Who won 2013? Certainly the Seahawks and Russell Wilson, although the early part of 2014 might be a different story. Who lost 2013? Most assuredly the Mariners, although their spectacular desperation spawned several of the most intriguing yarns of the year, including revelations of upper-management dysfunction and the franchise’s outlandish attempt to fix the wreck by handing $240 million over 10 years to a 31-year-old second baseman.
Who won 2013? Certainly Chris Petersen, handed as he was a revitalized Husky football program and a guaranteed, five-year contract worth $18 million to run it. Who lost 2013? Most assuredly Chris Hansen and Seattle’s still-robust NBA fan base. Hansen offered a record sum for an NBA franchise and had a tentative deal for an arena only to have a vengeful David Stern and the league snub his efforts in a landslide vote.
Each palate responds to a different taste. The non-return of the Sonics will not resonate nearly as much with some as the failure of the Sounders to avoid a late-season crash. For others, Washington’s inability to achieve BCS-level bowl status five years after an 0-12 season warranted cries for Steve Sarkisian’s scalp.
All of the following dominated the conversation in 2013. Which resonated most with you?
NBA rejects Seattle
In early May, many thought Seattle had the Sacramento Kings secured and that the transplants would begin play at KeyArena in the fall for the two to three years it would take Chris Hansen to build his $500 million basketball-hockey facility in Sodo. But the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 22-8 to keep the Kings in Sacramento, virtually demolishing a year-long effort to return the NBA to Seattle. The setback provided arena foes time to gather wits and resources. It seems increasingly that Hansen, facing formidable opposition on multiple fronts, will not see his arena built where he wanted.
Ken Griffey Jr. enters Mariners Hall of Fame
Three years after his playing career ended, Griffey sparked another sellout at Safeco Field in August, the throngs gathering to witness a celebration, heavy with nostalgia, of the greatest baseball career locals are likely to see. Griffey’s feel-good induction, to the on-going chagrin of veteran Mariners watchers, marked the highlight moment of another ineffectual slog to 90 losses.
Re-opening of Husky Stadium
UW completed the $281 million remodel, actually nearly a complete do-over, of the facility in time for the season opener against Boise State Aug. 31, re-inaugurating it with a slapdown of Chris Petersen’s No. 19 and — as it turned out –highly overrated Broncos. The stadium drew rave reviews and finally gave the Huskies the recruiting tool they needed.
Cancer claims Don “Dawgfather” James
Three local coaching legends died in 2013: Former PLU football’s Frosty Westering in April, former PLU-WSU-UW basketball coach Marv Harshman within days of Westering and, six months later, the greatest football coach in modern Washington history.
James’ death, from pancreatic cancer, made A-1 news and his public memorial attracted 1,000 mourners, including many of his ex-coaches and dozens of his former players, to Alaska Airlines Arena. “I’m not in this business if not for Don James,” Alabama coach Nick Saban, who worked under James at Kent State in the early 1970s, told the mourners via video hook-up.
Sounders execute epic pratfall
The Sounders in August made a $5 million move to sign Clint Dempsey, but it failed to produce the desired results, at least in the short term. Bothered by injuries, Dempsey took a long time adjusting to his new environment and didn’t score his first goal until the season’s final days. By then, the Sounders had gone kaput. Seattle held the pole position for the Supporters’ Shield with three weeks left in the regular season, but had only one win in its final 10 in one of the great fades in MLS history.
The collapse nearly cost Sigi Schmid his job, set him up for ouster next year if matters don’t improve, and prompted the club to sever ties with several players, including fan favorite Mauro Rosales, leading scorer Eddie Johnson and starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
Dysfunction at the top
Two months after saying he wouldn’t return to the Mariners even if they awarded him a five-year contract (fabulous job of bridge burning), still-inflamed ex-manager Eric Wedge went on record in the Seattle Times in December with allegations that the team’s front office suffered from “dysfunction” and a “lack of leadership.” Wedge, as well as other former club employees, didn’t say much that surprised anyone, but the fact they went on the record about the stewardship of Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong broke ground. GM Jack Zduriencik, his own position in peril, largely ignored the story, glaring in itself. The Times published its indictment one month after Armstrong announced his retirement, sending the Twitterverse into a happy frenzy.
Steve Sarkisian bolts for USC
Sarkisian always wanted to coach his hometown USC Trojans and got his wish, to the joy of some at Montlake, after guiding the Washington Huskies to an 8-4 regular-season finish, an Apple Cup win, and their fourth bowl game under his watch. Sarkisian’s bolt curiously caused few laments. Rather than acknowledge the job he’d done in bringing UW back from 0-12, the hardcore largely denigrated him for failing to “take the Huskies to the next level” quickly enough. Chris Petersen is now tasked with that.
Mariners lavish $240 million on Robinson Cano
The Mariners set an all-sports record in the desperate-measures category Dec. 12 when, to stanch further erosion of the fan base, they signed Cano, a five-time All-Star and .309 career hitter, to the third-richest contract in major league history — taking him away from the New York Yankees, no less. As per custom, it said a lot about the Seattle franchise that the biggest news of the year occurred when no games were being played.
Leach, Cougars botch New Mexico Bowl
Washington State, making his first bowl appearance in 10 years, had a 15-point lead on Colorado State with 2:52 to play. By employing stunningly inept clock management, the Cougars fumbled the game away, creating an epic entry in the annals of “Couging it” boobery. “I will spend my next 50 years in broadcasting wondering why the Cougars didn’t take a knee,” Bob Robertson told his Cougars radio audience. Leach took no responsibility for blowing the game, choosing instead to bark at a reporter who quizzed him about his obvious poor decisions.
Seahawks favored to win Super Bowl
The talk about a Seattle appearance in the Super Bowl began shortly after April’s NFL draft and never abated on local talk radio, where the Seahawks became the prime topic of conversation into the New Year. Shoving all other stories to the background, the Seahawks justified the banter, starting 11-1, winning the NFC West at 13-3 and securing the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. “They are the best team in the league,” ESPN’s Jon Gruden announced after the Seahawks dismantled the New Orleans Saints Dec. 2. Point of caution: In the last 19 seasons, only once (New Orleans and Indianapolis in 2009) have the top two seeds entering the playoffs reached the Super Bowl.