Unusual Doings

A couple of unusual, even unique, things are happening in Seattle.

In sports. And they’re good things.


Check this out: This season, the Mariners had a rookie make the All-Star Game. So did the Kraken. And the Seahawks had a rookie make the Pro Bowl*.

* For those not oriented to sportsball, the NFL’s Pro Bowl fills the same ecological niche as the All-Star Game does in the other major sports.

Congrats to Julio Rodriguez, Matty Beniers, and Tariq Woolen, respectively.

This is the first time in the recorded history of the four major professional sports (baseball, hockey, football, and basketball) where one city has had rookies get this level of recognition in three sports in the same year.

That’s impressive.

But, to be fair, Seattle has often done well with their rookies. Developing and accumulating talent to make for a winning team has been rather more difficult in the Northwest.

So that makes the other thing going on now even more impressive.


After 21 years, the Mariners made the playoffs. Granted, they didn’t make it very far, but it’s still an achievement of note.

The Seahawks, despite a truly horrendous mid-season and a 9-8 record also made the playoffs. Admittedly, they didn’t even last as long as the Mariners, nor has it been nearly as long a playoff drought (they lost their Wildcard game a mere two years back). But still, playoffs.

And then there are the Kraken. Remember, this is a team in only their second season, who in their first roundly fulfilled my prediction that they would “dive to the sea floor, subsisting on a diet of the occasional bottom-dweller that strays into reach of their tentacles.” They finished the 20/21 season with a mere 60 points, 37 short of the Wild Card (at least they finished three points ahead of Arizona). This year, with the season a bit more than half done, they’re a single point out of first place in their division. It’s not quite a ’69 Mets turnaround–and they still theoretically could finish with a worse record than last year–but it’s pretty darn impressive.

Making the playoffs in three different sports in one year? Not bad, Seattle, not bad–if you can pull it off.

Could this be the start of a sport renaissance in the Northwest? Probably not. A little respect in the national press? Even less likely.

A heck of a lot of fun while it lasts? Oh, yes.

It’s That Time Again

Halloween is over. Yes, the calendar called it Monday night (or Tuesday morning, if you prefer).

And that means it’s time to turn our attention to the next major shopping eventholiday. No, not Thanksgiving. Many retailers have announced they’ll be closed on Thanksgiving again this year–and huzzah for that small bit of sanity. No, I’m talking about [insert ominous chord here] Black Friday.

More intriguing than the Turkey Day closings are the announced opening times for Black Friday. So far, per blackfriday.com, very few national retailers are planning to open in the middle of the night. The most common opening time so far looks to be 6:00; Big Lots, Home Depot, and Jo-Ann are among those who’ve picked that time. Nearly as many stores are going with “regular hours”: Walgreens, Marshalls, and Half Price Books, for example. Only one major retailer–JCPenney–has announced an earlier opening, and that’s 5:00.

Granted, there are still plenty of announcements to be made (or non-announcements to be leaked). But so far, at least, it’s looking like significant numbers of retail employees will get to spend Turkey Thursday with their families, and still get a good night’s sleep before reporting for work Friday.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that, according to RetailMeNot, more than half the U.S. population is looking forward to observing Black Friday in the traditional in-store fashion. That said, however, the self-evidently biased survey doesn’t say anything about whether the public is clamoring for middle-of-the-night openings. That doesn’t have to be part of the equation, right?

I say not. I’ve got no problem with deeply discounted loss leaders to drag spenders into stores. No issues with people paying more than they can afford when they miss out on the doorbusters–after all, they can always return the goods the next day for a refund; retailers expect that and budget for it. And I’m already on record as being willing to allow monthlong sales.

But the quid pro quo here has to be an end to making employees arrive at work at dark o’clock and forcing them to wade through crowds of would-be shoppers who’ve been lined up since even darker o’clock.

If a few weirdos want to line up at midnight, let ’em. But don’t open the doors until your regular Friday opening time. Let everyone else sleep in. Remember: a happy, well-rested customer is one who doesn’t block the registers while they fumble around writing a check, screaming at a clerk because they couldn’t find the gizmo they wanted, or* corralling the store manager to complain about “that kind” being allowed to shop in the same store as “decent people”**.

