THAT’S LIFE? TO HELL WITH YOU OL’ BLUE EYES

THAT’S LIFE? TO HELL WITH YOU OL’ BLUE EYES

By |2013-11-09T07:31:58+00:00November 8th, 2013|5 Comments

Twenty years ago next spring Seattle sports fans attended a most awkward going away party at the Seattle Center Coliseum. A decision had been made to remodel the building once the 1994 NBA Playoffs concluded. Fans were rightfully optimistic that the project wouldn’t begin until late June; AFTER the top seeded SuperSonics rolled to an NBA title.

Instead, work would begin in early May after the Denver Nuggets and Dikembe Mutombo finger-wagged them out of the post season in a shocking first round upset.

dikembe

Fans straggled out of the old barn in a collective state of shock, some laughing bitterly as they heard Frank Sinatra crooning “That’s Life” on the PA system. “Riding high in April,” Ol Blue Eyes sang, “Shot down in May.”

The conclusion of the 2013 Sounders FC season was not as sudden or dramatic as the 1994 Sonics. But it was equally disappointing from the standpoint of a fan base that was sure, just certain, that their team would at least PLAY for the MLS Cup. But unlike Sonics fans in 1994, who had their hopes dashed in a brutally swift five days, Sounders fans were made to suffer over six long weeks watching the life slowly seep from this team.

Without question it is the worst collapse of a Seattle team since the Sonics blew that two games to none lead two decades ago. What strikes me is how utterly feckless this team was down their miserable home stretch.

When Tim Cahill scored a goal in the 76th minute for the New York Red Bulls on that horrible rainy last Sunday in September to tie the match at one apiece it started a stretch of soccer that from a strictly mathematical perspective seems impossible.

cahill

The Sounders didn’t know it at the time but when Cahill found the back of the net their season had just 771 minutes left. Improbably they would hold the lead in just 115 of those minutes. 85% of the time they played after Cahill’s goal they were either tied or behind. Rooting for them became an exercise in hopelessness. They never seemed to have the lead and indeed almost half the time they were behind.

This was a team that on September 13th had the best record in MLS and with the newly acquired Clint Dempsey seemed poised to deliver a title to their rabid fans. That they didn’t do that is not all that shocking. That’s sports. It’s unpredictability is the major reason we are so passionate about it. But the WAY it ended, this team that looked so powerful at the end of summer taking a long, meek, slide into mediocrity will remain in our minds forever and evoke a question that will be long asked and debated. What in the hell happened?

There’s no answer to that one. There will be no shortage of theories some carrying more weight and common sense than others but in the end this collapse will never be completely explained or understood. It’s too bizarre.

One quick fix idea offered up from many fans is to fire the coach. In that regard this story again draws comparisons to the 1994 Sonics. A huge percentage of fans wanted George Karl’s head in a bowling ball bag after the Nuggets fiasco.  Many Sounders fans want a similar fate for Sigi Schmid.

george

They are not without facts and reason in their argument. But it’s worth remembering that this franchise has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success under Schmid. They haven’t accomplished the ultimate goals fans (and ownership) expect but under Schmid they’ve always been in position to do so. It might make sense to focus on that when considering his future.

Being frustrated with this season’s result is understandable. But sometimes when teams boot out a successful coach they can find it difficult to maintain the success they’ve been enjoying. Not always, mind you, but ask Sonics fans about firing a coach who “can’t get you to the next level.”

They did that with George Karl in 1998. And after they made the playoffs in each of Karl’s seasons as head coach they subsequently missed the post season in six of the next nine years.

Schmid has done enough over five seasons here to earn a chance to fix the first real disaster in his tenure.

BOOK NEWS

A reminder the book is available via the green “order your copy here” link above and to the right on this page.

It’s also available at both Sounders Pro Shop locations and at two great book stores: Page 2 Books in Burien and Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. I’ll be at both of those places on Saturday, November 16 at for selling and signing events. Burien at 1:30pm and Lake Forest Park at 6:30pm.

If you’ve read the book I’d appreciate it if you’d share your thoughts on it by posting a review on Amazon.

