I thought the worst part of my Tuesday was over when I left the dental office after a root canal.
Then I worked the Sounders playoff game.
Sadly, no pain-numbing medications were made available.
Hey, Major League Soccer: Work on that, willya?
Yes, I’m aware that five years earlier, the Sounders played a similar no-shots-on-goal game in Toronto, and won the MLS Cup with it. That doesn’t change my view: Penalty kicks are an objectively lousy way to end games, seasons and championships.
It’s like resolving a tie in baseball with a home run derby. At least putting a ghost runner on second imitates game action.
However, my adverse reaction to the Sounders’ perverse outcome is also be because I’m a little more sensitive lately.
It’s from the abscess infecting Seattle sports.
If that’s a little harsh for you, let’s move the simile from dentistry to meteorology.
We are deluged by an atmospheric river of sports disappointments.
Journalists aren’t supposed to have rooting interests, so this more about civic mental health.
COVID-19 has ended and damaged lives and economies in far more pernicious ways than its impact on sports. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean any of us around the business can’t feel bad about the disruptions and spoilage underway in the department of fun.
In the Seattle sports marketplace, feeling bad is the current coin of the realm, thanks to a decade’s worth of dubious outcomes in 2021.
The latest aggravation was the ignominious exit of the Sounders, the most consistently good pro team in Seattle, and MLS for that matter. On the women’s side of soccer, the OL Reign last week in Tacoma replicated the Sounders by following a good regular season with a first-round flop in the playoffs.
The futbol failures come at the same time the local representatives of American football, the Seahawks (3-7) and the Huskies (4-7) are burning up heat shields in their plunges from the stratosphere. UW men’s basketball (4-3) had another pratfall Wednesday, this one 81-62 against Nevada in a tournament in South Dakota, showing little inkling that this season will be different from the 20-34 combined mark of the past two seasons.
Earlier this year, the defending WNBA champion Storm, compromised by injuries and Olympics fatigue, was bounced in the first round of the playoffs. As new kids in town, the NHL Kraken had few expectations, and so far have lived down to them, quelling any fantasies about replicating the 2018 start of the fellow expansionists in Las Vegas.
Of all the large enterprises, the Mariners were the lone fun bunch, conjuring a 90-72 season out of glass shards and corn husks. And yet, the longest absence from playoffs among the major American sports leagues is a streak that remains firmly in their collective grip.
The failings are the responsibility of no entity. There is nothing going on here but randomness and coincidence. We all understand that sports run in cycles.
The low-water mark of local badness was 2008, before the Sounders were invented, and the year when the Sonics were hijacked by prairie pirates from Oklahoma City.
The Mariners were 61-101, becoming the first team in MLB history to spend $100 million on payroll to lose 100 games. The Seahawks were 4-12 in Mike Holmgren’s final year as coach. The football Huskies were 0-12 in Tyrone Willingham’s final year as coach. The men’s basketball Huskies under Lorenzo Romar were 16-17, 7-11 in conference.
The one bright spot was the Storm’s 22-12 season, but they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Yet almost all of those teams subsequently rebounded over the next decade to have noteworthy successes, including championships for the Storm (3), Sounders (2) and Seahawks (1).
So perspective is a worthy device in measuring the current debacle. What makes this year different is a collective yearning by those weary of covid and political/cultural fractures to find things that cheer them up.
I asked Pete Carroll Wednesday, amid his toughest stretch as Seahawks coach, whether he felt some responsibility, beyond the usual standard, to deliver for sports fans in a public-health crisis.
“I do,” he said. “I felt that last year also, when people couldn’t come to the game. It’s just a less energetic lifestyle for all of us. We had to hang out and stay home (hoping) that we could supply some factor. I think the fact that our fans have been able to come back to the stadium and just be a part of NFL football, I think we’re fortunate.
“Sports is really important for us right now, because it’s somewhat of a distraction. But it’s also an area of focus for so many people. They can just find enjoyment, find a little quiet time and shut your mind off from the rest of the world, and have fun following your team.
“With that, the responsibility of bringing them joy and fun and pride, we have not done as well. It’s frustrating to me. I feel that responsibility, and I wish we could come through for them in a bigger sense. As they hang with us, we hang together and we ride this finish to this season. Hopefully, we’ll take them on a good ride.”
Fine thoughts. But a good ride would be 6-1, which, given the ebbing football health in Renton, is quite a reach.
Something more plausible is also more immediate.
I’ve never had a rooting interest in the Apple Cup. But a win by the Cougars Friday would not only restore some competitive balance in the series, the reward of a bowl game and a shot at the Pac-12 North Division title would be a helluva feat for players who persevered despite the selfish disruption dropped on them by Rolovich and his equally misguided assistants.
The Cougars would be a sports team that prevailed against covid in an entirely different way.
Hard-core Huskies fans wouldn’t agree, but there’s a reservoir of unspent sports enthusiasm around here that has to go somewhere. If WSU wins, we all should be Cougs for the weekend, including cheering against Oregon when the Ducks play Oregon State Saturday. Even Huskies fans can get into that.
And it takes pressure off Carroll to be a big source of good civic mental health. Anything to help convert a third down.