* Or, goddess and gods help us all, “and”, not “or”.

** Based on current headlines, I figure it’s inevitable we’ll get at least one mass shooting at a store predominantly patronized by non-whites and/or non-Christians.

Let’s not aid and abet. Sleeping later won’t change anyone’s mind about their fellow Americans, but it might just help them suppress the impulse to “do something about them“.

Saying Hello to the New Guys

I watched a hockey game last night.

Oh, don’t look at me like that. I’m not adopting a new religion. I stand by my past statements that hockey isn’t my sport.


Long, long ago–or however many “longs” I should be using to refer to my tween years–I was a rabid fan of the Seattle Totems. I’ve still got a couple of pucks with their logo from giveaway* nights. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I’ve still got a stick in the closet. (I just checked. Yes, I do.)

* Hard to believe now, but back in the day sports giveaways gave actual, useable items. The Seattle Rainiers provided me with bats I used all through Little League baseball and the Totems’ sticks were perfectly good for floor hockey (I had a great slap shot, but my dreams of playing “real” hockey floundered on my persistent inability to skate backward.) Try using a mini-bat, or worse, an inflatable “bat” for anything more ambitious than giving your siblings minor contusions and see how far you get. And get off my lawn.

Anyway, in those pre-Mariners, pre-Seahawks days, there was only one major league team in Seattle, the late, lamented Sonics. And basketball was, and is, even less my sport than hockey.

None of those early- to mid-seventies teams was very good. Playoffs? Hah! But in my memory, the Totems had a sense of fun and potential that the Rainiers and Sonics lacked.

So, with the arrival of the Kraken, professional hockey has returned to Seattle. And I had to watch their first game, especially since ESPN was kind enough to show it nationally.

Mind you, the game was at the same time as Game Four of the Giants/Dodgers series, so my attention was split. Baseball on the TV, hockey on the iPad. It worked well enough.

From a literary perspective, there are only two ways the Kraken’s first season can go. Either they smash through the season, leaving their competition shattered, or they dive to the sea floor, subsisting on a diet of the occasional bottom-dweller that strays into reach of their tentacles.

Keep in mind that the previous expansion team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, took the first course. They made it to the Stanley Cup finals in their first season, and have reached the playoffs every year since. So we’ve seen that narrative recently.

Also keep in mind that the Kraken play in Seattle.

So who did the NHL schedule them to play in their first game? Why Las Vegas, of course. No question which plot they’re expected to follow.

They did their best to fulfill expectations. The Kraken looked lost in the first period. Errant passes, missed shots, even a few unprovoked pratfalls. After one period, they were down 2-0, and they made it 3-0 in the second. Then, amazingly, they pulled it together. Early in the third period, they tied the score at three.

And then, of course, they gave up another goal and lost.

Any parallels with the Mariners’ season–a late rush, only to fall short at the end–are to be expected, because Seattle sports. We expect flashes of competence, even greatness, before the inevitable slide into gloom. So it’s good to see our latest arrivals are already in tune with the local zeitgeist.

Whatever you think of the team’s performance and probable future, you gotta admit, though, that they’re way ahead of the current curve in team names. “Kraken” is so much better than “Guardians”, much less “Football Team”.

Will I continue to watch their games? Occasionally. I’m still a baseball fan. I’ll cheer for the Kraken in the same way I cheer for the Seahawks: from a distance, when I think of it. I won’t be doing the two-screen thing again–unless the Kraken make the playoffs. Hey, it could happen: flashes of greatness, right?

Welcome Kraken!


According to one of those little human interest stories in the newspaper, a lad in Utah was recently pulled over for impaired driving.

Turns out he wasn’t so much medically or chemically impaired as he was chronologically disadvantaged. He’s not-quite-six years old.

In an unusual deviation from the normal process of suppressing the names of underage suspected lawbreakers, the papers are naming him in full. Congratulations, Adrian Zamarripa: your name will forever be linked to driving without a license, reckless endangerment, and (probably) speeding.

