The Karma of Seattle

Karma. A touchy-feely word volleyed by cornball "spiritualists", friends or family members explaining recent misfortunes, or the 1% that actually understand such things. Simply put, karma is the belief that whatever energy you give back to the universe will be returned onto you.

Karma comes in two denominations; positive or negative. In theory, a pious deed today will boomerang something equally as splendid within your life, eventually. And vice versa.

For the most part, I don’t subscribe to anything spiritual, religious or omnipotent. I am a devout follower of science - and all it’s explained up to today. That is, except for karma.

Within my damaged and misfiring synapses, I’ve somehow constructed a rationalization accepting karma as a concrete element. Yet, in retrospect, up to a couple weeks ago I had no personal anecdotes to validate that belief. If anything, my life up until two years ago would invalidate karma, or anything similar.

A combination of luck, intellect, savvy, charm, grace, and whatever you want to call it, has provided me a blessed life. I’ve always been able to overachieve or succeed despite the obstacles laid before me.

Women, money, professional accolades, charm, guile have all come as naturally to me as breathing. And most, if not all, of the things I’m proud of in my life were achieved during a time where my ego and demeanor was anything but positive.

I routinely would plot and scheme women, advisories, or complete strangers for my own amusement, or to garner the horrified laughter of my friends. Loud, obnoxious, brash and arrogant is how I’ve lived most of my life. I wouldn’t think twice about leaving an indelible mark on the psyche or soul of another, if it meant entertainment or personal gain for me.

Then, it just stopped

Maybe it was age, a slowing of narcotic consumption, or the humbling adventure of being separated from friends or family that changed those ways. I really don’t recall the specific date or a specific event. All I know is that I began thinking of others over myself. This article has been self-serving and opportunistic enough, so I’ll spare you the collection of positive deeds I’ve given over the past years. But from my point of view, it’s been a lot.

But none of those deeds seem to be enough to repay the debt I currently owe karma. And that was never more apparent than last week, when a much sought after and fulfilling job I had recently obtained was ripped out from under me.

Even though I had vowed to steer away from Corporate America, as much as possible, this one job seemed to offer me a perfect balance of sanity and rewards. But, as I stated above, the miscreant record of a sociopath glutton had left the employer unable to insure me - while working with their various clients. And while it hurt, and still does, deep down I know it was an earned demotion.

I’ll be lucky if that’s the last debt I have repay to karma. Based on the imbalance of my outgoing energies over my life however, I should expect more soul-crippling strikes. All I can hope is that next time; it doesn’t emotionally and physically knock the wind out of me, leaving me vacant for a week.

My recent internal fidgeting over karma has returned to the forefront something I never fully understood; what has the city and sports fans of Seattle done to deserve heartache after heartache? What horrible deeds does karma consider unpaid from the legions of Seattle sports fans?

You name a sport, be it professional or amateur, and all of us as fans have endured cruelty, bitter irony, or plain embarrassment. There are so many examples; it’s tough to even know where to start.

Let’s start with the only Seattle area “championship” I can recall during my 31 years, the Washington Huskies’ 1991 National Championship. In something only imaginable within the context of being a Seattleite, even that achievement was slighted and somewhat unofficial, due to sharing the honor with the Miami Hurricanes.

So that undeniable pride and singular dignity one could feel, by being a devout follower of a champion, was realistically only acknowledged within the State of Washington and fans of the Pac-10. The rest of ESPN-fed rubes across the nation believed the championship resided in South Florida.

The following year, what was steamrolling towards a true dominant dynasty, the Washington Huskies Football, team found itself embroiled in off field controversy. The lending of money to purchase a Camaro (“A Puyallup Cadillac”) to Husky QB Billy Joe Hobert, by a Husky booster, derailed a train destined for more championships. The entire episode ended with bowl sanctions, the retirement of a legend in Don James, and the removal of scholarships.

Karma had stepped in with a crushing blow to the fans of Mountlake. Even crueler, the severity of the sanctions has yet to be matched by any school guilty of similar or even worse. Only in Seattle would you expect such punishment.

But football isn’t the only sport in which Husky fans were dealt unreal Razor Ruddock hooks to the kidneys. No, karma saved some more retribution for followers of their basketball program.

Realistically, you can go back to the infamous 1999 Sweet Sixteen battle against the University of Connecticut. But that squad was an overachieving bunch, that honestly rode a two-headed 7’ mutant in MacCullough and Femerling that far into the tournament. While the seemingly endless shots and favorable caroms UConn received within the last seconds were remarkably punishing to live through, or even recall, UConn was just the better squad.

