Seahawks Eye the Hearts of Seattle Sports Fans

.NET Reporter Scott Eklund looks at the place the Seahawks hold in their city, and where that place might be with another great season.

Seahawk fans have been waiting for more than a decade for the franchise to put a stellar product on the field. Now with their offense in place, special teams acting special, and a rebuilt defense, they just might be poised to take the top rung of the Seattle sports ladder.

The Emerald City and its surrounding area have seen their fair share of sports success. The University of Washington won a National Championship in football in 1992 and haven’t posted a losing record since 1976. The Sonics won a World Championship in 1979 and were one of the best teams in the NBA for the better part of the 90's. The Mariners have been a mainstay at the top of the Major Leagues since 1996 and with a miracle season in 2001, they share the major league record for wins with 116. The one team that has not seen much success in the last 15 years is the Seattle Seahawks, but that could all change in 2004.

If you look at the sports landscape for 2004, the Hawks have the opportunity they have been waiting for...

Mariner fans have supported the team well since 1996, the first post-season appearance in team history. They have annually filled their ballpark, Safeco Field, with 3 million plus fans and ranked at or near the top in attendance in Major League Baseball. However, fans have become tired of the M's complacency in acquiring talent to take the next step, as evidenced by the lagging attendance so far this season.

The SuperSonics will never receive the undying enthusiasm that comes with being a Celtic or a Knick fan. Attendance at Key Arena has seen a sharp decline since the late-90's and the enthusiasm of the fans could be equated to that of a social gathering, not a sporting event. Sonic fans are something akin to Laker fans, except Laker fans have something to cheer for.

Many UW football fans, lately, would rather hang out on their boat, just outside Husky Stadium, with their Bloody Marys and Mimosas, than to spend time working themselves into a fanatical lather on fall Saturday afternoons. The play on the field has reflected the laid-back attitude of the fans and hence, the team and program have fallen on hard times.

Lorenzo Romar has infused the Husky basketball program with new life, but this is a “what have you done for me lately” town. Long-term success is tough to come by when your institution is considered a “football school”.

The Hawks, on the other hand, appear to be headed into the upper tier of NFL franchises with their eyes on getting at least one Lombardi Trophy on their climb to the top.

In the 1980's, the Hawks were the number one draw in the Pacific Northwest. Krieg to Largent, Warner on a power sweep, Easley blasting someone, and the dreaded Kingdome crowd were the envy and enemy of the rest of the NFL. The NFL created the "fan rule" in the 80's because teams couldn't hear each other talk, let alone call plays in their huddle, when they came to Seattle and encountered the infamous "12th Man". There was a 30,000 person waiting list for season tickets and fans ate up the chance to go to a game.

That support came crashing down in the 90's when the team bottomed out with questionable ownership, a 2-14 season and the threat of a move to Southern California. Fans still remember that sick feeling they got when the local news showed Seahawk players working out in LA at a local gym.

Luckily, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen swept in and bought the team guaranteeing to keep the team in Seattle where it belonged. Two seasons in Husky Stadium were accompanied by lackluster play, questionable personnel moves, and no playoff appearances and fans grew even more skeptical. Then the Hawks moved to newly-built Seahawks Stadium and fans began to believe. An aura of something special began to brew.

The 2003 season saw head coach Mike Holmgren lead his team to its best record since 1986, going 10-6 before losing in a first round playoff heartbreaker to Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. Hawk fans sold out every game and there was an air of excitement not seen at a Hawks game since the glory days of the 80's.

This team is primed to steal the hearts of Northwest sports fans and hold on to them for a long time. They have a solid if not spectacular young QB in Matt Hasselbeck, a good young RB in Shaun Alexander, a WR corps that is poised to take big leaps next season, and a defense that features several young playmakers including, LB Anthony Simmons, S Ken Hamlin and standout CB Marcus Trufant. The team has also acquired DE Grant Wistrom, whose enthusiasm will electrify his teammates as well as the crowd. The team’s 2004 draft added potential defensive playmakers like Marcus Tubbs and Michael Boulware. This team is young and hungry and they have the playoffs and the Super Bowl in their sights.

The Hawks just may be the team of destiny in Seattle. For the finally is NOW TIME!!!

Scott Eklund is a regular contributor (and the Division Reporter) for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback at Top Stories