Safeco Field: My Happy Place

safeco fieldIt’s the home opener for the Mariners tonight, and I can’t wait.  I can’t wait to get back to my happy place.  There’s something special and comforting about spending time inside Seattle’s baseball palace. Even Safeco Field’s nickname is soothing: “The Safe”, as in “safe at home”.

Sure, the pace of the game is slow.  But it’s perfect that way.  The parameters of play were established 150 years ago, and are exactly the same today.  9 innings.  9 players.  1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out at the old ball game.

The game is played on a “diamond”.   It’s not a baseball team, it’s a “club”.  It’s not a locker room, it’s a “clubhouse”.

History  and numbers are a huge part of the game.  Tonight, just as it’s been from the beginning, we know that the pitch will be thrown from 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate.  The bases will be 90 feet apart.  But what happens in these established dimensions is what makes the game fascinating.  There is no time limit.  We don’t know when the game will end.  We may see an astounding athletic feat.  We may see something nobody has ever seen before.  We may witness history.  You never know.

We will definitely see a lot of interesting people at the ballpark.  You  will probably eat some amazing food.  You will have lots of time to have a leisurely chat with friends, old and new.  You never know what will happen at the ballyard.

There’s also something alluring and comforting about a new season.  It’s a new beginning. In the spring, we become incurable optimists.  We allow ourselves to believe that THIS really is the Mariners year.

And who knows?  It might be.  We will root, root, root for the Mariners.  If they don’t win it’s a shame.  But I know one thing for sure.  I will find solace in my happy place, and for a few hours, all will be right with the world.

 

 

 

 

The Baltimore Colts bolted for Indy 32 years ago today. What Seattle can learn from that ugly piece of sports history.

colts-moving
On this date in 1984, the NFL’s Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis. It’s a sordid tale of irascible ownership, and how three cities suffered the consequences. Seattle sports fans can probably relate to some of this. As Sonics fans plead for a new arena, and the return of the Sonics, I think it hits pretty close to home.
 
In the early 80’s, Colts owner Jim Irsay asked the city of Baltimore to pay for improvements to Memorial Stadium. The city refused, and the Maryland legislature actually passed a law to allow the city of Baltimore to seize control of the team. Instead of allowing that to happen, Irsay quickly made a deal to move the team to Indianapolis, and in the middle of the night on March 28th, while the city slept, moving trucks were loaded up, and the Colts moved to Indianapolis.
 
Baltimore didn’t have an NFL team again until 1996, when the Browns moved to Baltimore over a stadium dispute between the city of Cleveland and Browns’ owner Art Modell. The city of Baltimore agreed to built a new, state-of-the-art stadium for the Browns, which were renamed the Ravens.
 
The city of Cleveland maintained the history, colors, and Browns name. Cleveland worked with the NFL to create a “reparation” plan, and within three years, a brand new stadium was constructed and the new Cleveland Browns re-entered the NFL in 1999.
 
So, what is the takeaway for the city of Seattle? The NBA clearly doesn’t consider Seattle a vital market in the same way the NFL valued Cleveland. Part of that has to do with the legacy of former NBA commissioner David Stern, who took great pleasure in removing–and then denying the return–of an NBA franchise to Seattle. Washington lawmakers refused to kiss his ring, and give in to he and Howard Schultz’s demands for a new arena. Stern made it personal. And it got ugly.
 
The stadium issue is crucial. A rock-solid commitment for a new Seattle arena–which will happen with a “yes’ vote by the city council on the vacation of a stretch of Occidental Avenue–will lure an NBA or NHL franchise to Seattle. Possibly both. That vote will happen on April 18th. It’s time to right the wrong that was done in 2008 when Howard Schultz sold the franchise to those crooks in Oklahoma.
 
It’s time to bring ’em back.

Thanks, Garry.

larry sanders

The thing that set Garry Shandling apart is that he was never interested in standard conventions. In fact, he hated them. In his way, Garry Shandling was determined to make the world a funnier place, and helped change comedy forever.

In 1977, Garry Shandling was seriously injured in a car crash. At the time, he was working as a writer on sitcoms like “Sanford and Son” and “Welcome Back, Kotter”, but had grown tired of the formulaic nature of that comedy. After the crash, which landed him in intensive care for days, Shandling decided to pursue a career in stand-up comedy, and was determined to do it his way. His finely-honed persona of a hip, neurotic, confused man on the verge of losing control was somehow incredibly relatable. Shandling made his network TV standup debut on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” in 1981. He became a frequent guest host, and was considered as Carson’s permanent replacement (a gig that eventually went to Jay Leno).

Like most comics of the era, Shandling was angling for his own sitcom, and in 1985, he got one, but it wasn’t like any sitcom that we had ever seen before. “Garry Shandling’s Show” debuted in 1986 on Showtime.