Adrian, it seems, had saved up three dollars and was driving to his sister’s home in California to buy his dream car, a Lamborghini. It’s unclear why he felt he needed his sister’s assistance. While there don’t appear to be any dedicated Lamborghini dealers in Utah, a quick Google search shows several more general dealerships who have Lamborghinis available. There are also at least a couple of Lamborghini-specific dealerships in Texas, which is likely to be an easier drive for someone who can’t see over the dashboard of the family car.

Also no word in the story of whose keys Adrian was using. I’m assuming he doesn’t have his own set*, so I have to wonder if he snagged Mom’s keys or Dad’s. Perhaps the parents should look into the purchase of a key safe?

* I could be wrong about that. I gather that kids in the middle of the US learn to drive at younger ages than on the coasts, and that enforcement of licensing laws can be spotty in rural areas.

The story does have a happy ending. Nobody was injured or killed. Contrary to my expectations, no dealership has scrounged some publicity by offering to sell Adrian his dream car. Check back in ten years, though, when he gets his license; somebody might be willing to cut him a deal–though probably for more than three bucks.

Vexingly, the story doesn’t say a word about punishment. Did Adrian have to go to bed without supper? Get a week of extra chores or restrictions on his sport car racing video time? Did Daddy take his T-Bird away? (Sorry, wrong song.)

Instead, it devotes a paragraph and several pictures to the juvenile miscreant taking a ride with a local Lamborghini owner.

This is not a deterrent.

I expect we’ll be seeing a rash of copycat crimes as dozens of pre-teen boys and girls crack open their piggy banks, swipe the car keys, and set out on their own quests for the cars of their dreams.

Run It Up!

Because that’s how the game is played, of course.

Oh, sorry. I’m talking about the biggest sports story that many news outlets aren’t covering. Editorial departments are covering it, though…

Specifically, the Women’s World Cup is under way and the US team–the defending champions–are off to a hot start.

Ferociously hot, in fact, beating Thailand 13-0.

I imagine there will be more coverage on the Sports page of your local paper (if you still have one) eventually, but so far most of what’s seen print or electrons has been pontification.

“Why didn’t they ease up when it was obvious they were going to win?”

Which brings us back to my opening paragraph.

Blowouts are a fact of life in every sport. They may be rarer in soccer than in other sports–thirteen goals is a monstrously large number–but they happen.

Some sports do have unwritten rules against running up the score. In baseball, for example, some people consider it bad form to steal bases when you’re five runs ahead. Or seven. Or only if it’s the seventh inning or later. Maybe more people would follow the rule if everyone agreed what the rule is. But I digress.

It’s common to pull your starters out when you’ve got a big lead late. Not universal, though. And those replacements you put in are going to be playing hard, because putting up good numbers is the only way they’ve got to petition for more playing time (which–indirectly–means a bigger paycheck).

Other sports, not so much. I’ve never heard of a hockey team going easy on an opponent after running up a six goal lead. Not saying it doesn’t happen, just that I haven’t heard of it.

And soccer is more like hockey than baseball: continuous action, an opportunity to switch from defense to offense at any moment, a set length to the game, and so on.

Looked at from another perspective, letting up could be seen as establishing a bad habit. If you relax and lighten up after taking a five goal lead today, are you going to unconsciously do the same next week when you’ve got a four goal lead?

There are other reasons–off-field reasons–why the US Women’s National Team would want to make every game a major blowout if they can. That’s beside the point here.

Because most of the editorials I’ve seen start from an unstated premise that “women don’t act like that.”

I call bullshit.

Competitive sports are, by definition, competitive, and the people who play them–male, female, or decline to state–compete. Granted, in my experience, women are more likely to commiserate with a defeated opponent after the game. But the key word there is “after”.

Hey, last Wednesday the Mariners beat the Astros 14-1. Nobody said they should have stopped hitting home runs after the sixth inning. They lost 13-3 a few days before that, and nobody called for the Angles to take it easy after they scored their seventh run in the second inning.

