June 6, 2011

The Forgotten Years: 1992-1998

As I get older, I have become dimly aware that many Seahawks fans are wayyyy younger than me. In fact, there is a huge chunk of the Twelve Army that joined the ranks in the last decade or so- Many of these fans may have some sort of historical knowledge of the Ground Chuck Glory Days of the 1980s (they might even have throwback jerseys from that era), but most are probably unfamiliar with a dank, forlorn period in team history- The intermission between Knox and Holmgren, where the team struggled, the Kingdome emptied out, and there was the very real threat of the team skipping town. However, there are many things about this 7-season stretch in franchise history that are actually worth remembering, so today, and in posts to follow, I will try to shed some light upon the Behring Dark Ages.

Astute readers may notice that I'm not a Mariners fan, and that while I empathize with their plight, I was never actually a Sonics fan. One reason? The amazing amount of shit I had to put up with from front-running, bandwagon Mariners and Sonics fans during this era. Now I know a lot of you are/were passionate tripartite fans of the Hawks, M's and Sonics- I'm not slagging on you. More power to you that the M's and Sonics soothed your pain as Seahawks fans back then. No. I'm talking about the sentient, bipedal hemorrhoids who mocked me for sticking with the Seahawks in the mid-90s while the region's NBA and MLB sides were ascendant.

If you survived this era as a Seahawks fan, you earned your buttons. People gave you reams of crap for showing up in public in your Joey Galloway jersey. If you lived in the Seattle broadcast area, games were often blacked out. When you went to games, the Dome was half full, and/or mostly filled with opposing fans. Worst of all? The Seahawks lost most of the time and looked BAD doing it. How bad was the team? A highlight of the era was Sir Mix-A-Lot's posse wearing Seahawks gear in the video for "Baby Got Back."

The Presidents of the United States weren't making any songs venerating the Seahawks- and why would they? Over these 7 seasons, the Seahawks were 45-67 with no winning seasons and no playoff appearances. Even worse? They often were not just bad, but also BORING. These were also my college years at Western in Bellingham, so thankfully I was a bit distracted from the Seahawks' struggles- But every loss still stung, and I felt the glee of victory far too rarely.

Still, there are things worth remembering from this era- Guys like Cortez Kennedy, Chris Warren, Warren Moon, Chad Brown and Joey Galloway wore Seahawks blue in this era. We rose up and smote our divisional rivals and the NFL's elite once in a while. These men fought for us, and I aim to tell some of their stories.

First, the top 5 most important events of this era:

5. Paul Allen Sells 300 Level End Zone Seats for $10, I Get Season Tickets (1997)

Ok, this one is very personal, but when Paul Allen made a block of end zone upper deck seats available for $10, I thought "Holy shit! Even as a Cup-Noodle-Slurping impoverished grad student, I can scrape together $200 for Seahawks season tickets!" I've held onto them since, and I've gotten to be there in the flesh for amazing moments like the 2005 NFC Championship Game and the "Romo Game."

Thanks, Mr. Allen.

4. Rick Mirer Gets Spun Into Walter Jones (1997)

In 1993, the Seahawks used the 2nd overall pick in the draft on Notre Dame QB Rick Mirer (after- and this is just a widespread rumor- the Seahawks perhaps refused an offer from the 49ers of Steve Young for our first round pick). The short version? It didn't work out. After a promising rookie season, Mirer failed to progress, then started to regress, until finally playing himself onto the bench. Another major fuck-up by Behring's minions? Totally.

But... Somehow they hornswaggled the QB-poor Chicago Bears into giving Seattle a 1st round pick for Mirer in 1997- A pick that the Seahawks would use to select Walter FUCKING Jones.

Sometimes, despite themselves, the Behringites did the right thing.

3. Cortez Kennedy's 1992 Season

This really had to been seen to be believed. Budding superstar Cortez Kennedy, drawing additional motivation from the untimely death of friend/University of Miami teammate Jerome Brown (Kennedy switched to #99 in honor of Brown for the 1992 season), dominated the middle and notched 14 sacks AS AN INTERIOR LINEMAN.

Kennedy did all this on one of the worst teams in NFL history- a 2-14 team that included an offense that CONSTANTLY left the defense to fend for itself (they scored an NFL record-low 140 points over the entire season). Despite playing for a terrible team with NO national exposure, Tez was so overwhelming in 1992 that he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Why is he not in the Hall of Fame again?

2. The Phantom Touchdown (December 6, 1998)

The Seahawks were 6-6 and fighting not only for their playoff lives, but to keep Coach Dennis Erickson employed. They played their best game of the year, on the road, at 10 am Seattle time, and against the playoff-bound Jets. All they had to do to hold on to a 31-26 season-defining, coach-saving victory was to stop the Jets on 4th and goal... and they did.

Until dipshit official Phil Luckett signaled touchdown. Later, he would say that he thought that Testaverde's helmet was the ball. For reals. I was so incensed that I broke numerous items in my tiny Bellingham apartment. Seattle would limp to 8-8, and Dennis Erickson would get canned.

Two very important things happened because of this game. The NFL brought back Instant Replay, and Paul Allen hired Mike Holmgren to run and coach the Seahawks. In the end, it all worked out- But I'll never forget the rage and hopelessness I felt that day.

Here's the Seahawks' 1998 team video- The Jets footage is right at the start:

1. Referendum 48 Passes by 36,870 Votes (June 17, 1997)

You know the story: California carpetbagger Ken Behring bought the Seahawks in 1988 and quickly started running the franchise into the ground. In 1996, he used falling tiles in the Kingdome as a pretense to try to move the team to Los Angeles. It went so far that minicamp was held in Southern California that spring. Paul Allen stepped in and made an offer to buy the team, but that offer was contingent on funding for a new stadium to replace the Kingdome. Just two years earlier, at the height of Mariners fever, a similar vote for a new M's stadium failed- So the Seahawks' chances looked slim at best.

With Seattle and its suburbs supporting the stadium, they were able to overcome opposition from the rest of the state (expect for the Tri-Cities, which was only area of Eastern Washington where a majority voted yes). The rest is history, right? Holmgren, Hasselbeck, a decade of success, and an amazing new stadium... and it all started here.

Coming up? The top 10 games and Top 10 Seahawks players of The Forgotten Years- I'll show you the #1 player now:

1 comment:

AJ and Kandice said...

This is the era when I became a fan. I was in elementary school in eastern washington, and all the other kids rooted for various good teams, mostly the packers or broncos. I became a Seahawks fan because my dad was, and to piss off the other kids in my class. And holy crap did I take a lot of flack for it.