Not to get too carried away, but the Husky basketball team’s improbable rise over the past few weeks has put me into a ’95 Mariners frame of mind. And the Huskies’ upset victory Thursday night over Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Championship will go down in local sports history along with that memorable Mariners’ season of 15 years ago.
I’m not a sports fan (I’m more into the pop culture of teams and players), but when a local team starts to win important games, I get sucked in alarmingly fast. A month ago, all I knew about the Huskies this year was that they couldn’t buy a win on the road. A week ago, I didn’t know what local radio station carried Husky basketball games (I figured out in time for Saturday’s PAC-10 championship victory over Cal that it’s KJR 950 AM). A day ago, the only player I could name was Quincy Pondexter.
The Huskies’ comeback from 15 points down in the second half of the game against Marquette was unbelievable. Marquette made a few critical mistakes, but it all came down to the final seven seconds, when “Q-Pon” calmly ran down the clock to two seconds before driving in to score and break the tie in the Huskies’ favor. It was “The Double” all over again, with an Edgar Martinez hit bringing home Junior to beat the Yankees in extra innings—and erase nearly 20 years of Mariner mediocrity.
And we could sure use some ’95 Mariners juju around here right about now. Cop killings, job losses, deficits, Glenn Beck rallies, budget squabbles, tea parties, failing schools, the Fun Forest potentially replaced by a Glass Grove — all add up to a puddle of existential dreariness that even our oddly dry and sunny winter just couldn’t evaporate.
That the ’95 Mariners (a team that failed to even reach the World Series) remain this region’s dominant aspirational sports memory says something about us. Nobody alive remembers the Seattle Metropolitans’ Stanley Cup in 1917. The Sonics’ NBA success 31 years ago was already long forgotten when that team pulled up stakes. The Seahawks made it to the Super Bowl just four years ago, but failed to win the game and didn’t win many hearts, either. Even the civic giddiness from the Seattle Storm’s WNBA championship in 2004 was like some rare isotope, with a half-life measured in months rather than years.
But the ’95 Mariners along with the players and the improbable victories persist in the hearts and minds of many of us who’d never be called dedicated fans. Let’s hope the same can some day be said about the 2010 Huskies.
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