BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 09/19/2013

Thiel: Seattle sports uptick: Scream to the nation

Seahawks, Sounders, Huskies are on upticks with late-summer success and huge crowds. Nothing has been won, but title of most miserable sports city may be vacated by Seattle.

The racket by Seahawks fans was the object of disdain by some 49ers fans. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Things have changed when 49ers fans write to a San Francisco newspaper website saying that the NFL should outlaw the Seahawks’ world-record noise advantage heard Sunday at the Clink, just as league has attempted to ban PEDs and reduce concussions.

Lost on Judy and Rich, the letter writers (third one down) to, was that the 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh a week earlier mocked Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews for failure to slug instead of slap a 49ers player during a sideline scuffle.

“If you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles, you know, not an open slap,” Harbaugh advised Matthews, which would seem to be a repudiation of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s ambitions for a kinder, gentler sport.

“I think that young man works hard on being a tough guy, he’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap,” Harbaugh said. It was probably a coincidence that Matthews as a collegian played at USC for Pete Carroll, a person Harbaugh enjoys in the way Elmer Fudd enjoys Bugs Bunny.

So the outrage over Seattle fans’ auditory behavior rings a little hollow coming from the worshippers of the NFL’s most notorious jerk. It also rings hilarious. Is Seattle fandom such a deci-bully that it is worthy of league sanction? How about the 49ers converting a third down first?

Maybe Seattle fans need to get used to being the object of rancor, disdain, jealousy and contempt from others. That’s what happens to teams at the top.

The lack of familiarity with the experience is understandable. Seattle goes with championship like burlap goes with negligee.

Yet it’s possible to contemplate double pro sports titles this fall and winter, based on evidence to date, without people looking at you as if you have a gargoyle for a hat. The Sounders have the best record in Major League Soccer, without having their complete team together for a game this season. The Seahawks’ 2-0 start, while showing some frayed ends, did little to diminish the preseason forecasts for Super Bowl participation.

I realize that some sports fans don’t take an MLS title seriously in America, and that’s fine. Some people didn’t take seriously Jeff Bezos when he had all those boxes stacked up in his Seattle garage in the mid-90s, either. The skeptics can tut-tut, but when the Clink is expanded to 120,000 seats to host a World Cup, remember when you tutted.

Everyone takes the NFL seriously, and after Sunday’s 29-3 win over the 49ers made everyone takes the Seahawks seriously.  Yes, it was an inartistic slugfest, but look at this way: The Seahawks in December played what might have been the most splendid game in their 37-year history and beat the 49ers by 29. Sunday they often clomped about and beat their most formidable rival by 26. There’s a pattern here.

To add to this unbearable lightness of sports being, the Washington Huskies have begun 2-0 with a new offense and a new playpen (no tax dollars at work) that have added much to the optimism that a decade of torpor is behind them. The new configuration of Husky Stadium, with stands much closer to the action and a larger roof overhang that returns noise to the field, makes pinatas out of ears in a fashion nearly equal to the Clink.

Hey, even Washington State is doing its part, mashing USC in Los Angeles a couple of Saturdays ago, the biggest upset that city has seen since Lyle Lovett married Julia Roberts.

Another aspect of this eruption of sports euphoria was that in the space of three weeks, the Sounders drew a record 67,385 for their Aug. 25 match with the Portland Timbers, the Huskies drew 71,963 for their Aug. 31 opener against Boise State, and the Seahawks Sunday drew a record 68,338 for the 49ers.

Each game had some elements beyond the norm that spiked interest, but all were nationally televised scream-fests in which the out-of-town commentators marveled at the tsunami-grade lather worked up in Seattle for each contest.

Having worked all three games and having been in this market for a little while, I would submit that the ticket-buying overlap among fans bases was probably fairly insignificant, meaning that each stadium was populated by passionates of the particular team.

That suggests there is an engaged, diverse sports-fan base for whom the recession was mostly a rumor, wealthy enough to afford the parking and eager enough to engage in hours-long barking.

Then there’s the Buzzkills, er, Mariners, forlornly stuck on the dock while the revelers on the ocean liner wave good-bye. But let’s not go there now, and save the eulogy for the seasonal funeral next week.

Forbes magazine was right earlier in the year when it ranked Seattle as America’s most miserable sports city, given the remarkable ability of its teams to avoid championships. But that was then, this is now.

Nothing has been won, of course, except a Guinness decibel award and some hearts. But it cannot be said that lack of support is any factor in a subsequent failure to reward constituencies with some long-overdue hardware. No wonder Chris Hansen is willing to roll with a billion dollars — and break a few laws — to make the NBA and NHL happen here.

Good luck, San Franciscans, with the campaign for golf-gallery applause at football games. Keep us informed by letter, email and text, but please don’t call. We can’t hear you.


  • jafabian

    Just need the Mariners to quit their “be patient we’re getting there” approach and Seattle will be as sport crazy as Sacramento. Would love to see an Olympics come here in my lifetime but there’s no Bob Walsh out there to make it happen. But currently loving the Seattle sport scene right now. Reminds me of the late 70s-early 80s and geez, the M’s weren’t all that great then either.

    • art thiel

      Mid-90s had a good run of M’s and Sonics, decent seasons by Huskies and Seahawks.

  • Matt712

    If it’s any consolation to ‘Judy and Rich,’ fans at the Clink are barely audible the day after the game.

    • jafabian

      Evidently Judy and Rich never went to a game at the Kingdome which IMO was louder than the CLink.

      • art thiel

        Steinbrenner after the Mariners’ ALDS win said as he left the field, “This goddamn building beat us.”

    • art thiel

      Hoarse and coarse.

  • Michael Israelson

    Rogers and company did not seem to be phased much by the crowd noise. They used hand signals, probably because they were used to playing the Vikings. But, in their radio interview with Dori, the couple singled out Seattle as the only one that used crowd noise to their advantage. I hope we can put the issue to rest when Seattle plays in San Francisco. A decisive win down there may put the issue to rest. I have been to enough games that Seattle has lost, to know that crowd noise may tip the scales, but won’t insure a win against a good team. If Green Bay can adjust, so can everyone else, so the NFL need not get involved, IMO.

    • art thiel

      Having tried and failed to sanction crowd noise in the early 90s, the NFL will not look stupid on the same topic twice. And you’re right, the Seahawks have actually lost games in the Clink. Talent is always the decider; the crowds will give a few false starts and delay penalties, but can’t overcome Tim Ruskell.

      • Michael Israelson

        As reasonable as that sounds, I wouldn’t put it past this NFL administration to take action based on “fan safety”.

  • Hammtime

    Remember in the 80’s when domed stadiums such as the Kingdome were so notorious for their loudness that the NFL actually had rules that penalized the home team if the fans were too loud?

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the link. As I recall, that rule worked about as well as Prohibition.

  • Raymond Meyers

    It seems to me the NFL should move to pastel team colors. After all, some of these uniforms are hard on the eyes – especially teams like Jacksonville and Denver. Also, players need to be more polite. More “please” and “thank you,” less profanity. Spitting is rude and unsanitary. That should stop. And have you noticed how many of the players and coaches haven’t even shaved before the games?

    • art thiel

      I’ve even caught some ending their sentences with prepositions. So crude.

      • Raymond Meyers

        Endind sentences with prepositions is something up with which the NFL mustn’t put.

  • bonniefletcher

    Masterpiece, Mr. Thiel, great article.

  • chabaa

    You were on fire for this one Art!