Since I relocated to Tacoma 25 years ago this month, I can’t remember the sports teams around here generating as many good vibes as they are during the last week of August, 2016.
Consider this harmonic convergence:
▪ A year removed from the hangover that followed Super Bowl 49, the Seahawks are a top contender to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 51. Aside from the daily scuffle between Michael Bennett and whatever offensive lineman who happens to look at him the wrong way, training camp has gone swimmingly — at least a lot more swimmingly than it did last summer, when Kam Chancellor’s contract holdout soured the mood of a team that didn’t click until the season was halfway over.
▪ The Mariners are hanging tough in a playoff race destined to make every September date must-see TV. You might recall they were in a similar position two years ago, only to be eliminated midway through the 162nd game of a 162-game schedule. This could happen again, of course, but I have faith a benevolent higher power won’t tolerate two heartbreaking finishes in three years.
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▪ The Washington Huskies are No. 14 in the Associated Press college football poll, their highest ranking since 2002. And though coach Chris Petersen would sooner endure a non-numbed tooth extraction than acknowledge the relevance of poll numbers assembled before the season opener, Top 25 rankings translate into interest, and interest translates into ticket sales, and ticket sales translate into revenue, and, well, you get the idea.
▪ The Washington State Cougars are expected to compete in a bowl game, which, granted, is no big deal. The big deal is that the Cougars could compete in a top-tier bowl game, depending on the result of their Nov. 25 Apple Cup match against the Huskies in Pullman.
Nov. 25, by the way, is a Friday — “Black Friday,” the Friday following Thanksgiving. It’s not the ideal date for a football game between intrastate rivals separated by a mountain range, and there will be plenty of grousing about a schedule requiring an Apple Cup to be played on an empty campus during the second day of a four-day holiday weekend.
But that’s another story, for another day. For now, it’s all about an early-season football forecast calling for perpetual sunshine in Seattle and Pullman.
▪ The Sounders are streaking under Brian Schmetzer, the interim head coach whose “interim” label will be removed should they qualify for the MLS playoffs. Schmetzer has helped transform a lethargic, one-goal-a-month team into a team capable of scoring on every possession.
▪ The Rainiers went into Tuesday with a 5 1/2 game lead in the PCL Pacific Northern Division. Attendance at Cheney Stadium is strong — 7,048 showed up last Sunday for Tacoma’s afternoon game against Las Vegas — and with the Triple-A All-Star Game on deck for next summer, the operation has the look of a model minor league franchise.
For that matter, the Seahawks have the look of a model NFL franchise, and is there any better place to watch baseball than Safeco Field, or soccer at CenturyLink Field, or college football at Husky Stadium?
A few months ago, a Sports Illustrated.com contributor revealed a list of “Best Sports Cities.” Such rankings are commonplace — the Sporting News began it, Forbes Magazine copied it, dozens of other online entities have borrowed a theme steeped in high-click potential — but checking out these rankings can be interesting, as a kind of wasted-day-and-wasted-night activity, because they reflect how outsiders perceive us.
Seattle finished seventh on the S.I. list, which identified Cleveland as No. 1, thanks to LeBron James and the Cavaliers. The next five: The San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Kansas City.
“Maybe this is a bit low,” the assessment went for Seattle, “but that whole ‘having their NBA team stolen from them,’ plus no NHL, has put a damper on the winter sports scene.”
The winter sports scene? Hello? Who gives a hoot about the winter sports scene when the last week of August is offering delicious possibilities about the first weekend of October?
It’ll begin on a Friday night, Sept. 30, when the Huskies are home against Stanford. They’ll likely be either 4-0 or 3-1 at that point — the Sept. 24 road game at Arizona looms as a challenge — but the course of the season could be defined under the Friday night lights in Montlake.
On Saturday, Oct. 1, the Cougars will be home against Oregon. They figure to be 3-0, and fresh off a bye week.
Sunday will find the Seahawks at the New York Jets (10 a.m), the Mariners facing Oakland in Seattle (12:10 p.m.) and the Sounders at Vancouver (5 p.m.)
Sorry, I’m clearly violating the cardinal rule of sports, which is to take one day at a time, never getting too high or too low.
But what the heck, some days are better than others, and this is shaping up as a wonderful one. Every team I follow has aspirations to achieve beyond the regular season.
When the winter sports scene is sleepy hollow, there’s a glow to the late-summer sun, and all that awaits before it disappears in the fall.