What Happened to Our Teams?


Duff McKagan, a Seattle-based musician is the former bassist for Guns N' Roses. His current projects include Loaded and Velvet Revolver. His column appears every Thursday on Reverb.

This may well be a crappy article, but I need to vent. I don’t, however, think that I am alone in my disappointment.

Let me start by stating that I do realize that sports teams don’t always win. I was born in the mid-’60s and I didn’t experience sports excitement in Seattle until Slick Watts appeared with the Sonics in 1975. But the overall drought we have had to endure since the Seahawks’ Superbowl appearance is starting to get depressing, and I for one am starting to wander.

OK, Weekly reader, I am sure a lot of you are groaning at this moment. "SPORTS?! Who gives a rat’s ass about stupid SPORTS! We have a recession on and there is an election on and the world’s resources are being burned up and there is global warming!" Well, my argument would be that now more than ever we NEED a winning team. At least the PROSPECT of a winning team. The Sonics are gone (I will get to that in a moment), the Mariners are in shambles, the Hawks are depleted and Holmgren is leaving, and the Huskies’ football program has shrunk to a mere shadow of the dominance and fear that they used to hold the reins of. Sports are one of the things we in Seattle have been able to turn to in recent years. Sports gave us something to help take our minds off world problems. “One in the win column” is like taking an aspirin; it takes the edge off the pain for at least a little while.

In Seattle we have always had the luxury of looking forward to an upcoming season with at least one winning team, even if another had been failing. “C’mon, Huskies!” (or “Hawks!”) was a common war cry when the Mariners were bad in late summer. The Huskies would always be contenders. When the Huskies got bad, we had the Hawks and the Mariners. The Sonics were a town draw and a subject of much pride until the signing of Jim McIlvane started to tear at the fabric of the unstoppable Peyton/Kemp tandem. The team never recovered its full dominance. Never again instilled fear. And then the move….

I’m sorry, that move was utter bullshit. If anyone reading thinks that Seattle didn’t need the Sonics because of ticket costs or new arena bond issues, they should maybe go ask Seattle-area hotels and restaurants what THEY think. And all the people working at the Key and Seattle Center itself. What about the cab drivers and limo companies? There are, I am sure, myriad other losses that haven’t been calculated . . . but this one is for sure: We don’t have an NBA team anymore. This town at one time was one of the most feared places to play in the NBA because Seattle was such a basketball city. It’s pathetic what happened to us, and embarrassing. We all got screwed. I was down at the Key a couple months back to see a concert, and my heart was broken seeing all the banners still up. I saw framed photos of Gus Williams and Fred Brown. Flashes came back to me of the time my dad took me to one of the games in the ’77 championship series. It finally hit me that my team was gone.

I am not a sportswriter and definitely not an expert on all things sports. I am, however, a fan, and I have some general thoughts on what has been happening:

1. The Mariners’ ownership is based in another country and can’t really be bothered with anything other than the bottom line. As long as we fill those seats and keep someone on the team that Japan will buy the TV rights to, the ownership is happy. I ran into Tony LaRussa at one of my gigs last spring and he was dismayed that the Mariners had passed him over a few months earlier.

“They passed you over?!” I exclaimed.

“Yeah, it’s too bad, I would have loved the gig.”

Tony LaRussa had just won a World Series with the Cardinals! We need some good management, and I hope they do the right thing this off-season. If not, I suggest we all boycott. Shit, Sweet Lou left because management wasn’t allowing him to do his thing as he saw fit.

2) Why have the Seahawks already picked a coach for next season? Why did they feel the need to get someone locked in so early? A friend of mine who played in the NFL says that Jim Mora is going to be great for the team. I truly hope he is right (and Mora is a rocker, which is kinda cool!). What if Bill Cowher suddenly wants to coach again, though? I just get confused by a lot of these “front office” decisions.

3) The Huskies. Well, it looks like Willingham will be out. None of the top high-school kids want to come here. We all know they will have to rebuild the whole program. They should find someone who has experience getting a program back on track. As it stands, the Huskies football squad looks like a junior college squad.

4) We have in Seattle probably the best sports radio station in the U.S. The staff is one of the most knowledgeable I have heard (I listen to a lot of sports radio around this country!). These guys should be given a week to try get all our sports programs back on track. What could we lose?

So I have started to root for other teams. I like the Brett Favre story, so I will pull for the Jets. They are winning and that is fun. The Red Sox have been my backup MLB team since the Bill Buckner era (hey, that dude was a solid player). College football? How about Toledo—my wife is from there, so why not? The NBA? I have soured on the NBA and refuse to watch. On second thought, Ray Allen is with the Celtics, and he gave his all for the Sonics.

Hey, wait a minute! I just read that Gary Payton is trying to get an investment group together to try get the Sonics back here by 2011. I am already starting to get my hopes up. Now if we could get Edgar Martinez and Jamie Moyer involved with the Mariners, Sonny Sixkiller and Don James involved with the Huskies, and . . . well, I think the Hawks are still screwed. That’s all right. C’mon, Sonics

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