BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 09/18/2020

Thiel: The most unheard-of time in Seattle sports

In one spot, your semi-complete guide to just what the hell has happened, and is happening, in Seattle sports lately, thanks to random calamities, perfidies and ironies.

In case you forgot what this place (and the sky) was supposed to look like  . . .  it was deemed unplayable for five consecutive games. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest 6/17/18

I wish there was the equivalent of an air quality index meter for this sort of thing. Or maybe something like an antigen test. But there is no plausible marker to measure what’s happening. So in the absence of a quantifier, I’m going to give it at least an identifier.

The Foghorn Leghorn Seattle Sports Week: A Set of the Most Unheard of Things I’ve Ever Heard Of.

We begin with the Mariners.

Already down to 30 scheduled home games by dint of COVID-19’s wreckage of the MLB schedule, the Mariners this week had to shift five games from T-ball Park to San Francisco and San Diego because of smoke from wildfires that were largely from — wait for it —  California.

And that was after playing a doubleheader with the Oakland A’s Monday at T-ball with the worst air-quality conditions of the week. According to my AQI meter, the needle landed that day on “Siberian coal-mine explosion.”

This comes after one game was postponed by a racial-injustice protest, and two games were pushed back by a false positive among the visiting Oakland A’s. On Commissioner Rob Manfred’s schedule blender, there’s now a speed called “warp.”

All of this happened while the Mariners, against all hit-the-moon-with-an-arrow odds, are in modest contention for a playoff spot. The 22-28 Seattles (have you heard? “The youngest team in baseball!”) are three games behind the cheatin’, lyin’, scumbaggin’ Houston Astros (25-25) after Thursday’s games for the nearest available spot. Jeez, would the Mariners be national ball heroes if they eliminated the Astros, or what?

It’s true the MLB playoffs have been devalued below penny stocks. But when there’s been a 20-year void, this is no time for arrogant dismissal. A crumb to some can be a meal for real.

We move to the Seahawks.

The NFL schedule-makers leaped at the early season chance to match the re-made Patriots and legendary tombstone-faced coach Bill Belichick in the Sunday night national showcase against the Seahawks, Russell Wilson and the slobbering hordes of “Mad Max” wannabes at the Clink.

Instead, it will be so quiet you’ll be able to hear a DK Metcalf reception drop.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said an “unbelievable amount” of juice will be drained Sunday from the joint by the prohibition of fans until COVID-19 “magically goes away,” per President Trump.

“This is one of the great spectacles in sport, playing here in front of our fans, notably the loudest venue that you could find,” Carroll said. “The excitement level in the energy, and the connection, with the people of this area has been unique, extraordinary and nothing but a spectacle.

“So that’s not gonna happen.”

Fans nevertheless are grateful that the game is happening at all. If it happens.

Remember, the Mariners just abandoned the sports shop next door for the weekend because of the lingering smoke. But Carroll claims a change in the weather likely will bring relief.

“We see a turn in the weather pattern coming before the weekend that should help us out,’’ he told inquiring reporters from the Boston area.

Ah, but as we weather hounds have noticed, our local meteorologists this week have been stumped by smoke clouds this large and dense. They haven’t been right in awhile.

When come it comes to forecasting, they would have an easier time predicting Earl Thomas.

If rain and wind do preserve the game Sunday, Carroll called upon the 12s to make robust audio amid their dwellings.

“People can go out on their front steps and start screaming . . . and yell out the windows,” he said. “We’re sorry that we aren’t able to play in front of our fans, but it will get back to it. In the meantime, be creative. Figure it out. Let’s go. Rock the house in the neighborhood . . . make it fun.”

Imagine thousands of fans around Puget Sound stepping though doors and to windows at the moment of triumph, drawing a deep breath and  . . . coughing. Not what Dr. Anthony Fauci had in mind.

One caution Carroll failed to mention, but I’m happy to cover for him.

No fireworks. Please.

We move to the Pac-12 Conference.