On the show, Garry spoke directly to the audience, breaking the “fourth wall”, and sometimes asked the audience for input on how he should deal with certain situations.

The show openly mocked sitcom standards, right from the opening theme song:

“This is the theme to Garry’s show
the opening theme to Garry’s show
Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song
It’s almost halfway finished, how do you like it so far?
How do you like the theme to Garry’s show?”

The show was set inside Garry’s apartment, and focused on very personal, ordinary, everyday issues, a concept that was later borrowed in “Seinfeld” by Garry’s friends and comic contemporaries Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David.

Shandling was offered $5 million to take over as host of “Late Night” when David Letterman left NBC in 1993, but he turned it down to create his career-defining role–interestingly, as a neurotic, narcissistic late-night talk show host named Larry Sanders in “The Larry Sanders Show“. The show aired on HBO from 1993-1998, in which Shandling drew on his experiences as a Hollywood celebrity and guest-host on The Tonight Show. The show is considered one of the greatest comedies of all-time, and Shandling was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards during its run. The show also helped launch the careers of co-stars Jeffrey Tambor, Janeane Garofalo, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jeremy Piven, and Bob Odenkirk.

Garry Shandling was a brave and unique voice in American comedy–unafraid to say and portray the awkwardness that makes us human. And he was also pee-your-pants funny.

Thanks, Garry.

Build the Arena. Restore Seattle’s Legacy.

Long before the Seahawks or Mariners existed, we had the Seattle SuperSonics. This city supported that team fervently for 41 years before they were stolen from us in 2008 by some horse traders from Oklahoma City. The fact that our lawmakers allowed that to happen is a black eye on our world-class city. It’s time to right that wrong. It’s time to restore Seattle’s legacy.

sonics 1967

The Seattle city council’s vote on the vacation of a stretch of Occidental Avenue is the final step in a long journey to get a shovel-ready arena built. The Port of Seattle and the big-money lobbyists fighting the construction of the arena have concocted a bogus theory about how that street is vital for commercial port traffic. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Go check it out for yourself. There is NOTHING going on there. I would challenge the city councilmembers to stand on the street for an hour, like Sonicsgate​ did, and assess how much Port traffic uses that road. There is next to none. It’s a desperate ploy, and poorly conceived. I really hope the council can see through that.

There’s talk of refurbishing Key Arena instead of constructing a new building in Sodo. KeyArena was substandard even when it was remodeled by former Sonics owner Barry Ackerley in the early 90’s. That is not an option. Chris Hansen was offered the building for FREE, and turned it down. He has a vision for a sports palace that can house both the NBA and NHL. It would completely revitalize Sodo. The site is already zoned for an arena. Hansen owns the land.

Some people are concerned about $100 million in public money that’s part of the current deal with the city. That is a loan. That money would be paid back to the city, unlike financing deals for CenturyLink Field, Safeco Field and the Kingdome.

Anybody that says an arena and a pro basketball or hockey franchise doesn’t improve the integrity, vibrancy and economy of a city is just ignoring facts. We’ve seen how the Seahawks have ignited the city’s passion. Well, guess what? The Sonics ruled this town long before the Seahawks did.

It’s time to reverse the damage that was done a decade ago when Howard Schultz stupidly sold the team to those crooks from Oklahoma. He did it because he couldn’t get the city or state to budge on a new arena. See where that got us?

So, Councilmembers: On behalf of millions of loyal citizens and sports fans, please do the right thing. Approve the arena. Bring the Sonics back. Make Seattle whole again.

Don’t Stress About Seahawks’ Free Agent Losses

The Seahawks may have lost Bruce Irvin, J.R. Sweezy, and Brandon Mebane in free agency, but here’s an excellent reason not to worry: The Hawks dominate in the draft.

SIX players from the Hawks draft class of 2012 have signed huge second contracts–four of them yesterday.

Bruce Irvin (Round 1, 15th overall)

Bobby Wagner (Round 2)
Russell Wilson (Round 3)
Jaye Howard (Round 4, now with Chiefs)
Jeremy Lane (Round 6)
J.R. Sweezy (Round 7)

Now THAT is a strong draft.  The Hawks locked up Jeremy Lane yesterday, which solidifies the defensive backfield.  John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made a habit of finding gems in the draft. Look at last year, where the Hawks snagged impact players in Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett in the 2nd and 3rd round.  The Hawks didn’t even have a first round pick.

You can only hang onto these guys under rookie contracts for so long.  Don’t stress about the free agent defections. This is what happens to championship teams.  Great teams can’t hang on to all of their great players. There’s just not enough money to go around.  The Hawks are built to last, and I have no doubt they will reload in the draft once again next month.

They always do.