BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 11/30/2016

Seattle, city of . . . well, um, champions?

The Sounders are a win away from a national championship, the Huskies are a win away from a Pac-12 title and a bid for a national crown. Will we be overdosing on sports success?

The regional civic orchestra, led by Marshawn Lynch. /

I wrote the headline above hesitantly. I had never put the words together before, so it seemed foreign, in a learning-Mandarin kind of way. But I had to try it out because training is necessary in any venture to the frontier of human experience.

Imagining Seattle as a city of sports champions feels as awkward as putting the first jeans on Smokey the Bear. How is it possible?

But here we are, with Sounders and Huskies football, on the cusp of major pro championships in the same season for a region where sports bleakness used to go to die.

Look, I know some of you don’t consider soccer major in America, and others don’t consider the Huskies professional. But if you keep throwing asterisks at the idea until the Mariners win the World Series, you’re going to have a torn rotator cuff and zero fun.

The Sounders will play the winner of Wednesday night’s Montreal-Toronto match in the MLS Cup Dec. 10.

Washington, North Division champion, meets South Division champion Colorado Friday at a neutral site in Santa Clara to determine the Pac-12 Conference football champion. A win in all likelihood puts the fourth-ranked Huskies in the four-team College Football Playoff field, probably against No. 1 Alabama.

These heights are first ascents for both clubs.

It’s not the same scope as ending a 108-year World Series drought as did the Chicago Cubs. The Sounders have been in MLS existence only eight years, and in big-time college football, this is only the third year for playoffs; every “national title” awarded before 2014 was the guesswork of sportswriters, coaches and children throwing darts at fair balloons, because no game results decided the outcome.

Still, a championship is a championship, no matter the degree of deprivation that preceded it. At least the Sounders and Huskies have a brief local sports tradition to follow: If they are to ascend Mount Olympus and join the Greek gods, they must first smite a team from the Hades of Colorado.

You may recall the Seahawks began the ritual with a 43-8 thrash of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.  The Sounders did the deed Sunday when they beat the Colorado Rapids a second time in the two-match series, 1-0 at altitude, 2-1 at sea level. In futbol, that is nearly the equivalent of 43-8. Following custom, then, the Huskies will bring asunder the Buffaloes to maintain the state’s mandatory moral hegemony over the devil state.

Of the potentially similar achievements, the Sounders’ deed may be more spectacular, owing to the fact that they were among the league’s worst teams at midseason before executing a 180-degree turn. They fired the coach, changed the lineup a bit and reached the pinnacle game in North American soccer.

For those long experienced in Seattle sports, the feat resembled what happened in 1977 when the Sonics fired coach Bob Hopkins after a 5-17 start. His successor, Lenny Wilkens, pushed the Sonics into the Finals. After losing, they returned again the next season to win Seattle’s first major sports championship.

The shot for ultimate success is better for the Sounders, because they need to win only one more game. Should Montreal win to advance Wednesday, the game would be in the wind-driven December sleet of the Clink in front of 60,000 fans (although the conditions may be a negligible factor since Canadians were long ago recognized as the inventors of bad weather).

After the Huskies win Friday,  they have potentially two more games, starting with the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl semifinal game in Atlanta, likely against the formidable Crimson Tide. Not only is the game in Southeastern Conference country, it is against what is considered, for all intents and purposes, the 33rd NFL franchise. Coach Nick Saban has been known for years as Nick Satan because he wins numerous games 666-3.

But if Washington should somehow prevail, it would advance to the CFP title game Jan. 9 in Tampa. Succeeding then, as the industry’s indisputable national champion, would set off celebratory fires that would burn through the overcast above Montlake, and allow coach Chris Petersen direct ascent into heaven, from where he would command a recount of the presidential election.

Or maybe not. I don’t know.

In these parts, we have no experience with college football national championships that climax other than with nasty catcalling via newspaper stories (remember Washington vs. Miami, 1991 “co-championship?”). Nor do we know how to do soccer championships except by watching videos of Barcelona or Buenos Aires being lit up.

But we could learn.

We do have some experience of gathering downtown on a frozen February day to engage in the world’s largest parka hug. Seemed to be a pleasant experience.

With a couple more tries, we should have it.

Seattle, city of . . . well, you know. Try it out quietly, among people comfortable with your eccentrism.




  • PokeyPuffy

    “After the Huskies win Saturday, they have potentially two more games,
    starting with the Dec. 31 Peach Bowl semifinal game in Atlanta, likely
    against the formidable Crimson Tide.” Art did you mean Friday? And plleeeease don’t jinx us with this hubris! Colorado is not a foregone conclusion.

    • art thiel

      Friday, yes. Had it right on first reference, not second.

      Jinxes? Cities of champions don’t believe in jinxes.

      • PokeyPuffy

        Appreciate the bravado, but sure seems like a classic trap game. Playing the 8th ranked team on a neutral field is no gimme. It will be the highest rank team we’ve played this year

        • art thiel

          No possible way a championship game is a trap. If it is, Petersen should be fired after the game.

