Now What? Sports’ Lame Period

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As a Seattle sports fan, I hate this time of year. What is there to get excited about?

Not much. At least in the next couple of weeks. 

The Super Bowl is in the books, spring training baseball is weeks away, Major League Soccer is only just beginning to graze the horizon, and don’t even get me started about NBA basketball.

So, where does a Seattle sports junkie turn his attention?

Good question. Let’s take a look.

NFL

The NFL season capped its year with a stellar Super Bowl. The game had all the ingredients of a classic: two great teams, gripping football, and a fourth-quarter comeback to boot. 

As I correctly predicted (thank you), the Kansas City Chiefs came roaring back from a double-digit deficit to hand the San Francisco 49’ers a crushing defeat. Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes, fantastic all season, didn’t have his best game but did just enough when it counted.

I can’t say I didn’t crack a bit of a smile to see Niners’ cornerback Richard Sherman get burned for a long pass play that helped seal the win. He did his best to bad mouth the Seahawks for “disrespecting” him and not keeping him with the team. That didn’t sit well with me. 

But can you blame the Seahawks? He was coming off a torn Achilles and demanding an outrageous salary.  Why would they keep him? They tried, albeit at a smaller salary, but they knew he had lost a step and appeared to be on the back nine of his career. Yes, he had a decent season, but the Hawks are now Russell Wilson’s team, and his outright dislike of Wilson paved his way out of town. 

Anyway, no more football. Just offseason rumors and speculation. 

The Seahawks have so many questions to address before training camp that it may be hard to follow.

What do they do about their offensive and defensive lines? How will the trio of injured running backs recover? What new pieces can they find in the defensive backfield? 

Lots of work to do.  

The NFL Draft (April 23) and free agency can’t get here fast enough. 

Baseball

The Seattle Step-backs …. Excuse me …. Mariners, are poised for another yawner of a season. 

“Hey, Jerry Dipoto (M’s GM), should fans be excited for the 2020 season?”

“We don’t think we’re likely to threaten for a playoff position this year,” Dipoto said. “We’ll measure our season based on the development of our young players.”

Thrilling.

Oh my, let me grab my wallet and rush down and buy game tickets now. Ugh. 

The Mariners signed one of the few bright spots from last season in pitcher Marco Gonzales and labeled him one of the pillars of the franchise. Ummm …. Ok?

“We want to contend in a sustainable way. It’s been our goal since we got here, and we have crafted a roster now that I think will allow that. It’s not likely to start in 2020,” Dipoto explained.

Ok, I get what the team is trying to do: mimic the Astros and Cubs by cleaning house and building the team back up in hopes they can contend long term. 

But don’t try and get me excited for this season. For fans it’s always tough to start from scratch when they don’t have any named players to follow and cheer. It will take time and due diligence to track the team and its young minor leagues players by scouring box scores to see progress in defeat after defeat. 

Sounds exhausting. 

Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely hope and pray this step-back comes to fruition because God only knows Seattle baseball needs some good luck. Any luck. 

It’s just the journey that’s getting me down. 

Soccer

It took until January for the Seattle Sounders to make some noise with some roster moves. 

It took long enough. 

Coming off a championship campaign, the Sounders have been pretty quiet as they build their roster for the upcoming season. But the team gets the benefit of the doubt with anything they do. They have a proven track record of success in reaching the MSL finals three of the past four years. So fans can be patient as they are still basking in the glow of the new trophy. 

The team lost a couple of key pieces from last year’s squad, however. Defenders Roman Torres and Kim Kee-he are gone as their contracts were not renewed. Left back Brad Smith, who was a revelation since his signing on loan in 2018, will be sorely missed.

Smith returned to English soccer, and after the year he had, it makes sense. But his speed on the outside and crossing ability will be hard to replace. Joevin Jones and Nouhou have big shoes to fill and will be asked to do a lot as his replacement. Are they capable? They better be.

Midfielder Victor Rodriquez is another big-time player missing this year. He was the title game MVP when he showed his technical ability and scoring prowess in the team’s 3-1 victory over Toronto. He chose to return to his native Spain to play closer to family. 

However, I feel like we never got to see Rodriquez’  full potential because he just couldn’t stay healthy. He was constantly on the bench with nagging leg injuries and missed significant time with a concussion. 

But the Sounders’  two new signees look like capable (at least on paper and in highlights) replacements in the midfield and on defense. 

Brazilian midfielder Joao Paulo will take over Rodriquez’ role as a playmaker. But look for him to play alongside either Cristian Roldan or Gustav Svensson in the defensive midfield. He is known for his ball skills and defensive tenacity, so it will be fun to see how he works with Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, and Raul Ruidiaz. 

Defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade brings instant depth at the center back spot. The 27-year old Columbian is described as extremely fast, good in the air, and with the ball at his feet. If true, he will be a great addition to the backline. 

As always the season is long in Major League Soccer. Going from March to October, the schedule can be brutal at times. Plus, you must factor in that the Sounders are also playing in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament as the reigning MLS champs. The tournament pits the top teams from the region, and the Sounders will look to be the first MLS team to win that crown.

Coming off their championship season and revving up for another tournament to start the season, the Sounders will face a tall task. 

But they will be fun to watch. 

So where does that leave us during this sports’ “lame” period?

How about the XFL? The Seattle Dragons? Never heard of it/them? 

You’re not alone. 

But get ready for them to get crammed down your throat. The marketing in the Seattle area has been extensive to say the least. And honestly, I am curious. 

The new football league kicks off this weekend with eight teams around the country, and Seattle is one of those spots. 

The league is hoping to engage hardcore football fans looking for something to satisfy their pigskin addiction during the NFL off-season.

I like what they are doing. I recently heard an interview with the league commissioner and CEO, Oliver Luck, who said they want to try and do some of the things the NFL doesn’t.

For instance, they are speeding up the game, giving fans access to player and coach banter, and trying desperately to limit injuries. 

Nice. 

Some of their rules are compelling as well. Check them out here.

I may not be the Dragons’ No. 1 fan, but I will sample the product. 

What else are we going to do this time of year?

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About Author

John D. Hunter is Montana native but grew up in the Tacoma/Seattle area and proudly attended Washington State University. He is a former morning show producer on KJR SportsRadio in Seattle. For 7 years he produced ‘Knight in the Morning’ with Michael Knight and New York Vinnie. From there he moved to ESPN.com where he spent another 7 years as an Interactive Editor and Soccer reporter/writer. He has covered 3 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, 1998 World Cup in France and many more sporting events.

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