Sports weekend shows Seattle fans still love their winners

Big attendance for both the Sounders FC and University of Washington Huskies games carries a lesson about what can succeed here. 

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Seahawks football

Big attendance for both the Sounders FC and University of Washington Huskies games carries a lesson about what can succeed here. 

League officials for big-time pro basketball and hockey may want to consider a number the next time — if there is one — that they contemplate placing franchises in or near Seattle. The number is 126,287. That would be the combined attendance Saturday (Oct. 15) at Husky Stadium and CenturyLink Field.

The number doesn’t quite equal the population of, say, Tacoma. It does, perhaps, belong in the same sentence with the City of Destiny if only because of a story bobbing on Commencement Bay last week about studying ways to refit the Tacoma Dome to accommodate the National Hockey League and/or the National Basketball Association, such as it is.

Meanwhile, the two major sporting events in Seattle Saturday have more than mammoth turnouts in common. Crowds showed up, that is, because both the Dawgs and the Sounders are winning: on the scoreboards and hence with the fans.

The Sounders FC draw of the 64,140 is extraordinary, even given that it was the final home match of the regular season and an occasion to say — well, shout — buh-byes to retiring goalee Kasey Keller. It also posed a weak opponent in San Jose, dispatched 2-1 by the locals.

A slight surprise, though, was the attendance of a mere 62,147 for the Huskies’ 52-24 thumping of the Colorado Buffaloes. The Dawgs had been off for two weeks after “welcoming” Utah to the Pac-12 conference during a 31-14 road triumph. Heavily favored UW figured to at least get some kind of win after the bye-week layoff. So why no sellout?

That was what two of us wondered as we approached the soon-to-shut-down ancient stadium and become inundated with ticket-hawkers. We settled for decent north-side seats for less than face value, soon plopping down to watch the Dawgs score touchdowns on their first five possessions. Perhaps it as appropriate, then, that those at the multi-use facility (it closes after the Nov. 5 Oregon game for a two-year renovation) got to see a football game and a track meet at the same time.

For the second half we moved out of the sun and into the shade of the south side to witness more formidable Dawg offense and a defense that doesn’t yet measure up with the elite teams of the league (even while allowing the league-newbie Buffaloes to roam for just 269 yards). This may become painfully apparent next Saturday (Oct. 22) at 6-0 Stanford, 44-14 victors at Washington State Oct. 15.

But the word is out about the entertainment value of this Husky offense. Keith Price will see perhaps his main competitor for all-league quarterback when Andrew Luck shows up for Stanford. As far as comparisons with former great UW QBs, Price already projects to eclipse many of them in several single-season stat categories.

Here again, “entertainment value” is the key phrase. Seattle always has been an excellent sports town when there was something worth reveling about. It’s likely most fans don’t even demand championships so much as reasonable satisfaction after the energy and resources they invest.

That 64-k spectators would put in the time (perhaps eight hours coming and going), effort (it’s gotta be a slog putting on all that creepy “rave-green” make-up) and dough (the amount grows substantially with every round of drinks) to experience an otherwise unspectacular 2-1 soccer victory should refute anybody’s reckoning that this is a shabby sports town.

Does it offer any cause for hope that hockey or the NBA could flourish in Tacoma or Bellevue? That seems to be the wrong question.

The right one, and this applies to the town’s other resident pro franchises, is that a baseball team needs to start winning 90 or 100 instead of losing that many. As for the Seahawks, who may actually be better this year than a lot of us thought, a division championship at 9-7 instead of the reverse no doubt would trigger a string of sellouts even the Sounders management might envy.


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