After being steadfast in its righteousness on Aug. 11, voting unanimously to not play football until 2021 because of the health and liability consequences of COVID-19 to the beleaguered student athletes, the conference leaders backpedaled furiously this week when their partners in conscience, the Big Ten Conference, caved to public pressure to play a season.

The Pac-12 bosses could vote at a meeting Friday to begin perhaps as soon as Oct. 31 a season that they hope would be legit enough to qualify for the industry’s four-team playoffs.

“(Friday) is a chance to get everyone caught up on what’s been a very dynamic and rapidly changing series of events over the last 24 to 48 hours,” Commissioner Larry Scott told The Associated Press Thursday. “We’ll obviously have to decide soon, but I’m not necessarily expecting a decision (Friday).”

The main thing that changed since the first vote was the development of an antigen test that has a rapid turnaround, but is less accurate than the PCR test that takes days to report.

Oh, one other thing changed — campuses opened. The coronavirus was thrilled.

More than 90,000 new cases have been reported among students, most of whom were engaged in online learning, which has the virtue of being closer to the keg.

Deadspin surveyed all 14 schools in the Big Ten, and discovered COVID-19 breakouts everywhere, including the athletic departments. None of this information appeared in the frenzy about starting a new football season. We can assume Scott, Mr. Tagalong, also didn’t see it.

And even if he did, he would likely use the tired retort that that students are different than athletes. Which is, of course, what critics of big-time college athletics have said for more than 100 years.

So the Washington Huskies and Washington State Cougars appear on the verge of some sort of a season, as long as players can disassociate as much as possible from the schools and students they represent. Fight songs, anyone?

We move to the WNBA.

The WNBA has nothing to do with Seattle and its sports mayhem. Which is the point: The WNBA and its teams this year have nothing but post-office boxes to do with their home cities.

The WNBA played its regular season (22 games instead of 34) entirely in the bubble of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, and will finish its playoffs there by no later than Oct. 11.

In the final four is the Seattle Storm (18-4), the No. 2 seed, who will face the Minnesota Lynx in best-of-five semifinal starting Sunday. If they advance the finals and win it all, the Storm figures to be the first pro sports team in history to win a championship without a game at home.

Talk about social distancing. They put an entire continent between themselves and hugs from strangers.

Another title could also become the first civic championship parade to be on the otherwise useless West Seattle Bridge, where thousands of fans can stand, distant and masked, and cheer as the players pass beneath on the Duwamish in separate watercraft.

How weirdly Seattle would THAT party be?

Finally, we move to the MLS.

On Sept. 10, while the rest of Seattle was hacking, red-eyed and headachy, the Sounders beat San Jose 7-1 at the Clink, the largest margin of victory in the club’s MLS history, the most goals in a match and the quickest team to get to five goals in MLS annals (33 minutes).

Sounders? How about the Seattle Smokers? The sub-nickname works on multiple levels, and perhaps again Friday when they host LAFC.

To summarize: If conditions remain stable, the Sounders will play at the Clink Friday, followed by the Seahawks Sunday. But the Mariners, citing unhealthy conditions at T-ball, are playing five consecutive “home” games in California, where much of the smoke originated.

And the Huskies and Cougars postponed their entire 2020 football seasons on Aug. 11, when campus infections were negligible. But when campus infections spiked with the return of students, the teams and the rest of the Pac-12 re trying to claw back most of the season they tossed.

Look, no one’s at fault fo this chaos. Everyone is trying their best. I thought I’d lay out what “unheard of” looks like. Now that I have, my eyes and head hurt.

My Scotch bottle just texted me: “Meet u in 5.”

 


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YourThoughts

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Mr. Art
    I have contacted the Pulitzer folks; please expect to hear a little something from them right soon. Please don’t ever stop writing!

    s/
    Yr Obt Svt
    A. Spumoni

    • art thiel

      Exaggerated expressions of approval always welcomed.

