Are we entering a new era of Seattle sports? Sunday sure felt like it
Sunday, Sept. 26 was a date we all had circled on our calendars for a good while. The Seahawks would be in Week 3 of their season, the Mariners hoped to be making a push for the postseason, and it would be the first chance to see the Seattle Kraken on the ice against a fellow NHL team.
Throw in the Sounders and OL Reign in action and the added bonus of a Seattle Storm playoff game, and this was unlike any day of professional Seattle sports we had ever seen. From noon on, no matter where you looked, there was a game to be invested in.
That day has come and gone, and it turned out to have a most interesting series of events for local sports fans.
The Mariners? Well, they won. They finished off a series win, in fact, and remain just two games back of a wild card spot in the American League with only a week to go in what has been an improbably successful season for a young team with a lot of promise going forward.
So that’s something new and different three years into a rebuild and 20 years removed from the team’s last postseason berth.
The Kraken? The excitement was palpable as they took on their new rivals from just north of the border, the Vancouver Canucks, and came away with a thrilling 5-3 win in Spokane.
So there’s something else new and different – a Seattle NHL team exists. Had a game, even. And as if that wasn’t enough, it won.
The Storm? The story before the game for the reigning WNBA champs was Breanna Stewart not being able to play due to a foot injury. And after the game, an overtime loss in Everett to the Phoenix Mercury that abruptly ended their quest to repeat, the story was the uncertainty about eventual first-ballot Hall of Famer Sue Bird, who acknowledged after the game that for the first time she will weigh the possibility of retirement this offseason.
The Storm maybe having to move forward without Sue Bird? That’s going to take a minute to fully absorb.
You probably already know what happened with them, losing to the Vikings to fall to 1-2. They had a second straight week of poor defense and an offense that couldn’t sustain a hot start, quite worrisome coming off a tumultuous offseason where Russell Wilson aired grievances about the team, longtime linebacker K.J. Wright wasn’t brought back, and Jamal Adams, Duane Brown and Quandre Diggs all spent time “holding in” during training camp. There are now big questions about the direction the Seahawks are heading, chief among them that after nine straight winning seasons under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, could they be entering a new chapter of franchise history?
I know, all of that is a lot to digest. But at the risk of making a knee-jerk reaction, it kind of feels like a changing of the guard, doesn’t it?
We know that the Mariners are on the rise, even if they ultimately aren’t able to make up the ground this week needed to make the AL Wild Card Game. Young hotshots Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, Cal Raleigh and Abraham Toro have already joined a core featuring Marco Gonzales, J.P. Crawford, Mitch Haniger and Ty France, and more big-name prospects like Julio Rodríguez are on the way. The M’s go into Monday at 86-70, meaning with six games left they have a chance to be the first M’s team to win 90 games since 2003, and their best days are still very much ahead of them. There is no doubt that these aren’t the same old Mariners.
While the M’s are trending up, the Kraken will just be trending in general for a while. The place to be this winter will be Climate Pledge Arena as Seattle’s newest major league team will play in front of sold-out crowds on a regular basis. And regardless of if they’re good out of the gate – based on what happened with the last NHL expansion team, there’s a real possibility they could be, too – there will be a buzz around them that will continue long after their home opener on Oct. 23.
The Storm, meanwhile, have been the most successful pro sports franchise in the city’s history with four WNBA championships to their credit, including two in the last three years. But changes began already last offseason with a number of big trades and continued with a switch at head coach in May. If Bird, who has been on all four of the Storm’s title teams, is seriously considering retirement, it signals that a period of more re-configuring and reloading around Stewart and Jewell Loyd is likely just around the corner even if Bird does come back in 2022.
The biggest question mark, though, is the Seahawks. They’ve been the main event in Seattle for the last decade, and really dating back to 2003 when they made their first playoff appearance of the Matt Hasselbeck/Mike Holmgren era. They turned Seattle into more of a football town than it had ever been, and they answered the call when the city needed something to rally behind after the Sonics were stolen away. Nothing lasts forever, though, and three games into their season the Seahawks don’t look to be heading in the right direction. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, that’s for sure, though it’s also way too early to write them off.
Whether or not the Seahawks turn things around after their rough start doesn’t change what Sunday felt like, though.
And that would be the dawning of a new era in Seattle pro sports.