          • Diamond Mask

            Peterson is brilliant. “If” we make it I think he’ll give even Alabama a game. The Professor said this morning that we would be completely outmatched but that’s what they said when BSU played Oklahoma :)

          • bugzapper

            Bama’s a monster machine, but I don’t think they’ve seen much west coast offense stuff. Could be a very interesting match-up.

          • art thiel

            As long as Browning blocks well on the fly sweep, anything is possible.

          • art thiel

            Petersen is not afraid to be bold. He will need Dumbledore-level wizardry if it’s Alabama.

  • skabotnik

    And if the Mariners play the Rockies in the 2017 World Series, the sound of heads exploding will be heard near and far.

    • art thiel

      Even the idea is producing skull cracks.

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  • Jamo57

    Hey Art, you sell us short. Don’t you remember Slick Rick’s “Northwest Championship”? And what about Todd Turner’s retro faux “1960 NCAA Football National Championship”.

    In any event, I wear my “1917 Stanley Cup Champions” t-shirt with pride. (Yes, I have one.)

    • art thiel

      You were such a young boy then . . .

  • Mike Carr

    What about the UW Women’s golf National Champions!

    • art thiel

      And cross country.

      We are talking orders of magnitude here.

  • Super Bowl XLVIII = Smoke-a-Bowl I
    Sounders Western Conf Championship = Smoke-a-Bowl II
    Huskies vs Colorado for Pac 12 Championship = Smoke-a-Bowl III

    @skabotnik:disqus Mariners vs Rockies in WS would be Smoke-a-Bowl IV and remains pure fantasy at this point. But after three solid bowls of WA vs CO’s finest one can dream, right?

    Then there’s the Dope Cup itself, but alas current federal law prohibits cross state competition in that one.

    • art thiel

      I see your point, Scott. Can you see me through the haze?

      • In fact I can, Art. “Purple haze, all in my brain…excuse me while I kiss the sky” -Jimi Hendrix (must have been a Husky fan)

        • bugzapper

          Okay, that’s TWO purple guy references from from Artie & the Kool Gang today. He just dropped an “extra time” in his Sounders tweet. Must be an All Jimi & Prince jam, yo.

          • art thiel

            I’m done.

        • art thiel

          He was here for the Owens years. Wonder if he paid attention from all along the watchtower?

          • bugzapper

            You said you were done! What, now you’re “I’m all Trump and can’t stop myself?”

    • Diamond Mask

      It is a unique coincidence. Our states seem tied together these days. Before Canada surpassed us both after the election Washington and Colorado were the most popular places to Google for moving inquiries.

      • art thiel

        I see the real estate prices. Maybe it will cool down once we become insufferable sports fans.

  • jafabian

    I always find it amazing when an American professional sports team outside of a major metropolitan media center wins their respective championship. Look no further than which has pages devoted to the cities of Dallas, Boston, LA, Chicago and NYC. ( Cleveland and Wisconsin do as well, surprisingly. ) Pro sports always seem to cater towards the big cities so when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and then returned the following season it’s like the city of Seattle was thumbing it’s nose at that perception. In a way the M’s bandwagoned on that action by having Junior and Randy go into the HOF. It’s awesome to hear of Seattle finally getting into the national sports conversation again.

    • art thiel

      Big cities always draw the most money, attention and quality players, Twas always thus. So for fans of all the other teams, a championship has another layer of satisfaction.

      • Steed

        The old “why aren’t we getting enough national respect?” is so tedious, I retired it back in the 90’s when the SuperSonics were good.

        • art thiel

          Good for you. It’s so neurotic, and trite, of sports fans.

  • Diamond Mask

    Go Sounders, Huskies and Seahawks!!!!! Make Seattle Great Again. Then let’s ask Canada if they’ll take us in being a newly crowned City of Champions and all.

    • art thiel

      The sports wins might add to the leverage. Perhaps a negotiation to bring the Raptors to Seattle makes sense.

  • Steed

    I’m still surprised the Sounders are playing for the title. I stopped paying attention back when they were going to miss the playoffs, they fired their coach, and they didn’t have Dempsey, their best player. Season over! Not.

    The Huskies did right by hiring Peterson. Perfect. Not a re-tread. A guy who could have gone many places, but he chose to be a Husky. it was only a matter of time for him to get the Huskies back to greatness, and the time is now.

    And I like the new Mariners leadership. It’s like when Carrol and Schneider took over the Hawks. They are going to build the franchise until it is a powerhouse; you can feel it!

    It’s a great time to be a Seattle sports fan. If it weren’t for one missing offensive line, we might just pass out from how awesome it all is.

    • art thiel

      Imagine if that O-line gets better with a month of work. You will have nothing to complain about. Scary.

  • Paul Harmening

    “….where he would command a recount of the presidential election.
    Or maybe not, I don’t know…”

    An entertaining read to be sure until your penchant for political and religious satire once again dampened any joy of the illusion of a sports world devoid of politics or religion, which of course does not exist except in the hallucinatory minds of ancient purists like myself. I must admit though, changing the spelling of Nick Sabins last name did bring out a chuckle.