As Sunday (Sept. 18) dawned, every major sports team in Washington except for the Sounders was on a one-game losing streak. The state’s main college teams lost Saturday, as did the Storm and the Mariners. The best that could be said for the latter was that, with 63 wins, the M’s couldn’t possibly lose 100 this year.
Better yet, some believed, was that the club had unveiled at Safeco Field its long-awaited monument to Dave Niehaus. Many have said the statue bears an uncanny likeness, though some of us, alas, think it’s more a resemblance to golfing great Jack Nicklaus than the bygone, beloved game announcer.
Left to be settled early Sunday seemed to be, in effect, the entire season for the Seattle Seahawks. Like the Washington Huskies, the Hawks were out of town facing daunting point-spread predictions. The Dawgs, no thanks to an inept Big 12 officiating crew, had managed to beat the 17-point pre-game spread by succumbing 51-38. The Seahawks, 14-point gambling goats, were down that much to the Pittsburgh Steelers after just 18 minutes had expired. With the Washington State loss to San Diego State the day before, the Hawk debacle meant a 1-5 major-sport record going into the M’s series finale with Texas later Sunday.
The 24-0 Hawk loss, here again, seems much more significant than the others. The Storm plays at home Monday in the rubber match with Phoenix. The defending league champs from Seattle will be favored to proceed to the next round of the playoffs.
The 2-1 Huskies obviously can and will continue to win, probably against California at home next weekend. The Cougs, also 2-1, have two weeks to mend before a pair of road games (Colorado and UCLA) they could win. The M’s project to four or five more wins before the season finale Sept. 28.
Some arbiters would say the Seahawks project to 0-16. It’s eerie that a franchise with all but two new roster members since the ill-fated 2006 Super Bowl nevertheless still plays as ineptly on the road as it has with constantly changing personnel the past half decade. It’s difficult to find a single away game on the schedule that this team could win. At home they obviously have to play the division’s other three teams, each seemingly superior to a Seattle club that won the bracket at a laughable 7-9 last year. For the other five home games it’s hard to see how the odds-gods could make the Hawks any better than three-point favorites.
All week the squawk-jocks and callers on local radio weighed the efficacy of Hawk coach Pete Carroll’s legions, in effect tanking this season to set up a draft chance at Stanford’s Andrew Luck, said by some to be the greatest pro-quarterback prospect of his generation. Obviously it’s absurd to believe that a collection of mentors would conspire to diminish competitiveness just to advance draft status. At the same time it’s difficult to see exactly what the Hawk philosophers were contemplating putting together a team with an inexperienced offensive line leaving little chance that an uninitiated quarterback such as Tarvaris Jackson could put together scoring drives.
This wasn’t, after all, the greatest version of the Steelers, with about a third of its players left over from the ref-aided ’06 Super Bowl win. Pittsburgh looked like, well, like the Sept. 18 Seahawks a week ago with a 35-7 loss at Baltimore. If not for an impressive Hawk goal-line stand during the game’s early moments, Pittsburgh would’ve been up 24-0 at half time.
“Would’ve” echoes what Husky partisans were saying during and certainly after the Saturday game. A Big-10 officiating contingent was led by a ref so addled that, during the early calls, he couldn’t seem to figure out which side had been flagged and what direction the next play was going. His befuddlement actually had long-time N.F.L. vet and color commentator Matt Millen chuckling at the spectacle.
The mirth turned to announcers’ disbelief after two dubious punt-related calls helped hand the game to Nebraska. The Huskies also helped the opponent with missed opportunities (three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, eg.) and a third-quarter kick-off “return” that didn’t happened because neither deep man could pick up or fall on the ball.
The Hawks, meanwhile, had appalling numbers: just 164 total yards, eight first downs, and possession time of 20:38 while yielding 391 total yards to the Steelers. Seattle didn’t even run a play in Pittsburgh territory until the fourth quarter.
The 14-6-9 Sounders, however, after their 3-0 win against D.C. United Saturday, lead their league in scoring. Soccer, anybody?
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