  • Mark Stratton

    I hope you’re drinking good scotch

    • art thiel

      It’s my one expensive indulgence. I’m not in Larry Scott’s league.

      Not fond of waffles.

      • Hockeypuck

        Please be specific. I have similar tastes (and probably budget)

        • art thiel

          Laphroaig Lore.

          • Mark Stratton

            More of an Oban fan myself. Glad you’re investing in a great vice. Everybody’s got to have one

          • art thiel

            Who’s stopping at one?

          • Stephen Pitell

            Hey Art, I had to give up drinking for my liver’s sake, but I always enjoyed that smoky flavour of Scotland. I am not wealthy or even affluent though, so I tried diluting Laphroaig to save some money, and I gotta say it worked well enough. I never found a dilution level that ruined that smoky flavour. Personally, I take pride in my frugality as it conforms to Henry David Thoreau’s admonition to know what is important and what is not.

          • art thiel

            If every American came to realize that shopping is a destructive therapy, light, peace and joy would abound across the fruited plain.

  • DB

    -A beautiful review, Art. Hang this one with the rest of the masterpieces!

    • art thiel

      Glad you enjoyed, DB.

  • SeattleSince57

    Strange days indeed.

    • art thiel

      Only going to get stranger.

  • Kevin Lynch

    “Siberian Coal Mine” comedy!! Excellent, Art! Really enjoyed your summation. Crazy times at Ridgemont High.

    • Husky73

      “That was my skull!”

    • art thiel

      Gotta laugh sometimes, yes?

  • Husky73

    Art, I can’t figure out Manfred. Is he a good commissioner, a bad commissioner, or one of those cardboard cut-outs?

    • art thiel

      Manfred is a corporate type who tends to think that all problems can be fixed by the marketing department. He’s no Bart Giamatti, with soul for the game and people.

      • Husky73

        Art, how would you rank the big 4 commissioners, from best to worst?

        • art thiel

          Silver is by far the best. The rest are tied for last.

  • Alan Harrison

    Beautifully written, Art. Made me forget for a moment how angry I am at the Senate Majority Hypocrite, Mitch McYertle. RIP RBG 💔

    • art thiel

      Thanks. I’m glad to have provided a bit of shelter from the storm.

  • Hockeypuck

    I love the managed, saccharin narrative from the BIG10. Those esteemed medical professionals Dr. James Harbaugh and Dr. James Franklin have told us it is okay to play, so let’s go! Of course no correlation between their salaries/athletic dept budgets and the TV revenue that will be generated (and urgently needed) by the upcoming season. Unfortunately nothing will change the fact that in all circumstances co-eds + beer = COVID. To use an old quote from ESPN – “we’re gonna use them like a rented goalie”. And if 10-20 of them die – what the hell – their parents will take great comfort in the (not) heartfelt, tearful platitudes spewed by Harbaugh and Franklin at their ZOOM – memorial services – are you listening Mrs. Karenhusker?.

    Basically, they’re using college athletes (especially the borderline pro-prospects, which are the majority and most desperate of the playing pool) that very much need to differentiate themselves to have any chance at a lucrative career. As opposed to getting up for work at 5 am like the rest of us stiffs. I find it interesting that those that REALLY have the most to gain and lose – highly paid professional athletes, even miscreant MLBers – have fully bought in to bubble-sports and the stringent discipline required to remain part of the highly paid party. We’ll have no such luck at the collegiate level.

    Art – If the above becomes reality, yours and your colleagues jobs will be to stand eye-to-eye with the the Frankin’s and their ilk and ask – was the $4mm you earned worth the death of Mike or Rasheem? What is the minimum compensation you would require to risk the lives of others? We know there is a number, last season proved it to us. What is the number?”.

    • art thiel

      That is a direct question that needs to be asked of everyone involved in starting up college sports during a pandemic without the controls that can be provided pro sports.

      Nothing and no one can stop college kids from doing college-kid things.

