"Do Seattle sports fans celebrate mediocrity?" That’s the question that’s being asked this week by the media and sports fans around the country. To people outside the state of Washington, the answer is a resounding "Yes" as they line up to criticise the local support.
However, as with most things, it’s not quite so straightforward. The only way people can really answer the question properly is to put themselves in a similar position and see how they would react. For certain cities and teams' fans, this simply isn’t possible.
For example, if you were to tell a New York sports fan before the season that their beloved Yankees would make the playoffs, but have a losing record, how do you think they would react? Of course they would accept it, because getting to the postseason is the number one goal, but celebrate it? Not a chance with such an illustrious history.
Inform a Boston native that the Patriots will make the playoffs again in 2011 (or 2012 pending a potential lockout) but will stumble in with a 7-9 record. They might accept this, but they would be embarrassed as hell after becoming so used to success during the last decade.
Now go and give these scenarios to a Kansas City Royals fan or a Buffalo Bills supporter and you would get a totally different reaction. With postseason droughts of 25 and 11 years respectively, you’re going to take a playoff spot any chance you get and be happy to be there.
The thing is, after the nightmare suffered by Seahawks and Huskies fans in recent seasons, they’re going to celebrate any chance they get. Why shouldn’t they applaud an NFC West title despite finishing 7-9? Why can’t they rejoice in a Holiday Bowl win, just because the team had a mediocre 6-6 record?
Seattle sports fans are just three years removed from arguably the worst year in sporting history. It’s tough to beat the sorry collection of memories that transpired in 2008: (Turn away now if you’re faint of heart)
- Mike Holmgren went 4-12 in his farewell season with the Seahawks
- The Mariners completed a disastrous 61-101 campaign and still managed to miss out on Stephen Strasburg
- The Huskies football program became the first 0-12 team in Pac-10 history
- And to top it all off, there was the small matter of the Sonics leaving town for a smaller market. (I bet Stern’s regretting that one now with the NBA’s current financial woes. Nice one David)
To further understand the mindset of Seattle sports fans, outsiders have to appreciate that the Emerald City has only ever had four champions: one NBA title, one Stanley Cup and two WNBA Finals wins.
Without meaning to disrespect an amazing achievement by the women, the WNBA is pretty low on the list of priorities for the average sports fan, who would rather celebrate a World Series win or a Super Bowl championship every day of the week and twice on a Sunday. And the other two championships are for teams that no longer reside in the city!
With a sporting history like Seattle, you have to cheer at any given opportunity. I mean, even when things go right for the teams, they still go wrong.
Look no further than 2001, when the Mariners equalled the MLB record for regular season wins with 116, but still lost the ALCS. How about the Sonics having a league-best 63-19 record after the 1993-94 season but getting knocked out in the first round by the upstart Denver Nuggets? And don’t forget the Seahawks' magical run in 2005, which ended with one of the biggest screw jobs in Super Bowl history.
With everyone still recovering from the recent global recession, sport is one of the best ways to escape from the real world for a few hours. People deserve an opportunity to relax and enjoy any fleeting moments of success, no matter how it is achieved.
Ultimately, maybe Seattle sports fans are celebrating mediocrity. But, just make sure you put yourself in their shoes before you decide to criticise them.