No, karma reared her ugly head three straight years for Lorenzo Romar’s Huskies.

The first blow to be dealt, came in 2004, when the then suddenly hot Washington Huskies were pitted against the worst possible match-up for them, a senior-laden, upbeat UAB squad. Easily the most entertaining game of the tournament, yeah, but karma had robbed all of us Husky hoops fan a real chance at wearing a glass slipper.

The next year, last years upstarts became a legitimate force in the NCAA. The conclusion of the 2005 NCAA regular season rewarded the Huskies a number 1 seed in the Albuquerque region. After making short work of Montana and media darlings Pacific, the Huskies were poised for an epic battle against Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals.

What was to be a great and exciting game, quickly dissolved into a mostly one-sided affair decided be whistle-happy referees. The refs crippled the thin, yet talented, Husky squad with numerous tick-tacky fouls against their starters. And whenever you face a Pitino coach squad, the one thing you need is your entire arsenal of athlete’s. Pitino’s attack is relentless and vicious with its full-court press and trapping schemes. Karma had once again left Seattle’s heroes weakened and outmatched.

The following year saw karma strike virtually the same outcome, only this time around, the fouls came against the best player in the nation that year, Brandon Roy (anyone that tries to tell you the best player in the NCAA that year was Adam “tears” Morrison or JJ “DWI” Reddick is a fraud and a buffoon). Roy’s one-man show was clearly better than the Uconn team they were facing; yet, the refs seemingly went out of their way to dismantle all of our hopes and aspirations.

Like all things Seattle sports, you sat helpless and frustrated, begging for an answer to “why?”

One of the more vile and despicable images karma’s breath has singed upon my retinas, has to be the image of a jubilant Dikembe Mutombo lying on his back, on the floor of the Seattle Coliseum, screaming in inaudible ecstasy, clutching a basketball, after defeating the #1 seeded Seattle Supersonics. Not only was it horrific, it was downright embarrassing.
Up to that point, no other #1 playoff seed had lost an opening round. Even worse, that year offered a real opportunity for any and all NBA teams to win a championship. It was the first season of Michael Jordan’s “willing” retirement.

The following year, karma served all of us helpless Seattleites another helping of the same, a first round exit of the playoffs for the Seattle Supersonics. For two years in a row, the most dynamic and exciting professional sports teams I’ve ever seen, face planted when the second season started.

You would think that would be enough of a lashing from our old friend karma, but like all things Seattle, an extra twist had to be administered in the wound. The team that went on to procure the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy those two years, the Houston Rockets, couldn’t defeat the Sonics if their lives depended on it.

The Sonics owned the Rockets like Spacey did Pitt in the film Seven, going 6-2 in that two-year span. Karma had rewarded the city of Houston at the expense of the hapless Seattle sports fan.

Even now, karma’s still meddling with the Sonics fans soul, by dangling the once-in-a-lifetime talent of Kevin Durant on a stick. Durant’s the carrot on a stick leading to Kansas City or Oklahoma City, not to the hearts of Seattle’s fans.

Up until 1993, the Seattle Mariners as a squad offered nothing to get excited about. The team’s home, The Kingdome, was a refuge for hardcore baseball fans that cared less for the poor product on the field. The fans that supported those Mariners squads just loved the game, or the idea of a trip to the “ball game”. The Mariners were so benign pre-1994, it’s hard to fathom karma even bothering using them as a weapon.

Beginning in 1994, that changed.

1994 will forever be at the forefront of any baseball fans recollection. It was the year the owner’s newly-anointed, errand boy, Commissioner Bud Selig, locked out the players and cancelled the World Series. But more germane to Seattle baseball fans, and this article, it was the first time the Mariners showed signs of winning.

When midnight struck, and the lockout was imposed, the Mariners sat only two games out of the division lead. More crippling than that unimaginable tease, was the fact the Mariners were streaking. The Mariners had begun to find “it” winning the final 6 games, 9 out of their last 10, of that truncated season.

I remember watching their final game that season, the night of August 11th, in Oakland. More prevalent in my memory was the defeated and bewildered call of Dave Niehaus, pleading after the final out with a paraphrased “please lord, don’t let this be the end (of the season)”.

Only karma herself knows exactly what could’ve been that season. But the season seemed there for anyone’s taking. And only in Seattle would such a surge, from the unlikeliest of heroes, be interrupted by a historical oddity.

