for game day.
Playoff pandemonium would have reigned.
Now? Maybe the slight raise of an eyebrow over the iPad and morning tankard of Tully’s.
Saturday’s football playoff game at Qwest Field will draw, as usual, roughly 67,000 of the Seahawks’ face-painted faithful, who paid up to $400 each for the honor of raising the ghost of the Kingdome roof one more time. But the city as a whole seems barely ga, let alone gaga, over the prospect of doing battle with the heavily favored New Orleans Saints.
Big Easy, meet the Big “Meh.”
Obviously, a lot of the hometown faithful are sheepish about giving it up for an oft-blown-out team that crawled backward into the playoffs with a 7-9 record — the first losing mark for an NFL playoff team in a non-strike season.
Still, you get the sense that modern Seattle, for better or worse, is too hip for giddy. And that goes for both tribes of us.
Local non-sports fans are too busy doing what Seattleites do — waiting in long lines of Subarus to pick up the kids at Montessori and debating the merits of bicycle lanes — to give a rip. But even the region’s dwindling legions of team-faithful have good reason to be cynical, their expectations used, abused and shoved out to the emotional curb for recycling so many times.
In other words (take notes here, Bob Costas): That recent, highly unscientific online poll, suggesting that most of us would rather just lose and get the season over with, is less a sign of character flaw than a logical reaction to aborted stimuli.
Nobody likes a tease, and big-time sports in Seattle have perfected the art. Our baseball team acquired players who would become legends of the sport and never got closer than a long throw from the World Series. The Seahawks flirted with success, finally made it to the big time, and then drowned in a Super Bowl XL sea of yellow flags and missed chances.
And don’t even get us started about basketball, our first love. The Sonics, RIP, beat the world way back when the world was smaller, struggled for years as the game they played decayed into a circus act, and ultimately got shuffled right out of town by duplicitous Back East backstabbers. (We don’t want calls and retorts about failing to mention the Storm and Sounders FC, so there, we just did.)
Add to all this a severe lingering case of taxpayer’s remorse — raise your hand if you remember the cold-steel feel of various billionaires’ guns to your head as you ponied up to build all that new-stadium hardware down in SoDo — and the hitch in our collective giddyup is understandable.
This is a town that should be on Step 5 of 12, not ordering up another round.
Yet somewhere beneath it all remains this glimmer of hope — the prospect of raising, at least, that other eyebrow, with lord-knows-what to follow. If the game just happens to be on a nearby TV Saturday and things just happen to start rolling our way, well …
For this bit of irrational exuberance, blame mostly the local semipro team, the Washington Huskies. Not two weeks ago, the Montlake Dawgs turned the world on its head. They put to the sword the same Nebraska Cornhuskers that humiliated the hometown Huskies back in September.
The mere presence of that water-flowing-uphill event has caused a ripple in the rah-humbug force field. That Holiday Bowl miracle, like a gleaming sucker hole in the clouds on a January day, is fanning the dying embers of sport hope all across the People’s Republic of Keep Clam.
Maybe, you start to think, Pretty Boy Pete Carroll, the Seahawks’ coach, can summon the same magic his old USC partner in NCAA crime (you can read this either way), Steve Sarkisian, mustered for the Huskies in San Diego.
Maybe Matt Hasselbeck will play and won’t fumble, Marcus Trufant won’t get beat deep, and big Russell Okung won’t sprain something.
Maybe the Seahawks, shown by some statistical analyses to be the worst NFL team to make the playoffs, can stun the world.
Yeah. And the new Congress will restore America, freeway-lane campers will all move to the right, and there won’t be lines at Costco on Saturday morning. Who are you kidding?
Given the circumstances, and the fact that the rebuilding home team, frankly, just isn’t very good, a 2011 NFL playoff game at Qwest Field is an unexpected bit of free entertainment — like a latte and cookie bought with $5 found on the street. Take a sip, take a bite, enjoy. But accept the truth.
Barring a miracle, football season ends Saturday afternoon — just in time to clear the decks in SoDo for the Seattle Boat Show.
Now there’s something a city can count on.
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