We are the champions.
For the first time in 35 years, the city of Seattle will be able to utter those words. Those words are so rare, so uncommon, that it’s hard to believe that it’s true. It’s hard to figure out how to even react. Yet, with the 43-8 annihilation of the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks have allowed Seattle to once more say that they are the best.
As a basketball fan, it’s hard not to soak in the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl without being reminded about the 1978-79 Seattle SuperSonics, the previous titleholder of the Emerald City. I was unabashedly one of those who got excited when that team was brought up during the second half of the Super Bowl broadcast. When comparing the two championship teams, it quickly becomes clear that they share some similarities. It’s as if the city has its own way of doing things, a hip style that deviates from the norm.
Let’s start with their coaches. The words "disciplinarian" and "strict" are not in the vocabulary. For the Seahawks, there’s Pete Carroll, who despite being one of the oldest coaches in the league, looks like he could easily do a couple of routines with the Sea Gals. He’s a player’s coach to the extreme. He cheers, hugs, and jumps, and his rah-rah-rah style brings a college feel to a professional team. All this and his positive attitude is part of the reason why he was recently voted the top coach most NFL players would like to play for.
In charge of the Seattle SuperSonics was Lenny Wilkens. While not as excitable as Carroll, Wilkens was a player’s coach nevertheless. Heck, in his first stint with the Sonics, he was a player and a coach. His laid back style contrasted with those who liked to yell, scream, and smash clipboards. Wilkens was a man liked by his players and with barely any enemies, and while a good man doesn’t always make a good coach, it did for Wilkens.
A question that went against the Seahawks was whether it was their time right now. They were too young and too inexperienced, and the trip to the Super Bowl was more about growing pains than actually winning. Their star quarterback was only in his second year, and members of the acclaimed "Legion of Boom" were no older than 25 years of age. Surely the Seahawks could win Super Bowls in the future, but probably not now, right?
The Sonics of ’79 faced those same types of questions. Like the Hawks, the Sonics had their own star player who was only in his second year: Jack Sikma. Of their five leading scorers, only one of them was above the age of 25. Both the 2013 Seahawks and 1979 Sonics proved that you don’t need experience when you’ve got talent.
The Seattle Seahawks adhered to the old adage that defense wins championships. They were number one in numerous defensive categories, including the most important one, points given up. After holding a record-setting Denver Broncos offense to a mere eight points, one has to wonder where the Seahawks rank among the all-time greatest defenses.
Likewise, the Sonics were also known as a very good defensive team. In fact, considering they were number one in Defensive Rating, it would be fair to make the argument that they were the best defensive team that year. They gave up the lowest field goal percentage and allowed the fewest points.
Even with all the talented players on the Seahawks, it was always about the team. The fact that no Seahawk had more than 64 receptions wasn’t a sign of a weak receiving corps, but more of a testament to the fact that the team liked to spread the wealth. In all aspects, backups contributed as much as starters. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett led the team in sacks, despite both being non-starters. No one player (okay, maybe Marshawn Lynch at times) won games for the Seahawks, as it was always a collective effort.
With the Sonics, here was the team that had absolutely no superstars. Sure, it had two All-Stars, but no one who could single-handedly carry a team, a la Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson. Not a single player even averaged 20 points per game. Instead, six different players averaged double-figures, and seven chipped in at least 20 minutes a game. Fred Brown, the veteran sharpshooter not long removed from being an All-Star, was coming off the bench. It’s rare to see a basketball team win without a superstar, but this team proved it could be done.
Finally, who won the Super Bowl MVP? Malcolm Smith, a 24-year-old defensive player from Los Angeles, California.
NBA Finals MVP? Dennis Johnson, a 24-year-old defensive player from Los Angeles, California.
Seattle has gained a reputation for being a hipster city. We’re independent and like to do things differently. Apparently, this applies to sports as well. Ignore the strict coach, the one-man show, and the veteran team. Instead, give us a relaxed vibe, teamwork, and a bunch of youngsters. It’s not how other teams function, but that doesn't matter. Seattle will do things their own way, and that will lead to one thing.