And now finally, we’ve come to karma’s preferred instrument of torture for all of Seattle sports fan. The one team that’s been seemingly invented to torture all of our souls. My first and purest passion of life, the Seattle Seahawks.

The laundry list of insanely quirky scenarios karma has maliciously trotted on our hearts, is as long as it is surreal. In my prior articles I’ve captured, relayed and force-fed the standard fare. John Freisz’s broken leg, Vinnie Testaverde’s helmet, Fredd Young’s overruled playoff interception, and, of course, the monolith of all Seahawks scars, SBXL.

So, as much as I’d love to take the easy way out - once again rehashing those specific nightmares - I wouldn’t be able to offer anything above or beyond the numerous other hacks and I have already provided.

Here’s a couple other situations where karma interceded with Seattle’s fans preferred destinies, leaving a wake of “what ifs” and frustrated “why’s!?”.

One of the earliest disheartening blows I can recall karma placing on our beloved Hawks, came in 1986.

Offensively, that 1986 Seahawks squad showed all the balance and versatility anyone could ask for.

Dave Krieg, Steve Largent, Darryl Turner, Byron Franklin, Raymond Butler and others connected for a total of 3,406 yards. While Curt Warner, John L. Williams and others gouged opponents on the ground 2,392 yards (only 58 less than the Seahawks 2005 mark). Finishing the season 10th in the league in overall offense.

Defensively players like Dave Brown, Jacob Green, Joe Nash, Paul Moyer, Eugene Robinson, and a limited Kenny Easley proved dominant at times. Overall, finishing 8th in team defense.

Being in the top ten both offensively and defensively would usually guarantee a playoff berth. Concluding the season at 10-6, even predating the third wild-card spot, should’ve been enough for a playoff spot.

But the Seahawks not making the playoffs, isn’t what I would consider “cruel” on the part of karma. No, karma earholed all of fans by teasing us with a “what could’ve been” at the end of the season.

Beginning with a narrow, near-embarrassing home victory against the then hapless Philadelphia Eagles, the Seahawks finished the ’86 campaign with five straight wins. Included in the five game streak was; a Thanksgiving Day thrashing of the Dallas Cowboys, a 37-0 Monday Night embarrassment of the Los Angeles Raiders, and an absolute destruction of that years AFC Super Bowl representative, the Denver Broncos (they also defeated the NFC participant, and eventual SB Champion, the NY Giants earlier in the season).

Those last five games, the Seahawks were undoubtedly playing better than any other team in the NFL. Aside from the 2005 squad, no Seahawks team ever played better. And in 9 out of 10 years, we would’ve got to witness what that balanced and underrated squad could’ve done in the playoffs. Instead, karma once again toyed with our emotions leaving us with only a question –“what if?”

The next taunting plotline I can recall karma dangling in front of Hawks fans faces, came in the 1992 season.

That year the Seahawks offered up, without question, the biggest disparity between and offense and defense I can recall in my 31 years.

Defensively, the Seahawks were nothing short of dominant, lead by Defensive Player of the Year, Cortez Kennedy and his 14 sacks.

The defense was so great, that if any historian and/or stat geek were to truly analyze the data, that defense would surely stand as one of the best defenses in the past 25-30 years. While a cursory glance at the 1992 defensive statistical leaders doesn’t bear that out, all one has to take into account is the Seahawks offense that year.

Lead by the three-headed Quarterbacking monster of; Stan Gelbaugh, Dan McGwire and Kelly Stouffer and the running Chris Warren - the Seahawks trotted out one of the worst offenses in history (yes, even statistically) - to balance out that great defense. That embarrassment of an offense only managed 140 points that season.

In one of the cruelest ironies karma has ever administered on our souls, the Seahawks were equipped with a defense so great, that even an average offense would’ve been enough to maybe make it to the Super Bowl. But of course, in true Seahawks/Seattle Sports Scene fashion, that defense was equipped with the worst offense in the history of the NFL (up to that year). “Why!?”

Karma’s one mean, SOB.

The long troubled history of the Seattle sports fan seems enough to script 12 more seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm or just bring the average man to tears.

What have any of us done to deserve such injustices? What could’ve any of us done to place the balance owed karma in the red, STILL?

All I can do is focus on what I’ve done and try to fix that. But obviously, if you subscribe to karma and are a Seattle Sports fan, you should take a look also.


Ryan Davis is an armchair quarterback with a vibrating recliner. Feel free to contact him here.


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