Best Of 2014: Seahawks Soar, Sounders Thrill, Mariners Surprise
The year 2014 started with a Super Bowl victory by the Seattle Seahawks, and ended with them in the playoffs once again. In between those events, a lot happened with the Mariners, Sounders and two separate University of Washington teams.
KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel counts down his top five sports moments of 2014.
5. The Huskies’ Men’s Crew Championship Win
The Huskies won their fourth consecutive IRA title, the national championship in collegiate rowing.
Art calls it “a tremendous feat for coach Michael Callahan” that coincided with a literary feat for the UW crew program.
“It was celebrated this year by a book, called ‘Boys in the Boat,’ written about the crew’s 1936 team that represented the United States in the Olympics in Germany and won the gold medal,” Art said. “And as much as it was about 1936, it’s also a celebration of the University of Washington program.
Art says the book has been at the top of the New York Times bestseller list “for much of 2014.”
4. The Huskies’ Commendable Football Season
Art says the team had a terrific season capped with the selection of three of its players to the Associated Press’ Hall of America team — “the most prestigious postseason award in college football.”
“And Hau’oli Kikaha, Danny Shelton and Shaq Thompson were all named First-Team All Americas. That’s the first time in Washington’s 125-year football history that that has happened,” Art said.
Art adds the Huskies also advanced to the Cactus Bowl game against Oklahoma State.
“Chris Petersen’s first year had a lot of first-year, transition problems, but they managed to at least get to 8-5 during the regular season, and so I think it’s a plus for UW to pull through the transition as well as they did,” Art said.
3. The Sounders’ Record-Setting Season
The Sounders had their best-ever season with 20 wins — “a franchise record.”
“And the success they had was limited to the regular season; they did win one playoff series,” Art said, “then nemesis L.A. Galaxy beat them in the playoffs to deny them their first MLS Cup.”
But Clint Dempsey’s role as the captain of the U.S. National Men’s Soccer Team in the World Cup also brought Sounders fans a lot of excitement. Also on the team was DeAndre Yedlin, Dempsey’s teammate from O’Dea High School “who served noticed that he’s going to be a star for a long time,” said Art.
2. The Mariners’ Surprising Season
“It was remarkable, because they improved 16 games over the previous season,” Art said. “And no one expected that. I mean, some improvement — sure, with Robinson Cano in the lineup they’d better improve.
“But to be in the fifth inning of the final game before they were eliminated from playoff contention — it was a forecast that no one had for these guys.”
Then, in the offseason, the Mariners spent big money to recruit star player Nelson Cruz.
“Now they’re going to have three All-Stars: Robinson Cano, Cruz and Kyle Seagar, who really came into his own this year, and it looks like they finally have a solid lineup to go with the great pitching,” Art said.
1. The Seahawks’ Super Bowl Win!
Art calls it “a breakthrough moment.”
“The most prestigious championship in American team sports, the Super Bowl, was won by the Seattle Seahawks, 43 to 8. And the celebration hasn’t really died down this year. It’s been remarkable,” he said.
This season, the Seahawks got off to a slow start — what some people called a Super Bowl hangover.”
“But lo and behold, they finished their regular season and are now into the playoffs,” said Art. “And the drama awaits in 2015 to see how it finishes.”