In the moment, you play to win. If that means an occasional blowout, so be it. No matter what your sport or your sex.

Drafty In Here

I’ve got to hand it to the NFL in one respect. They’ve somehow managed to persuade the world that their draft is an event worth watching. All three days and seven rounds. Over two hundred selections.

If it was just the first round, I could almost understand it. That’s where the big name players, the ones capable of improving a team all by themselves, get selected. (And in the NFL, unlike MLB, there aren’t any minor leagues. The players selected this month will be on the field in preseason games come August. That’s a powerful motivator: it’s not “Wait until next year,” it’s “Wait until this year.”)

Just to be clear here, I didn’t see much of it, only a little bit in the middle of the first round, and the last few players of the final round. Nor was it by choice: it was on the break room TV when I was eating lunch.

Which is kind of my point, I suppose. My co-workers were riveted to the set. Okay, maybe not riveted, but at least stapled.

And I don’t get it. How does the NFL convince fans to keep watching something that moves only slightly faster than a forty-year old designated hitter?

It’s not the “Mr. Irrelevant” award. (Yes, really. There’s an award for the last player picked.) If that was all people cared about, they’d watch the first round, then tune out until the end of the seventh round.

I can’t believe a significant audience really believes a fifth round pick will be so important to their team’s performance that they’ll watch the other thirty-one teams make their selections–at least two hours in the later rounds and up to five hours in the first round–just so they can cheer for ten seconds.

Amazingly, it’s not done with the standard attention-getters. Very few skimpily dressed women (or men, for that matter), not much thundering rock music, no booze or other drugs outside of the same commercials running everywhere.

It’s not even schadenfreude, neither taking pleasure in seeing who doesn’t get picked (you could do that by watching just the last round) or in the horrible choices made by your opponents (because you don’t know they’re any worse than your team’s picks–and half the time you were probably hoping they’d remain available long enough for your team to grab them with their next pick.)

It’s not even the drama of the situation. Commentators speculating in voice-over about who’s going to get picked while the screen shows a few people in suits leaning over computers and talking quietly isn’t drama. Maybe it’s exciting the first two or three times, but after twelve hours over two days, it’s old hat.

How do they do it?

And how do we convince them to put the same level of effort and attention to detail to work on protecting the players’ health after the draft?

Not So Super

If you’ve come here expecting to see my annual run-down of the Super Bowl commercials and the obligatory snide comments about the game itself, my apologies.

See, I didn’t watch the game this year.

Not that I’m feeling smug about it or anything. In truth, I had been planning to watch. As I said last year, “I wanted to see the Patriots lose.” That was just as true this year–and I’m deeply disappointed in the Rams.

I can feel mildly virtuous for doing my part to reduce the NFL’s viewership numbers, and thus hurt their potential revenue from next year’s game. But only mildly, because I didn’t choose to abstain. But watching at work would have been a non-starter.

Of course, I did get paid to not watch the Super Bowl. That’s a darn sweet deal.

I did go looking for a recording of the halftime show. I could claim it was because I wanted to see if there was anything in it to justify all the various controversies. (Spoiler: nope. Topless singers and censored rap lyrics aren’t going to do the job.) Really, though, it was because I haven’t missed once yet this century and I wanted to keep my record intact. In retrospect, I needn’t have bothered. My life is not enriched. It wasn’t quite as much of a snoozefest as last year’s Justin Timberlake effort, but it’ll be hard for anyone to top (bottom?) Justin.

What? Oh. For those of you reading this overseas, no matter what the NFL wants you to think, Super Bowl Sunday isn’t a federal holiday. No mail delivery, but then, there normally isn’t on Sundays. And those of us who had to work were on our usual Sunday schedules.

But since we’re on the subject of holidays, perhaps you’ve heard that the “For the People Act” bill that Democrats are pushing in the House includes a provision to make Election Day a federal holiday? The intent is to make it easier for people to get to the polls.

Good idea, bad implementation.

