Wassell: The Mount Trashmore of Seattle sports moments

May 7, 2020, 2:20 AM | Updated: 9:05 am

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren...

Questionable officiating marred Mike Holmgren's Seahawks team's Super Bowl trip. (Getty)


We stumbled upon the Mount Rushmore of Seattle sports as a topic for a few minutes Wednesday on Tom, Jake and Stacy. Later on, I began thinking about some of the worst players in the history of this town, but I didn’t want to be mean in singling out individuals because I’m a nice guy. Instead, I tried to think of the four worst occurrences in our past.

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Surprisingly, there weren’t as many as you would think. Those that missed the cut were things like UW football’s 0-12 season and the 2001 Mariners falling short of getting to the World Series. It’s tough to say that the 2001 Mariners are one of the worst things to ever happen though given the joy that they gave this town for six months before the Yankees beat them in the ALCS (for the second straight year – AAAAGGH!).

What I list below, there’s no debate – it’s bad. Behold Mount Trashmore!

George Washington: The Sonics are stolen from Seattle

The horrible sting of one game, season, or moment may linger forever in our memories. Whether you come within an inch of winning or you’re out of the race before a season is halfway over, at least you get to watch your team play. There’s always next season. Nothing will ever hurt as terribly as a team being taken away from a city.

Let’s keep in mind that that this wasn’t just any team. The Seattle SuperSonics had a proud history. This is a team that regularly made the playoffs and were expected to compete more often than not. There are some vagabond organizations that have little flares of success but on the whole are miserable enough to justify moving. That’s not the case here. With three Finals appearances and one title to the Sonics’ credit, fans of the green, white and gold had about two dozen players (if not more) that they could point to as all-time greats both for the franchise and the sport. Names like Sikma, Wilkens, Schrempf, Kemp, McMillan and Payton will always live in the lore of our town, not to mention Durant who could have fulfilled his destiny perhaps as the greatest of them all.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, as well. City politicians, Clay Bennett, David Stern and Howard Schultz are all responsible in their own way for allowing the Sonics to be moved to Oklahoma City. We don’t have to rehash the whole saga now, but it goes without saying that the sadness and resentment that still permeate the Seattle sports scene even today are a direct result of underhandedness, greed and straight-up dishonesty. This wasn’t a situation where the fans had given up on the team and weren’t drawing crowds. Those aforementioned either stole or allowed the team to be stolen. Have you ever been burglarized? It’s a pretty violating feeling.

Worse yet, we don’t know if the NBA has serious interest in bringing a team back to town if they decide to expand. What a mess.

Thomas Jefferson: Seahawks’ Super Bowl XL loss marred by officiating

This could still have been a very close game, even without one bad call after another by the officiating crew. The sixth-seeded Steelers were red hot, but the Seahawks were perhaps the best and most consistent team in the NFL in that 2005 season. Sure, Seattle has won a title in the intervening years, but in a strange way, the passage of time has only made the occurrences of this game even more unbelievable.

Sometimes a referee will make a mistake at the worst possible time, and we all have to live with it. Saints fans are still trying to sue the NFL over a missed call in the 2018 NFC Championship that cost them the game – and who can blame them. It’s 10 times worse though when it’s not just one call. It’s at least five that time and time again changed the momentum of the game, swinging it in Pittsburgh’s favor. And this was not the NFC Championship. This was the final game.

There’s no guarantee for Saints fans that their team would have won the Super Bowl. Without all of these mistakes made by Bill Leavy and his crew that night, I’ll say that there’s about an 80% chance that Seattle takes home the Lombardi trophy. No matter how many Super Bowls the Seahawks win from now until the end of time, being reminded of that evening will always be likely to make fans ill. The Patriots have won six Super Bowls since 2001 and if you talk to them about 2007’s 18-1 team, it’s still a wound that’s definitely open (however ridiculous that sounds).

And lets not forget the characters involved. Mike Holmgren would likely be in the Hall of Fame already if not for that loss. Beloved players like Matt Hasselbeck, Steve Hutchinson, Walter Jones and Bobby Engram would all have Super Bowl rings. For them, watching the current era of Seahawks success has to be bittersweet at best.