About the Author:

Mike Gastineau has been a fixture in the Seattle sports community since his arrival in June of 1991. In a business where loyalty and longevity are rarely used in the same sentence his 21-year career at KJR Radio screams out both. During his time at KJR Gas created the KJR Kares-a-thon, a yearly charity radio show that raised over $1.5 million for various Puget Sound-area charities.

5 Comments

  1. Mark Haroldson November 8, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Good comparison. I am torn on this one. I think Sigi has more than proven he is capable of managing the team through the rigors of the season. He has more than proven to be a master of juggling line ups while playing many different leagues and being successful.

    What stands out to me however is this. in the MLS aggregate round he has one series out of six, During this time his team has never led on the aggregate at home and only led for 15 minutes overall. This tells me what works in the regular season does not translate to the MLS playoffs.

    I think another comparison would be to Don James in the mid 80s; After getting creamed by Alabama in s bowl game he reinvented his offensive and recruiting philosophy that ultimately led to a national championship. I would like to Sigi learn and adapt like this. The organization has proven that it will do what it takes to improve.

    What I want to see? Remember when Sam Perkins stood over a Phoenix player after a dunk in the NBA playoffs in 94 or 95? cant wait for one of those moments, may EJ over Will Johnson..

  2. Tarv November 9, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Damn you for being the voice of reason, Gas!

    I’m just so sick of the “cross and pray” offense that the Sounders have been so fond of for the last 5 years that I can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. It is like a basketball team that lives by the 3; sometimes you can die by it too – and in both if you go cold at the wrong time it will end your season. This team needs to develop some offensive variety/diversity and I’m not sure he’s the guy to foster that.

    I respect your opinion a lot, but I’m not sure I can get on board with it this time. I guess it will be a while before we find out, either way.

  3. Ron Moran November 9, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Gas, yes Sigi has been successful in launching us in our promotion from D2 (USL1) to D1 (MLS). But, your comparison to Karl is WAY off base. George was early in his head coaching career in ’94. Sigi had ten years in MLS prior to coming to Seattle. And, was head coach at UCLA for TWENTY years, before that.
    Before that ’94 debacle, George had led the Sonics to three series wins in two years. Oh, and had an NBA finals appearance stolen from us the year before. Sigi has ONE series win in five years.
    Another major difference is George hadn’t “lost the lockerroom” in ’94. Sigi has.
    Ask Jim Mora what happens to a coach when he loses the respect of his players.
    Sigi wore out his welcome after five years with LA, and was fired, even though he won an MLS Cup. He was a lame duck coach his final year (number 5) in Columbus. He was available to us because the Crew did not offer him a new contract, even after winning the Cup.
    Time for a change. Thank you, Sigi, for three USOC titles. Now it is time for the person who would have been coach in ’09, except for Joe wanting the flashy name. Someone the players like AND respect. Someone who is the embodiment of what being a Sounder is all about. And is already a proven winner: Brian Schmetzer.

  4. Tom November 9, 2013 at 8:56 am

    “Without question it is the worst collapse of a Seattle team since the Sonics blew that two games to none lead two decades ago.”

    Obviously, you are forgetting the 2001 Mariners.

  5. Justin November 9, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that is not willing to give Sigi a pass because he’s had a reasonably amount of success while here. Here’s what I see when I look at Sigi’s accomplishments with the team… 0 Supporter’s Shields, 0 MLS Cups, 0 MLS Western Conference Finals appearances, and a crappy playoff series record. He clearly CANNOT win the big games (The US Open Cup does not count). Rather than make the obvious choices he tries to get cute and ends up looking like a fool (Joseph up top?!?)

    This ending to the season was disgraceful, not just the embarrassment in Portland, but the total collapse down the stretch when WE were in the driver’s seat. I don’t want to hear excuses about injuries or National Team call ups, win the damn games.

    The final nail for me is the way we came out in the second game in Portland… if Mauro and Oba are healthy enough to play, then they should be starting because we needed to score to bring the damn series level. Go chase that goal, and then worry about how you finish the game if they can’t go 90, but to sit them for clearly inferior players is inexcusable in a must win game.

    Sigi’s lost the team, he’s losing the fans, and he should damn well lose his job as a result.

Comments are closed.