Because, to be blunt, the kind of businesses that don’t close on holidays are exactly the ones that employ the people who find it hardest to take the time to cast a ballot: low-income workers, usually earning minimum wage, who live in neighborhoods where polling sites are routinely closed (chiefly by Republicans, naturally). Hotels, fast food restaurants, and convenience stores aren’t going to close. Neither, for that matter, are hospitals, police and fire departments, or airports.

Take another swing at it, Congresscritters. Concentrate on measures that directly make it easier to vote: longer voting hours (or extended voting periods), mail-in ballots, streamlined registration processes. That sort of thing.

If you really feel the need to establish a new holiday, there is that whole Super Bowl thing–I wouldn’t mind getting time-and-a-half for not watching the game. Just be aware that America’s other religions will expect the same treatment. I’ll be looking forward to my World Series Week this October.

Quick Takes

A couple of shorter items today, because reasons.

First up, the Matier & Ross column in yesterday’s Chron announced that ticket kiosks are being reinstalled at the Temporary Transbay Terminal, suggesting that it’s likely to a while before the new terminal is back in operation.

Oddly, that’s not really bad news. I don’t think anybody expected a quick fix. Even by the most optimistic estimates, the new terminal couldn’t have reopened before February.

The only real surprise in the news is that testing of the cracked beams is still going on. That was supposed to be complete sometime in November. So, yes, the process is lagging behind schedule, but did anyone expect otherwise? And, frankly, I’m choosing to regard the delay as a good sign. Better to take it slowly and be sure everybody is happy with the testing than to rush it and stoke fears that something has been missed.

Assuming the tests wrap up this month and show the cracking isn’t a design problem, we’re still looking at a few more months. The fix will need to be planned, approved internally and by an external group of engineers, and then implemented and (one hopes) tested.

So spending the money to put the kiosks back where the riders are just makes sense.

Moving on.

A bit of news out of the Northwest.

Seattle has been granted a NHL franchise and will begin play in 2021.

Even though I no longer follow hockey, I’m pleased to hear it.

Just this once, let’s skip the discussion of injuries, violence, and general unpleasantness that usually goes along with talk about the NHL and NFL.

It may come as a surprise to many people, but Seattle was once a big hockey town. Back in the nineteen-teens–before the NHL was founded–the Seattle Metropolitans played for the Stanley Cup three times, winning once and losing once. (The playoff was canceled in 1919, due to a flu epidemic. No vaccines in those days.)

They also had a team from 1944 to 1975, playing in the high minor Western Hockey League. That was the team I followed obsessively in my possibly misspent youth. (There’s also a current minor league team, the Thunderbirds, but they don’t get a whole lot of press, even in Seattle, so…)

So, yes, it’s good to see high-level hockey coming back to Seattle. It should be good for the city: like the Mariners, they should be able to draw fans from Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, which means hotel revenue. There’s an automatic rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks, not just because of geographic proximity, but also because Vancouver used to treat the Seattle team as a farm club. Now they’ll be meeting on an even footing.

The big question now, of course, is what the team will be called. That WHL team started out as the Ironmen, changed to the Bombers and the Americans, before settling on Totems. It doesn’t seem like there’s any sentiment for those first three names, but Totems has a lot of appeal–though, as several people have already noted, it would take some significant outreach to avoid controversy over cultural appropriation.

Apparently there’s even some interest in reviving the Metropolitan name. I’ll admit to liking the idea, but it probably won’t go anywhere. Inter-sport name collisions are one thing, but conflict within the league is discouraged. The NHL has a Metropolitan division, so confusion would be inevitable, especially given that Seattle won’t be in that division.

Some of the other ideas the franchise owners are considering are also problematic. “Rainiers” is on the list, but the Tacoma Rainiers baseball team is only about thirty minutes away. Awkward. “Cougars” isn’t much better. Washington State University wouldn’t be too happy about that, and annoying a big chunk of your potential fanbase doesn’t seem like a good idea.

“Renegades”? Blech.

“Evergreens”? Maybe. It’s somewhat unique, anyway. But are we really ready for the reporting when the team loses and attendance drops? “Last night the Evergreens tried to answer the old chestnut, falling 3-0 in a mostly empty arena. Not a sound was heard.” Nah.

