We, as Seattle sports fans, have a type.
Last season, the Seattle Seahawks captivated this city like no team has since the 1996 SuperSonics. So what was it about those two teams that put this city on its ear?
The winning is obviously part of it. Seattle is notoriously fair weather, despite its climate. There's more to it than that, though. The 2013 Seahawks and the 1996 Sonics have many similarities that cannot be denied.
Both teams were young, fast, athletic, and talented. Both teams preached defense and a run-first offense. Both teams were also incredibly brash and cocky. That's how we like things in Seattle: a little bit edgy. We like our music loud and distorted. We like our coffee burnt (apparently). We like the rain. But we hate posers.
That wasn't a problem with our sports teams. Both teams had head coaches in George Karl and Pete Carroll, respectively, who allowed their players to be themselves and do their own thing. Just work hard and play the game the right way. Both the Sonics and Seahawks had the ability to back up their bravado, too. Both teams were filled with the type of guys who would look you dead in the eye, tell you they were going to eat your lunch, and then proceed to do exactly that. And there was nothing you could do about it. Few things are more frustrating than having a guy tell you what he's going to do and still be able to do it. The Sonics and Seahawks could both bark and bite. That's why our teams are hated by players and fans of other teams. That makes us like them even more. We love being the underdogs. We love to play the spoiler.
Both teams had a young loud mouth who wanted nothing more than to take the ball away from you. For the Sonics, it was Gary Payton, who wasn't afraid to get in the face of anyone, even the GOAT, and tell them just what he was going to do, how he was going to do it, and what side of him you could watch while he did it. Payton himself said that when it came to trash-talk, nothing was off limits. For the Seahawks, that role is filled by cornerback Richard Sherman, who wants everyone to know that he's the best, and not to try him with a mediocre receiver.
Then you've got your big, strong players, who don't focus on how to get around you but more so how to go through (or in one case, over) you. For the Sonics, that player was Shawn Kemp. Lean for a power forward but strong as an ox and able to jump like a kangaroo, Kemp would bust through the lane and elevate over anyone that got in his way. For the Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch is a human bulldozer. While other running backs look for the path of least resistance, Lynch just plows through defensive linemen like bowling pins.
Speaking of plowing people over, we Seattle fans do love our rough-and-tumble enforcer types, too. Kam Chancellor has a tendency of destroying opposing players, especially ones named Vernon Davis. In 1996, Frank Brickowski was doing the same to Dennis Rodman.
Does that mean you have to be cocky and loud to get any attention from Seattle fans? Certainly not. We definitely have a very big spot in our hearts for our quiet-yet-confident leader types, too. Especially ones who love our teams back. In '96, there was "Mr. Sonic," Nate McMillan. Mac-10 wasn't the kind of guy who would go out and talk a lot of trash or provide the media with a lot of controversial sound bytes; he was just solid. He was just a guy who worked hard, went out and played the game as best as he could. He was a leader both on the floor, and later off. For the Seahawks, that leader is, of course, the quarterback, Russell Wilson. Equipped with talent that can only be outshined by his smile, Russ continually talks about how blessed he is to be the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. He treats his teammates like family and ends every interview with "Go Hawks!"
Then there are the fans. The Seahawks have the most famous fans in the NFL, the 12th Man. A fan base so fervent that they have their own number retired by the team. A fan base so rowdy they were almost on the cover of Madden. The loudest fans in the world. In 1996, it was the Sonics that captivated the hearts and minds of Seattle fans. The team's logo was painted all over town, including on the top of the Space Needle. "The energy around the city was felt," Kemp said. "Even if you didn't see what was going on or were out there experiencing it, you felt it. It's hard to describe what a buzz is, but there was a definite buzz around town unlike anything I remember." Detlef Schrempf added, "It was a great time for basketball in Seattle. We had the greatest fans. People were lined up at the airport in the middle of the night when we came home all the time. And you start to think, that's how it is, but it really isn't. You ask players in Sacramento or for the Los Angeles Clippers. That just doesn't happen." The Sonics even had their own version of the 12th Man jersey, a #6 that hung in the rafters next to the simple phrase "Go Sonics!"
So, you see? We definitely have a type. Here's hoping that the next iteration of the Sonics fits that type. Oh, and the championship mold would be nice too.