I recently took a two-day trip up the I-5 North to the Emerald City to catch a Mariners’ game or two with my dad and older brother. Since Portland no longer has any type of baseball thanks to our losing soccer team, a three-hour drive was needed to cure my baseball withdrawals. Funny how America's pastime took a backseat to almost every other country in the world's pastime. Enough about me being a bitter baseball fan; I'm not trying to piss off Timbers' fans. I'm here to talk about Seattle fans and their sports woes.
Seattle sports have been on a downward spiral for about ten years now. The exception being the NFC champion Seahawks’ over seven years ago and the major popularity of the Sounders’ soccer club. There were a lot of people wearing Sonics’ gear when I first arrived in Seattle however. Walking from Safeco Field towards downtown, I noticed Shawn Kemp jerseys, anti-OKC Thunder shirts, and a lot of green and yellow shirts with "Bring 'em Back!" written across them. I asked someone what was going on and was informed that there was a rally to bring back the Sonics back to Seattle. Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Slick Watts and many other Sonics' greats would be there. My brother and I grew up in North Idaho adoring the Sonics so we decided to make the walk to check out the rally.
The event brought a solid five thousand fans to rally for bringing back a new Sonics’ basketball team. Detlef Shrempf was up on stage talking when we arrived to the event. Apparently a deal to build a new arena in downtown Seattle was very close to being reached. This arena would be much larger than Key Arena, and Seattle's goal would be having both an NBA and NHL team come to town. A new professional hockey team in a northern city that's actually close to snow and ice unlike Phoenix or Nashville? What a novel idea. Bring back the basketball rivalry between Seattle and Portland, an even better idea. There's one big factor, more important than money, in revitalizing Seattle sports and that is the fans. Seattle fans need to step it up with support for the teams they have and step it up if they do get granted two more teams.
I'm all for Sonics’ rallies and the hopes of bringing green and yellow back to Seattle, but where was all this support when you still had a team? Now that the former Sonics have made their claim as best in the west, Seattle fans are waking up. Clay Bennett helped screw Seattle out of a basketball team, but if Sonics fans would have filled Key Arena through the dark years and the Ray Allen era, he wouldn't have been able to. If Seattle's baseball fans don't step it up and start supporting the Mariners more, their team could be in danger as well. There have been talks of the Mariners being sold and the attendance at Safeco Field has been declining steadily the last ten years. In 2001 and 2002, Seattle led all of Major League Baseball in attendance. It was a sellout every time at over 43,000 a game. Seattle now ranks towards the very bottom in baseball in attendance, struggling to draw 20,000 fans. The Chicago Cubs and Golden State Warriors have awful teams but still manage good home attendance so why can’t Seattle?
I know it's hard to come out and pay money to support a team that loses more than it wins, but it's what Seattle needs and it's what real fans do. I went to two Mariners’ games on my weekend trip, and while they lost to both the Padres and the Giants, that wasn't what pissed me off. The Mariners getting run out of their own building and letting San Francisco have a home game 900 miles north of the bay is what made me furious. There was orange and black everywhere the eye could see at Safeco on Friday night. It made me confused; how could Seattle let this happen? Where was all the navy blue and teal? It sure made Giants fans look good and the Mariners’ fans look pathetic. Especially when a Buster Posey homer led to loud cheers as well as a Jesus Montero strikeout.
I felt like an outsider cheering for Seattle in my bleacher seat, which lead me to become a heckler and an obnoxious fan. I would cheer for Seattle but mostly I would yell anti-San Francisco sediment. Since their ball club is superior and recently a World Series champ, I just yelled, "Go back to California!" or "Eli Manning" assuming most Giants fans are Forty-Whiner fans and hate the other football Giants. The jeering of the Giants and Northern California yuppies had no affect on the Mariners winning or losing. I did realize that night however, that while those Giants fans rubbed me the wrong way and overran our stadium, they are good fans and Seattle could take a lesson from them. Being on the road and having your fans outnumber the home team is impressive. The Giants are also in playoff contention and won it all less than three years ago which makes great fan support easy to come by. If Seattle wants to keep its beloved Mariners and get back to their old successes and beyond, more fans need to come out to the games, a lot more. If the Sonics do return to Seattle, fans need to be ready to support a terrible team for a few years, and fill the new arena nightly. Fans need to be less fair-weathered and still have support, while everyone loves a winner, the time will come when supporting a lousy team pays off. Simply put, if you're a Mariners fan, go to more games! If you miss the Sonics, go online and see what you can do to help. It's time to wake up Seattle sports fans!