Sports

Musings on the Seattle sports scene | Column

DOWN TO THE WIRE

By Aaron Managhan

Sports editor

It’s been a busy and interesting couple of weeks to be a Seattle sports fan.

From welcome departures (like the M’s Thursday cut of first baseman Richie Sexson) to departures that weren’t (take a guess), from improved performances (the M’s are no longer the worst team in baseball!) to careers that might be ending (Shaun who?), Seattle sports fans have watched a turbulent, if not manic, series of events unfold.

Let’s start at the top.

Last week, the city of Seattle announced it had reached a settlement agreement to let the Seattle SuperSonics walk. While we all knew this was coming, the reality of Seattle no longer having an NBA franchise is still sinking in. Love ’em or hate ’em, there’s no denying the impact the Sonics had on the city, from the city’s only major title in 1979 to the more recent runs brought to you by the Glove Gary Payton and the Reign Man Shawn Kemp. The Sonics were a Seattle institution. But after Clay Bennett’s train robbery, they’re now Oklahoma City (I just hope they won’t be the SoonerSonics).

True, former owner Howard Schultz’s lawsuit is still in play, but does anyone really see it as more than an effort to save his own behind? The only reason Schultz filed the lawsuit is so he can say, “See everyone. I tried.” The only problem was he knew damn well the Sonics would leave the moment he cashed Bennett’s check. Now Schultz continues to underestimate Seattle sports fans with this latest “effort.”

And how about the NBA in all of this? David Stern, who many agree is already running the league into the ground, proved once again where the NBA’s loyalties lie: the almighty dollar. Gone are the days of loyalty to a city. How long before NBA teams start up their own free agency, much like players have now? No team is safe, and this proves it. For example, in an online poll on its Web site, ESPN asked its SportsNation readers to rate which city was a better NBA market, Oklahoma City or Seattle.

Overwhelmingly, support for Seattle shone through.

64 percent of more than 12,000 people polled said they think Seattle is a better NBA city. Every state in the United States (except Oklahoma, surprise, surprise) named Seattle as the stronger hoops city. 71 percent of those same people believe Bennett never intended to keep the team here.

In a more recent poll, 58 percent of more than 39,700 pollsters believe OKC cannot support an NBA team in the long term.

But nothing hurt worse than seeing Kevin Durant in a generic Oklahoma City jersey in the NBA’s summer league. When I saw that, a little part of me died on the inside.

The only loyalty left in the Sonics organization, Kevin Calabro, made things a little better by announcing he would turn down a deal that would pay him “top, top dollar” NOT to go to OKC. Thanks for standing by us, Kevin!

One silver lining perhaps: Can we have an NHL team? Please?

On to baseball, the Mariners continued to make the right moves for a change, giving Richie Sexson the ax. I know, I know. At the beginning of the year I was optimistic Sexson would return to the 35-homer, 100-RBI form of his first two seasons in town. Now that I’ve dislodged my size-11 shoe from my mouth, I can honestly say “What was I thinking?”

Sexson was hitting just .218 with 11 homers and 30 RBI at the time he was cut, which much like Bill Bavasi before him, came too late. Still, with interim skipper Jim Riggleman at the helm, the M’s have looked better, going 11-10 since John “Nice Guy” McLaren was shown the door. Nothing against McLaren; he was simply one of many scapegoats. But in these recent wins, the Mariners have moved out of MLB’s basement. We’re now the third-worst team in baseball (Thanks to you Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres!). At this rate, third place in the AL West might not be too much of a stretch.

It’s gonna take a lot more to right this ship, as more dead weight needs to be let go (Are you reading this Jose Vidro? How about you Miguel Cairo?).

Finally, we have the Seahawks. “What happened with the Seahawks these last two weeks?” you may ask. Nothing I heard of. It’s more what hasn’t been happening for a key former Seahawk.

One NFC general manager went off the record this week to talk about how he wouldn’t be surprised if no one takes a flyer on Alexander this season. Really? No one?

While I love Alexander, there’s no denying the softer elements of his game highlighted in the past two seasons. And while he has straight up sucked, I still contend a lot of that was injuries (although I agree at times he didn’t look like he had the same drive and desire to win). But still, no one even taking a flyer on the 2005 NFL MVP? That’s crazy.

When healthy, Alexander is one of the league’s premier backs. The question is, will he ever be healthy again? Still, you’d figure someone would take a chance on him.

No matter what anyone thinks of him now, there’s no denying his contributions to Seahawk football during his career. Not only did he lead us to the franchise’s first SuperBowl, but he became just the eighth back in NFL history to score 100 rushing touchdowns, each and every one with the Seahawks. Look at it this way. He’s played two full years less than former Dertroit Lions great Barry Sanders, who finished his nine-year career with 99.

So no matter which Seattle sport you follow, times they are a changin’. Let’s just hope we can all keep track.

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