What Went Wrong?
In sports, things rarely ever turn out how you would think. Upsets stimulate the hearts and minds of fans, leading to unexpected jubilation or dumbfounding despair. The city of Seattle has had its fair share of surprises and let downs. I’m sure I don’t need to mention the 2014 Seahawks who came up one-yard short, or the 2005 Seahawks who were never given a fighting chance. If football isn’t your cup of tea then maybe you’ve been burned by the Sonics, who in the 1993-94 season became the only #1 seed ever upset in the first round. If that wasn’t good enough, you only had to wait two years for more. The Sonics finished 64-18, their best regular-season record ever, only to end up running with the Bulls and a determined Michael Jordan.
When Seattle fans think of pain, those are the obvious moments. Here we’re going to look at our greatest “What went wrongs” in Seattle sports history. S
Some were preceded by hype and lofty expectations, others were overshadowed by unparalleled or unexpected successes. Either way, you may need a fresh bottle of whiskey to get you through, which I’m guessing because of quarantine you’ve already got handy.
Expectations: Not much. They had won 14 games combined over the previous three seasons. Chuck Knox was in his first year as head coach, and the franchise was just eight years old.
Big Moment: The Hawks won three of their last four games to clinch their first playoff birth. Somehow they kept rumbling all the way to the conference championship game. On the way they defeated a pair of rookie QB’s who would end up in the HOF, John Elway and Dan Marino.
Who Was There: Chuck Knox, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, Curt Warner, Kenny Easley, Steve Largent
What Went Wrong: The Seahawks were looking at their third go-round with the Los Angeles Raiders, whom they’d already beaten twice that year. Well, three wasn’t their lucky number, as the Raiders rallied to an early 20-0 lead by half. The Hawks couldn’t do anything on offense, going 2-12 on third down and amassing just 167 total yards. On the other side of the ball, Marcus Allen ran all over the Hawks defense, ending with 154 rushing yards. Dave Krieg was benched for Jim Zorn but it was too little too late. The Seahawks lost 14-30, and the Raiders went on to win their third Super Bowl, defeating the Washington Redskins 38-9.
Expectations: The Mariners were a middling team who had yet to reach the playoffs in their near 20-year history. There was talk of the team leaving town and many will claim this team helped save baseball in Seattle.
Big Moment: Gar’s double. There is not a soul in Seattle that hasn’t heard about “The Double.” Edgar’s sweet swing looped a line drive down the third base line, scoring little Joey Cora from third, and ending with Griffey getting mobbed after sliding through home plate. Possibly the greatest moment in Seattle sports history.
Who Was There: Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, Randy Johnson, Sweet Lou Pinella, Alex Rodriguez
What Went Wrong: After the high of defeating the Yankees, the M’s couldn’t rise back up to take down the Cleveland Indians. After going up 2-1 to start the series, the Mariners would lose the next three games, scoring only two runs total. After such a high in the previous series, the 1995 ALCS has been blocked out of many Seattlites’ memories.
2016-17 UW Women’s Basketball
Expectations: Mike Neighbors had taken the program to back-to-back 20-win seasons and a 2014-15 NCAA Tournament bid. They hoped to build on that success in 2015-16 but no one could have foreseen what the Husky Women would do.
Big Moment: After toppling Stanford in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Huskies were feeling their confidence grow. They would go on to beat #5 Maryland, #3 Kentucky, and for the second time #13 Stanford in their magical run to the Final Four.
Who Was There: Mike Neighbor, Kelsey Plum, Chantel Osahor, Katie Collier, Talia Walton
What Went Wrong: The Huskies ran into a fierce Syracuse press that forced the women into 18 turnovers. The rock solid Kelsey Plum was ruffled into 5-18 from the floor. Though Talia Walton dropped 29 points, it wasn’t enough for the Dawgs. Syracuse would go on to lose to UCONN 51-82.
2005 UW Men’s Basketball
Expectations: In Lorenzo Romar’s third season at UW the program made the jump from 19 wins, all the way to 29 wins in 2004-05. When Selection Sunday came around mouths were left agape when the Huskies drew the #1 seed in the West Region. It verified all the hopes Huskies fans had and lifted them even higher.
Big Moment: The Dawgs had a couple of close wins early on, taking down #19 Alabama, and #12 NC State. They went on to beat Arizona in the Pac-10 Championship game, but the big moment came when the Dawgs steamrolled Pacific in the second round, setting up a match with Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.
Who Was There: Lorenzo Romar, Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Bobby Jones, Will Conroy, Tre Simmons, Ryan Appleby, Mike Jensen, Jamal Williams
What Went Wrong: The Huskies ran into a hot shooting Louisville team that shot 55% from the field, 42% from long range, and 71% from the line. The Dawgs struggled to get any rhythm offensively as Brandon Roy was limited with foul trouble. They were the last number one seed selected and went up against probably the toughest four seed in the tournament.