I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more as ownership narrows down the list.

Confusion To the Enemy

For the past several days, the sports section of the Chron has been full of articles about a pending game between the Giants and the 49ers. This has engendered a certain amount of confusion.

Clarification for those of you who don’t do sportsball of any sort: San Francisco’s football team is the 49ers. San Francisco’s baseball team is the Giants. Some little town on the East Coast also has a football team named the Giants.

I have to wonder, though, who would come out on top in a game between the two San Francisco teams. The 49ers are rather woeful this season. Maybe they’d be better in a sport where the opponent isn’t allowed to leap on the guy with the ball. On the other hand, the SF Giants were rather woeful themselves. I’d suggest they try another sport as well, but given their injury-prone ways, offering them a free concussion with every play seems unnecessarily cruel.

(For the record, the NY Giants aren’t looking so hot either. But they did manage to be just a little bit better than the 49ers and improve their record to 2-7.)

Anyway, it’s fortunate for my ability to track events of national importance that there aren’t many of this sort of cross-sport name collision. The Cardinals play football in Arizona and baseball in St. Louis, which must make for some interesting scheduling in September and October. That’s about it for active conflicts, though.

Historically, the Washington Senators switched from baseball to hockey when they moved to Ottawa. A complete change of, well, everything, was probably a wise decision, given that it took them two decades to move, leaving D.C. in 1972 and not settling in Canada until 1992. Moving sucks, but that’s no reason to stretch out the process interminably*.

* Hint, hint, Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.

There’s surprisingly little confusion between baseball’s Kansas City Royals and basketball’s Sacramento Kings. That may owe more to the latter team’s ongoing irrelevance–they haven’t made the playoffs since the 2005/06 season, haven’t made it past the first round since 2003/04, and haven’t won a championship since 1950/51.

The real winner in the confusion game, though, has to be the thinly-disguised triple-sport team. They play basketball in Atlanta as the “Hawks,” hockey as the “Blackhawks” in Chicago, and football in Seattle as the “Seahawks”. And yes, it does engender a little confusion when headline writers refer to the later two as the “‘Hawks”. It’s easy to overlook that leading apostrophe.

World What?

I believe it’s a well-accepted truism that to develop life-long fans of a sport, you need kids to grow up with it. My own experience certainly supports that notion.

While I played soccer as a kid, I didn’t have a local team to follow during the critical years where my tastes in sports formed. Yes, there were the Seattle Sounders–the original Sounders–but they didn’t start playing until I was eight, too late to have a chance at a central spot in the sport-related portion of my brain.

(It probably didn’t help that, while professional soccer in the US was a summer sport, the Seattle kids’ leagues played in the fall and winter, probably to avoid competing with baseball for space on the recreation center fields. Seattle Octobers are a miserable time to be wearing shorts while running up and down a muddy field.)

All of which is a long-winded way to say that I haven’t been following the World Cup beyond an occasional glance at the headlines in the Chron.

That being the case, I was, at most, mildly pleased to see Croatia boot Russia out of the competition, given the state of political relations between the two countries–and because it put a halt to the claims that Russia was advancing due to bribery, political influence, and general FIFA corruption.

Let’s be real here: given FIFA’s reputation, most people would find a team doing well solely because of their athletic prowess more surprising than otherwise.

And in a vague way, I was hoping for an England/France final. Considering the historical antagonism between the two countries, it could have been the first World Cup match played with crossbows.

But on the other hand, everyone loves an underdog, right? So it’s hard to be upset about Croatia playing for their first ever World Cup championship.

One does have to wonder what the viewer numbers will be like in England. Is the love of football stronger than the sting of elimination? And of those who tune in, how many will be rooting for their traditional rival and how many for the new villains on the block? It must be like a Bostonian watching the Yankees in the World Series.

No, I’m not going to watch. At 8am Sunday, I plan to be curled up in bed, warm and dry, with nary a rain cloud or mud puddle in sight.