BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 10/17/2018

Thiel: Allen, Lynch, Carroll and limitlessness

Paul Allen, Pete Carroll and Marshawn Lynch seem vastly different, but all share the virtue of limitlessness. Here’s hoping Seattle sports fans appreciate their good fortune.

Are Marshawn Lynch and Paul Allen twin sons of different mothers?  / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Talking with Tod Leiweke about Paul Allen, I said one guy I thought might have a chance to get to know Allen, who was hard to know, was Marshawn Lynch. Leiweke smiled.

“They clicked,” he said.

Techno-geek and Beast Mode?

Yes. Forget superficial things such as race, age, looks and background. They share a  characteristic. They are limitless, and know it.

It’s a rare thing, by dint of genes and genius, that certain individuals blow past the boundaries of their worlds to be as certain of themselves as they are certain they can’t be stopped.

It’s not true, of course. Allen died Monday in Seattle. Lynch Sunday in London was slowed to 45 yards in 13 carries by the Seahawks, his old team.

But outcomes aren’t merely the sum and substance of outliers and iconoclasts who shed limits. It’s what their limitlessness can provide others.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, another outlier, said Tuesday after returning from London, “He wanted you to go for it. He didn’t want you to hold back. He wanted, at all times, to be pushing ahead.”

He was talking about Allen. But was that not an apt description of Lynch?

It’s not a surprise that Lynch and Allen seemed to understand each was to his world as the other was to his.

To a younger Seahawks fan, Allen may seem more establishment than iconoclast. But before he was old as Lynch is now, he and partner Bill Gates had thrust the personal computer into the lives of millions, to the astonishment and dismay of IBM, then the industry colossus that had rebuffed them.

Consider it a Beast Quake run, full of broken tackles and stiff-arms, with pocket protectors.

The innovations of Gates and Allen that launched Microsoft provided the resources that Allen used to transform South Lake Union real estate, buy the Seahawks and the Trail Blazers, create The Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. And MoPop.

Before all of that, he wanted to be fellow Seattleite Jimi Hendrix.

“Paul was cooler than I was,” wrote Gates in blog post Monday. “He was really into Jimi Hendrix as a teenager, and I remember him playing Are You Experienced? for me. I wasn’t experienced at much of anything back then, and Paul wanted to share this amazing music with me.

“That’s the kind of person he was. He loved life and the people around him, and it showed.”

The eclectic tastes, the eccentrism, the avoidance of the banal were hallmarks of Allen’s work before long Lynch showed up in Seattle. But it made a great workplace for the Beast in the otherwise rigid corporate culture typical of the NFL.

“We’ve been a little bit different around here,” Carroll said. “Paul didn’t want to be the same as everybody else. He wanted to do special, unique. Whenever we were going through whatever the phases that we’ve been through, he was always supportive.

“He was never embarrassed by something that a player would say or how they acted. He knew that there was a time and a place, if we could deal with it properly. He always felt that we could work our way through things if we were really resourceful.

“For me, I knew that I could free-wheel and figure out stuff and go for it and throw the ideas by him. Almost always, he would have suggestions, but always be in support of not trying to be like everybody else. We fit very well together in that sense.”

When Leiweke, then the Seahawks CEO, was in pursuit of Carroll, the USC coach (and “King of Los Angeles” as he was known), to succeed Jim Mora as Seahawks coach, the two met for dinner in the back yard of the LA home of Leiweke’s brother, Tim. Eventually, the negotiation climaxed with a phone call to Allen.

“He was going to clear it for us to have a great chance to do great things,” Carroll said. “He wanted to win championships, and that’s what he was all about. He wasn’t going to let anything get in the way. The message that came through was really one that I hadn’t heard in that fashion (from other NFL owners), with that commitment and that spirit of it.

“That’s what made it even possible to even be in the conversation about it. I found trust early in that conversation. That relationship became one that was so well-founded, as I learned later on.”

The freedom contrarian Allen gave to contrarian Carroll to execute his vision, which included the trade for contrarian Lynch, helped make for the explosive football energy that captivated Seattle and the rest of the NFL. With each passing season, the historic glow from the combustion seems to grow more intense.

“The extraordinary wealth that came (his) way . . . opened a doorway for him to give back to the place that he was so connected to,” Carroll said. “He did it in any way he could. He’s always been that way. It happened to come out in the world of sports, and his fantastic franchise that he was able to construct, and the stadium and the 12s.

“It’s been a blast being part of it.”

Few of us can be limitless. But it’s good to be close by when limitless people get together.


  • DJ

    I like it and can see it – what a cool and positive perspective. I’m sure that Pete and Marshawn would be proud to be categorized in this way with Mr Allen.
    Thanks Art!

    • art thiel

      Very different people, but all are original thinkers.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    “We’ve been a little bit different around here,” Carroll said. “Paul didn’t want to be the same as everybody else. He wanted to do special, unique.” That statement by Carroll is the crust of the biscuit when it comes to my concern over new ownership ..

    Most NFL owners see their team through a businessman’s perspective ; a fun toy who’s ultimate purpose is to make them even richer than they already are . Don’t get me wrong – the NFL is indeed a business and owners should make a profit . Allen bought the Seahawks for ( I believe ) $70 million and the franchise is currently valued by Forbes at over $2 billion . Or they think they know the game better than the coaches they hire to run it ( see Jerry Jones ) even though they’ve never played a snap in their lives .