Expectations: This is possibly the most shocking team on this list. In all honesty they probably belong on a “what went right” list more than anything. The team was following two years of 31-51 basketball, and hadn’t amounted to much since Lenny Wilkens left town. They finished the season 34-38 but managed to snag the seven seed in the Western Conference.
Big Moment: Beating a Mavericks team 3-1 in the first round. The Mavs finished the regular season 55-27. They had Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman averaging over 21 ppg. They also had yet-to-be Sonics Sam Perkins and Detlef Shrempf playing solid minutes. Then they somehow dismantled the Houston Rockets and the twin towers of Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Who Was There: Dale Ellis, Xavier McDaniel, Tom Chambers, Alton Lister, Nate McMillan, Gerald Henderson
What Went Wrong: You can’t really blame the Sonics for folding when they did. The fact they made it as far as they did was something special. When you put this roster up against the Lakers squad that swept them, there’s no comparison. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, AC Green, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott and Kurt Rambis provided way too much firepower for the Sonics to handle. The Lakers would beat Boston 4-2 to win the title, losing only three games the entire playoffs.
Expectations: It’s hard to expect much when you trade one of the greatest players to ever play the game. After being forced to deal Ken Griffey Jr. after the 1999 season, spirits were glum but not completely defeated heading into 2000. They still had A-Rod, The Bone, Gar, and some good pitchers. The M’s made an astounding amount of moves that would make Jerry Dipoto proud. They brought in a ton of players who contributed in big ways.
Big Moment: The Mariners had a huge first half of the season, going 51-35. They sputtered down the second half of the year but still made their way past the White Sox and on to the ALCS against the Yanks.
Who Was There: Lou Pinella, Alex Rodriguez, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, David Bell, John Olerud, Mike Cameron, Ricky Henderson, Dan Wilson, Mark McLemore, Carlos Guillen, Freddie Garcia, Jamie Moyer, Aaron Sele, Kaz Sasaki, Arthur Rhodes
What Went Wrong: The Yankees were too good. Clemens, Pettitte and El Duque controlled the M’s offense, and their bats couldn’t be contained. The Yanks averaged over five runs per game while holding the Mariners to three. They fought hard in Game 6 but fell 7-9. That defeat would lead to a Subway World Series where the Yankees defeated the Mets, 4-1.
Expectations: Griffey who? Okay I won’t go that far but after the 2000 season there was a different buzz around Seattle. With the All-Star game set to be played at Safeco Field, 2001 felt like the Mariners season from the go.
Big Moment: 116. The Mariners tied the all-time regular-season win record with 116 wins. While this was a proud moment, I would argue the All-Star weekend in Seattle was even bigger. The Mariners had eight All-Stars and hosted Cal Ripken Jr. in his final All-Star appearance. It was a special year all around.
Who Was There: Pretty much the same as 2000.
What Went Wrong: The Yankees! What more can you say? The Mariners lost the first two games before exploding for 14 runs and a Game 3 victory. The Yanks shook off Game 3 and handled the M’s in the next two, taking the series in five. They would lose a memorable World Series on a Game 7 walk-off by the Diamondbacks Luis Gonzalez.
Expectations: Remember how we started this list? A meandering 1983 Seahawks team that ended up in the Conference Championship game. Obviously expectations rose before the ’84 team took the field. Even with the loss of Curt Warner to an ACL tear, the Seahawks came through delivering a 12-4 mark on the year.
Big Moment: Losing Curt Warner has to be up there. He was an All-Pro the year before as a rookie and the team lacked a solid option behind him. Nonetheless the Seahawks overcame the Raiders in the first round of the playoffs, which set up a match up with the Dolphins and a familiar face slinging the rock.
Who Was There: Chuck Knox, Dave Krieg, Steve Largent, Mike Tice, Jeff Bryant, Kenny Easley
What Went Wrong: Dan Marino got better. The Dolphins had the best offense in the league and Marino threw for over 5,000 yards and 48 TD’s. Though he didn’t play out of this world in the Divisional matchup with the Hawks, he did enough and the Phins had a balanced effort on the ground. The Hawks were one dimensional on offense, rushing for just 51 yards. Who knows what could have happened had they not lost Curt Warner for the year.
2002 Olympics – Apolo Ohno
Expectations: Ohno was a rising star in the speed skating world. Looking to win his first Olympic gold medal at the 2002 games, Ohno had America’s eyes watching, especially in his hometown of Seattle.
Big Moment: After being disqualified from the 500m race, Ohno had his eyes on the 1000m gold. Ohno was in first place coming around the final turn when he and two other skaters got tangled up, causing all three to crash, sliding into the sidewall. Ohno was able to get up before the others and claim the silver medal.
Who Was There: Apolo Ohno, Mathieu Turcotte, Ah Hyun Soo, Steven Bradbury
What Went Wrong: It appeared as one skater went down, another clipped his skates on a lane marker, which sent him falling into Ohno. He ended with a decent gash on his leg from the incident, and would go on to win a gold in the 1500m by means of disqualification.
In sports it’s a good reminder that if you think you know, you’re already wrong.