What would you say was the top Seattle sports story of 2010? Sports commentator Art Thiel has come up with his top five, and he shared them with KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick.
#5 Seattle Storm winning 2nd WNBA championship
Art says this was the highlight of the competitive season in Seattle (although the Seattle Sounders F-C did make it to the playoffs for the second straight season). Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson and Swin Cash led a team that not only won the championship, but they dominated the regular season. With 28 wins and just 6 losses, the Storm had the best regular season record in the WNBA and were undefeated in the playoffs.
"They sustained both their fitness and their concentration all the way through. They dominated entirely and even more dramatically than in their first title in 2004, so Storm fans had a lot to be proud of."
After winning their first WNBA title in 2004, the Storm had been eliminated from the postseason in the first round the next five seasons.
#4 Trials and tribulations of the Mariners
Art calls it the worst season ever for the Seattle Mariners – given the expectations and the disappointments. Art says the problems began in spring training when star pitcher Cliff Lee got injured (the M’s ended up trading him in 2010 to the Texas Rangers, who made it to their first World Series).
Designated hitter and fan favorite Ken Griffey Junior was hitting poorly and ending up retiring mid-season. Manager Don Wakamatsu was fired. And the Mariners ended up losing 101 games – for the second time in three years.
“There was just a level of disappointment and disgust in the fan base that I have not seen.”
The Mariners hired new manager Eric Wedge in the fall of 2010. One of the few bright spots in 2010 for the Mariners was star pitcher Felix Hernandez winning his first American League Cy Young Award. Art says 2011 will be a rebuilding year with a lot of young players.
#3 UW's first bowl appearance in eight years
Art says this was a big deal for a program that was 0-12 just two years ago. Under head coach Steve Sarkisian (in only his second season), the Huskies have managed, in Art’s words, to “rally the attitude and get rid of the losing culture.”
The proof: Washington's convincing upset victory over the 18th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in Thursday night's Holiday Bowl. Art says this bowl appearance is going to be a watershed moment in the history of Husky football.
Though he calls the regular-season record of 6-6 not a prideful record, the Huskies did have the nation’s second-toughest schedule this year.
"They managed to scramble back to respectability after being in the deepest ditch possible. The only team to go winless in 2008 was Washington and it was a huge embarrassment and now there’s pride back in the program.”
#2 Death of longtime Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus
Art says the sudden death of the Mariners first and only play-by-play announcer Dave Niehaus on Nov. 10 was a terrible blow for the community.
“Dave was the cream of the crop. He was a hall-of-famer and someone who touched lives as only radio baseball play-by-play guys can do. But Dave also touched a lot of people upon meeting them.”
Art goes on to say that “Not only did he have the mastery of the broadcast down, he had the personality that caused everyone to look at him as a favorite uncle, or grandfather, or father. There was a very warm, sincere connection between Dave and this community that can never be replaced. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us.”
#1 Big changes with the Seahawks
The Seahawks fired head coach Jim Mora early in 2010 after just one season. They replaced him with USC head coach Pete Carroll. They also hired a new general manager, John Schneider. And then they completely tore apart the roster.
Art says, despite all the tumult, Carroll and his staff actually managed to make the Seahawks relevant into late December. He says 2010 was really a placeholder season.
“We’ll see what happens with more drama to come with next April’s draft.”