    Paul Allen was not that . He hired in Carroll a man who is unique in his mindset , a coach that I’d project wouldn’t be tolerated by a majority of the league owners , any more than a lot of the ‘misfits’ Carroll acquires thru drafts and trades would be tolerated by other coaches . I’m not sure a lot of Seattle fans and the community at large really understand how unique a situation we’ve had here for almost a decade truly has been .

    Almost certainly , new ownership will not be as open minded , as tolerant , as willing to try a different approach as we’ve enjoyed these last 9 years . The unique personalities this team has enlisted ( Sherman , Bennett etc. ) would probably never have seen the light of day without the ownership and GM/coach combo we’ve had . Beastmode is a perfect example ; the Bills dumped a perennial talent in exchange for a 4th round draft pick because he was disruptive . Yes – those personalities had to be ‘managed’ , but who here would trade that for the run of success we’ve had , all the while allowing the players to be themselves and support the social causes they support ? Would any 12 truly like to go back to 6-10 seasons year after year with a roster full of mediocre players who do what they’re told and keep their mouths shut ?

    .. we’re about to find out just how fortunate we’ve been here in Seattle once ownership changes . I gotta shiny quarter that says once that happens , Carroll either leaves of his own accord or is fired , along with Schneider . I don’t mean to sound like a purveyor of doom and gloom , but this franchise has been truly unique for a decade now , and it all started at the top , with Mr. Allen .

    • coug73

      It is likely Paul Allen’s sports empire will become more corporate in it’s ownership. The Zen Master has passed. Those who understood Allen’s nature must now follow there own. Changes are coming.

      • art thiel

        See my newest column for more thoughts on that.

    • art thiel

      The value 21 years of stable, enlightened leadership can’t be overstated.

      Good observations on managing high-maintenance players. Great talents in all endeavors often are eccentric and self-absorbed. Gotta deal if you want to win.

      Even under Allen, Carroll may have been gone at contract’s end, to another team or another non-football gig. But he won’t have it as good as he has it here.

    • SalishSea8

      Actually he bought it for closer to 250 mill …I think Behring bought it close to 70 mill.

  • StephenBody

    Good one. Paul Allen wasn’t restricted by ANY assumptions and/or preconceptions. Plans and strategies? Sure. But he understood that, to be great, you have to be free to reach out and grab that moment of chance and serendipity and RUN with it. The Seahawks would have been, even with Carroll, NOWHERE near the cultural magnet and sports phenomenon as they are today. Whomever buys the team will be almost guaranteed to narrow the scope of freedom and latitude of attitude Allen cultivated. We just have to hope that they look closely at what has made the Seahawks what they are and not try to impose stupid changes just for the sake of change or their outsize ego.

    • art thiel

      Fair points. The Nordstroms were a stellar ownership group but were completely fooled by Behring. John N says the sale to Behing was one of his life’s greatest regrets.

      Seller beware.

  • jafabian

    I remember when Paul showed up at an fundraising event for Marshawn’s First Family foundation, along with Joe and Jennifer Montana, (Their son Nick was a Husky at the time)in order to help kick things off. The night was a success in part because of Paul’s presence. I was impressed he took the time to be there despite his schedule.

    With the news media reporting on the legacy of Paul Allen one can see how his interests and involvements were widespread and varied. And you never heard of him being involved in any scandal or anything controversial. He was practically taken for granted but not so much in his home state. Can’t go wrong with a man who’s favorite burger is at Dick’s.

    • art thiel

      Some of us prefer to call our favorite restaurant Chez Richard.

      If something does emerge about Allen’s past, keep in mind the frailty of human endeavor.

  • Husky73

    There are many tributes being written– some simple; some analytical; and some superficial. Art (of course) found the heartbeat. Great job, AT.

    • art thiel


  • 1coolguy

    Allen and Gates comprised somewhat of a local “Mr Inside, Mr Outside” (Blanchard and Davis for those youngins’ reading) pairing, the benefits of which will outlast our lifetimes.
    As Mr Inside, if you will, Allen promoted untold assets in the Northwest, some of which are mentioned in the column. He never lost sight of his roots, his father the UW librarian, and he made one of his first, large, pubic donations to the UW in the form of the Allen Library at the UW. His contributions to the NW are legion and one can only hope that his sister Jody, a remarkably capable person, will be able to carry on his legacy.

    • art thiel

      The list of his deeds are immense, listed on the Vulcan website. Take a look.

    • SalishSea8

      You forgot to mention he went to two years of WSU and gave 50 million to the school of Animal science. Also other scholarships in science and physics. But yes he was formed by the culture of the Northwest and embraced it.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Three individuals with very impressive accomplishments. Now the question is how badly does Jody Allen want to be a fourth. The page is turning and something tells me she’s capable of great works. For women, for the arts, for Seattle. Sports?

    • art thiel

      My guess is she has priorities besides sports. Probable sale.

  • Kirkland

    Geniuses behave differently than mere mortals. Sometimes it’s thinking outside the box like Allen and Carroll, sometimes it’s behaving outside the box like Lynch and Sherman. (Belichick might be the rare genius who achieves while operating in an extremely rigid structure.) Those two types need each other to succeed. The former can’t go far with mediocre employees or yes-men, the latter can’t go far if they’re shackled with nit-picking codes of conduct. The Seahawks of this decade were a perfect example of these two types finding each other and reaching the top of the mountain.

    • art thiel

      Good observations, Kirkland. The world needs the unconventional, even if in the moment they are puzzling or infuriating.

    • SalishSea8

      Most Geniuses try to perform in rigid structure when science is their medium.