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It's up to Seahawks: Save Seattle sports scene from gloom
Seattle Times staff columnist
This is the speech coach Mike Holmgren should give tonight when he addresses his players on the eve of the Seahawks' first day of practice:
"Welcome back, gentlemen. Let me say that starting today I want you to think of this season differently than any season in your career, whether it's Pop Warner, prep or the Pro Bowl.
"This isn't just another NFL season we're entering. It's a rescue mission.
"Have you men been paying attention to the sports scene in this town? Have you scanned the sports pages?
"I mean it's as arid as the Kalahari Desert, as desolate as the surface of the moon. Sea of Tranquillity? In this city, it's more like the Sea of Hostility.
"The sports fans here are as desperate for good news as the brokers on Wall Street. Seattle's sports stock has plummeted like Starbucks'.
"Ask Nate Burleson.
"He grew up here. He went to Mariners games. He saw Ken Griffey Jr. score from first on the double by Edgar Martinez that beat the Yankees.
"He saw the Sonics in their heyday. He cheered for Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. He watched that 1996 NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. He felt the pain of that Game 6 loss. Treated it like a personal insult.
"Nate's a Seattle sports fan. He caught passes for O'Dea before he caught them for us. Look at your teammate. He's hurting right now, and it's up to us to ease his pain and the pain of the thousands of fans just like him.
"In case you've spent the entire summer in the weight room, let me remind you that the Sonics are gone, gentlemen. They left for Oklahoma City, where they have been renamed the Thunder.
"OK, hold down the laughter. Yeah, I know, 'What a rinky-dink nickname, right?' It belongs in the arena league or maybe team tennis.
"But let's stay on point. This city is hurting right now. It feels as if it was sold out by the NBA. So this is what I want you to do. Safeties. Linebackers. I want you to hit every tight end, every running back this season as if they were wearing Clay Bennett masks. He's the guy who ripped the Sonics from Seattle.
"I want you cornerbacks to crack every wide receiver who dares come across the middle. I want you to treat them the way David Stern treated Seattle.
"It's up to us, gentlemen. We are the bearers of good news this season. We are the light at the end of Seattle's sports tunnel.
"Anybody in this room check out the baseball standings? See where the Mariners are? They're dead last. Reading their box scores is like looking at a coroner's report. They have the worst record in the American League.
"Let that be a cautionary tale for all of you. If I see any of you playing with that ho-hum casualness of their shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt, I'll cut you quicker than you can say, 'Swing and a miss.'
"And I don't want any Erik Bedards on this team. I want guys who can play through pain. I want guys who sacrifice for the good of their team. I want guys who go the distance. I want guys who earn their paychecks. You hear me?
"No wonder Seattle fans are seething through their tears. Watching the Mariners this year has been like watching one of those dysfunctional reality shows.
"What's that, Matt Hasselbeck? Bobby Engram? Yeah I know you guys are women's basketball fans and I agree with you, for the most part, the WNBA's Storm has given Seattle some much-needed hope. But they're taking a long Olympic break now, and let's face it, we reach more people. We can cure more ills.
"Larry Triplett? You played for the Huskies. You know what winning college football feels like in this town. You know how frustrating it has been rooting for Washington these last five years. When you played there, Larry, bowl games were considered a birthright.
"I know you don't like hearing this, but Washington hasn't been to a bowl game since the 2002 Sun Bowl. That's pain, gentlemen. This season they would throw a parade down Montlake just for a 6-6 season and a trip to something like the Las Vegas Bowl.
"That's what we're up against. Fans are angry, empty and beaten down. This is a big-league city in a big-league slump. We have to be the slump busters. We have to act like so many Batmen.
"We can remind people here how good it feels to win. Imagine this town celebrating a victory over New England this December. Think about the buzz that is always part of Seattle when we have a home playoff game in January.
"We are the antidote. Losing isn't an option. The city is counting on us. Only we can take away the ache of all the losses.
"Forget about me and this being my last season. Our mission, gentlemen, is what it is. We have to save this city. It's up to every one of us.
"OK, on three. One, two, three, 'Rescue!' "