Abraham Lincoln: The pick – Super Bowl XLIX

If only we could reverse the order of the way 2013 and 2014 played out – you always want to end on a high note.

Super Bowl XLVIII brought us so much joy. The parade, the win over the 49ers to get to the big game, the massacre of the high-flying Denver Broncos. That was the team of all teams. There was nothing the Seahawks could have done any better – except do it again. And they were just one play away.

Fans of teams like the Browns, Lions, Bengals and others that have never won a title might say “Hey, don’t get greedy. At least you got one.” Sure, that makes sense, but c’mon, it’s still painful. It would have been one thing if New England had beaten Seattle, say, 30-17 in a relatively close game. There may have been a few plays that could have altered that kind of outcome, but where exactly they were and how critical each of said plays were would be up for debate. In our case, it was one play.

We had the best running back in the league ready to take the handoff and bust one yard through a New England defense that would have had a difficult time stopping him. Instead, we throw the ball, Malcolm Butler picks it off and the game is essentially over. Just like that, the Pete Carroll-era Seahawks go from possibly being the team of the decade and one of the all-time most dominant teams to just another champion. They’re the Packers of the late 90s. What happened with them, you ask? That’s my point. Nobody cares or remembers.

This is the type of play that will haunt fans forever because we’ve all been in situations where if not for just that one decision, our lives might have been different. And to cap it off, the decision itself was so mind-boggling. It defied everything the Seahawks were about.

There’s a saying pitchers have about making sure to get beaten with your best pitch. At least you know you left it all out there. The Seahawks got beat throwing their changeup in this case. From the ownership right on down to fans who haven’t even been born yet, this will haunt us forever.

Theodore Roosevelt: The Bill Bavasi era of the Mariners

We had to get the Mariners in here somehow. In thinking about Seattle’s often tortured baseball team, it’s interesting to note that while they’ve had long stretches of misery, there haven’t actually been that many stretches. From 1977 to 1994, they accomplished very little, but that’s just one era. From 2004 to the present, it’s been basically the same. Sure, we’ve had other regimes since Bavasi, but both have spent all of their time trying to clean up the mess left by their predecessors.

Bavasi came on the scene after the conclusion of the 2003 season which saw the Mariners go 93-69 for the second straight year. The only reason why these teams didn’t make the playoffs was because of sudden surges by the Angels and Red Sox, who won 99 and 95 games in 2002 and 2003, respectively. So in comes Bavasi to try to usher in a new era of Mariners baseball as the previous regime’s players began to age. Félix Hernández was on the horizon and Ichiro was already here, but Bavasi doesn’t get credit for either one of them.

During Bavasi’s tenure, the club turned in a plus-.500 season once (88 wins in 2007) and made all kinds of perplexing trades that yielded close to no success, setting back the team for years to come. Erik Bedard was acquired from Baltimore for outfielder Adam Jones, starter Chris Tillman and reliever George Sherrill, all of whom made at least one All-Star team for the Orioles. Shin-Soo Choo was dealt to Cleveland for first baseman Ben Broussard, who was already washed up. Then there were debatably bad luck signings like Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson, neither of whom had the productivity to match the amount of money they were being paid at the time. Do I need to go on? Jarrod Washburn, Jeff Weaver and Brad Wilkerson were all paid to do jobs that they couldn’t live up to, and on and on.

By the time Jack Zduriencik rolled in here with a reputation for scouting good talent in his days with the Brewers, he had his work cut out for him. Things didn’t go much better, but at least he acquired some pitching talent here and there like Hisashi Iwakuma and various bullpen names that actually helped them make a run at the playoffs in 2014 and then 2016, when the team featured a mix of Zduriencik and Jerry Dipoto players.

The bigger picture is that current GM Dipoto is still putting out the fire started by Bavasi and kept aflame by Zduriencik. We’ll see if his name gets added to this list or if he can figure out a way to land on a version of a Seattle Mount Rushmore – the good kind.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom Wassell on Twitter.

More from Tom: Why I’m grading the Seahawks’ 2020 draft an A-minus

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Wassell: The Mount Trashmore of Seattle sports moments