      • Hockeypuck

        Exactly

  • woofer

    “I wish there was the equivalent of an air quality index meter for this sort of thing. Or maybe something like an antigen test. But there is no plausible marker to measure what’s happening.”

    My personal theory — and I fully understand no one wants to hear this, least of all in a friggin’ sports blog — is that the pandemic, among other things, has produced an altered sense of reality. All routines are changed, social interactions distorted, the future suddenly unpredictable in every dimension. It’s a different interactive environment on nearly every level.

    But we all, being creatures of habit, instinctively and with increasing frustration try to force the new reality to conform to our traditional expectations. It doesn’t work. It can’t work. But we have to keep on trying, don’t we?

    And then the cherry on top of the pile of fake whipped cream is that the country is being run by a lunatic, one who gets a wee bit crazier with each passing day. But, just like with the pandemic, we are all striving gamely to pretend that everything is actually OK, that some sort of return to normal is right around the corner. It’s not going to happen. Sorry. Grumpy old dogs are going have to learn some new tricks.

    • Hockeypuck

      Wow – spot on. For the record, I’m not grumpy :).

    • art thiel

      Your personal theory is held by many, including me. Because it’s obvious.

      Humans forever have sought routine to help manage their safety insecurities. We cannot help but to try to restore order. Partly because in America, we have created more order than anywhere else, and have prevailed through wars, economic collapses and environmental devastation.

      The pandemic is different, compounded by a lawless president with no regard for anything beyond his own gratification. New tricks have always been mandatory to cope with changes. We call that innovation now. I believe they will happen, but this time at greater cost, including the sacrifices of some of those things that give us security, like the routine of sports.

      Daily, it will be exasperating. Long-term, the new normal will be necessarily established. Think about when Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type in 1439 helped create mass literacy and ushered in the Reformation. The lives of the establishment were heavily disrupted. As they are now. Ultimately, for the greater good.

      It doesn’t all have to be disastrous. The Constitution has been amended 29 times. A lawful presidency and Congress can add a few more to help fix what allowed criminality to succeed temporarily.

      • woofer

        “It doesn’t all have to be disastrous.”

        You’re right. It doesn’t need to be disastrous — if we accept the reality of major change and make the appropriate adjustments. But it’s the resistance to change that will prove critical.

        The only reason Trump remains in power is that 40% of the population has bought wholesale into his craziness. And the craziness is based explicitly on denying the need to change, and the denial is based on deeply held fears. Right now, the more you push against the fear and its resultant conspiratorial fantasies the more the crazies dig in their heels. Arguing with them is futile. If you can safely get up close, it’s better to give them big reassuring hugs.

        • art thiel

          Now I know this is satire. Unless you’ve successfully hugged someone wearing an AR-15.

          • woofer

            Hug your crazy old Uncle Charlie at the family reunion, not the biker with AK-47 prowling downtown Portland.

  • Will Ganschow

    Is that a smoky scotch?

    • art thiel

      Peaty, we snobs like to call it.

      • Stephen Pitell

        Laphroig, perhaps?

        • Archangelo Spumoni

          I apologize in advance, sir.

          Laphroaig, if you don’t mind. I was taught this one by a true scotch man, who takes his vacations in Scotland visiting these little tiny distilleries. A true snob–er–fan.

          • Bruce McDermott

            Good stuff. Slight preference for 16 year Lagavulin. Sippin’ the bog….

          • Archangelo Spumoni

            Spoken like a true peat man!

          • art thiel

            Also good. Half the enjoyment is watching the faces of newbies upon first sip. They don’t want to hurt my feelings, not realizing they just helped them.

  • Stephen Pitell

    Old folks, and those with underlying conditions like obesity, will just have to hunker down for a while yet to protect themselves. It seems fighting covid 19 is every person for themselves. America is a country dedicated to greed and selfishness.

  • jafabian

    The past few Summers simply can’t go long without a smoke alert of some sort. Somewhere the architects of the Kingdome are shaking their heads.