Stop! Hold the millennium! There's a new sheriff in town, a trusted columnist back in the saddle, and we've got some football to play before we can let this old century go. Yee-hah!
As the Seattle Seahawks prepare to usher in the Mike Holmgren Era by mounting and stuffing the Detroit Lions at the Kingdome this Sunday, expectations for the team have reached extraordinary heights: for a winning season—which would be the Seahawks' first in nine years. Hopes for this column remain as high as ever, though more easily attainable.
If only ticket sales matched these lofty expectations. As of last weekend, Sunday's game was 4,000 tickets shy of a sellout, an embarrassment for a team with postseason aspirations. As usual, I have a plan to solve this crisis. Simply require every Sound Transit employee who commutes to work alone in an SUV to buy a ticket. This would assure a sellout and allow me to stay home and watch the game on TV.
Let me be the first to predict that our boys in blue will earn a wild card spot this season, and with it the right to lose a play-off game for the first time since 1988. Of course, they haven't participated in a postseason game since 1988, so losing one will be a big step forward. My over-under for the Seahawks is 10.5 wins (last year it would have been 10.5 points per game).
I'm proud to admit that I arrived at these predictions by paying no attention whatsoever to the NFL preseason. The Seahawks were 1-3 during the tune-up round, though their PR department brags that the team would have been 3-1 if preseason games lasted only three quarters instead of four. Then again, we'd all be whistling "Dixie" just before kickoff every week if the Civil War had ended after three years instead of four. So let's forget about the glorified scrimmages, OK?
Seattle made a great move in hiring a consistent, proven winner like Mike Holmgren as head coach. Holmgren has plenty of incentive to continue his winning ways with the Seahawks because Paul Allen knows how to punish failure. Just ask Dennis Erickson, who went to sleep one night last December as head coach of the Seahawks and woke up in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car the next morning en route to his new coaching job at Oregon State (Allen's operatives referred to this mission by the code name The Experience Corvallis Project).
The Seahawks could sleepwalk the first two weeks and still open 2-0 with wins over Detroit and the Chicago Bears. Then they have to start playing some real football teams every now and then. Seattle could be division champs elsewhere, but not in the AFC West, where the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos haven't slipped quite far enough yet for the Seahawks to grab the top spot. Remember: John Elway retired, Terrell Davis didn't.
Seattle's Jon Kitna will determine just how good the team will be this year. Kitna has yet to prove that he deserves to be a starting NFL quarterback, though Holmgren has faith in the young man. He went 3-2 as a starter during the final five games of the 1998 season, but threw more interceptions than touchdowns. One final note of caution—Kitna is a Tacoma native, so he must overcome a deep-rooted inferiority complex.
The Seahawk defense will have to carry the team while Kitna grows into the quarterback role. Fortunately, this extremely talented unit has the ability to dominate opposing offenses. They should be particularly popular with the anarchist fans from Eugene. Talk about primitivism. I dare any World Trade Organization minister to try to open up trade routes in the gap between Cortez Kennedy and Sam Adams. They'll immediately find out about the people's justice.
We interrupt this column for a bulletin from the holdout front: Joey Galloway wants more money. Galloway has refused to report for this, the last year of his present contract, until the Seahawks agree to offer him a new contract. Though I sympathize with Galloway, I don't understand why he's in such a big hurry to hold out. Joey's still a young player. He'll have plenty more chances to break contracts in the future. Why rush it?
You may have been wondering if I held out last year or hoping that I retired after the 1997 season. Well, no such luck. I was merely on hiatus during the 1998 (football) campaign. I don't quite know how to explain the situation. All I can tell you is that I am partial to two-year terms.
I'm really looking forward to the historic 1999 season. I only hope that the inevitable success of my column won't overshadow whatever Holmgren and the Seahawks manage to achieve this year.