Seahawks: No. 3 In Their Hearts, And Marketplace
Soon many Seattle-area youngsters will attend the first day of school wearing their idol’s No. 3 uniform on their backs.
Few of those jerseys are replicas of Seahawks quarterback Rick Mirer.
The bulk represent Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez and are symbolic of a gigantic shift in the Seattle sports scene.
Once it was a given Seahawks games would sell out. Waiting lists for tickets numbered 30,000. Jim Zorn, Dave Krieg, Curt Warner, Steve Largent, Pete Gross, heck, Efren Herrera … those were the names with whom Seattle fans identified. Nowadays, it’s Junior and Bone, the Big Unit and Edgar. Or it’s The Glove and the Reignman, Big Smooth and Detlef.
The Mariners probably won’t make the playoffs this year, but they’re setting attendance records anyway. A new ballpark is on the way. The Sonics made the NBA Finals. They already have a spiffy new arena.
The Seahawks? Attendance is down and fans are fuming over owner Ken Behring’s lame attempt to move the club to California. There is hope for a new stadium, but it’s by no means a sure bet. The Seahawks, somewhat illogically, are asking fans to attend games, though the team may have a different home address next season.
Interest in the Seahawks is on the wane. For example, Friday afternoon, just prior to the Seahawks-San Francisco 49ers game, a host on all-sports radio station KJR complained to listeners that he’d been on the air for more than 3 hours with nary a call about the Seahawks. “It boggles the mind the overwhelming lack of interest in this ballclub,” the host said.
In short, the niche-less Seahawks, low on the Seattle sports food chain, are trying to win back Seattle. This season, which begins with playoff promise, is crucial to that end.
It won’t be easy, given the success of the Mariners and Sonics. To put the Seahawks’ plight in a nutshell, a relative, who frequently attends Mariners and Washington Huskies games, recently asked me: “Who’s their starting quarterback, anyway?” “Rick Mirer,” I said.
“Oh, yeah, that’s right.”
Lost is the fact that the Seahawks last year made a run similar to the ‘95 Mariners when they captured the division title. The Seahawks won six of seven games before being eliminated from wild card contention by Kansas City on the last weekend of the season.
Still, there is a sense that the Seahawks are a team on the rise, with current stars - Chris Warren, Cortez Kennedy - and future ones - Joey Galloway. Like the Mariners and manager Lou Piniella, the Seahawks have found a leader in Dennis Erickson who seems right for the job.
Like the old days, nearly 60,000 fans created unhealthy decibel levels in the Dome as the Seahawks waxed long-time rival Oakland 44-10 in December. The rabid fans were coming back.
Then the loss to Kansas City, then Behring’s aborted move of the franchise.
Goodbye momentum, goodbye fans. Attendance at two preseason games has been dismal as fans watch prospective owner Paul Allen wrangle with King County officials.
So here the Seahawks are again, looking to regain the top spot in the Seattle market. Problem: Another 8-8 season won’t do it.
Seattle must make the playoffs, whether that takes nine or 10 wins. Anything less and public opinion on a new stadium will surely start with the letter ‘N’ and end with the an ‘O.’
Additionally, players such as Warren, Kennedy and Mirer need to make a connection with the fans. There is no magnetic personality on this team that has captured Seattle’s fancy. Kennedy is easy going. Warren’s quiet. Mirer is both. Ask a Seahawk who is the team leader and you’ll probably get a half-dozen different replies.
The Sonics’ Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton have matured before the fans’ eyes. The team shook the choker’s label. Mariners’ fans feel like they know Jay Buhner; they understand Ken Griffey is a legend and Alex Rodriguez is one in the making. The M’s made fans believe in them last year with gutsy comebacks.
That’s what they’re waiting for from the Seahawks. Something, somebody, some reason for them to give a hoot. And this year might be the Seahawks last year to provide the fans with that reason.