Sports

SIDELINES: Is this the start of a 'Golden Age' in Seattle professional sports?

Seattle Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson
Seattle Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson's low salary is allowing the team to be a big-time player in the free agent and trade markets this offseason. The Seahawks have already traded for Percy Harvin and signed Cliff Avril.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

It’s really nice to be a Seattle sports fan right now. Really nice.

And that’s saying a lot. As a lifelong resident of South King County and a lifelong sports fan, I have witnessed only one professional world championship, of which I honestly have no recollection.

I was just a toddler back in 1979 and could have cared less about Gus Williams, “Downtown” Freddie Brown and Jack Sikma during the Seattle SuperSonics’ championship season.

What has followed has been a 34-year-old championship streak dryer than the Sahara Desert in the rain-soaked Pacific Northwest.

But it looks like Seattle’s downtrodden period of titles could be getting a little brighter. I can officially see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it feels unbelievable.

Everything seems to be coming together for Seattle’s current professional franchises — the Mariners and Seahawks — and it looks like the SuperSonics will be back next fall after Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer reached an agreement to buy the Sacramento Kings.

Don’t break out the champagne just yet, but I will admit that I have a bottle of the finest stuff in the fridge. A guy can dream, can’t he?

The Seahawks seem to be the closest team to ending the 34-year title drought. They advanced into the NFC Divisional Round before losing a heart-breaker to the Atlanta Falcons.

The disappointing ending last season seems to be a motivating factor for the players as well as the fans. The Seahawks’ front office made a huge move earlier this week by trading for Minnesota Vikings playmaker Percy Harvin, which immediately made Seattle the favorite to win the Super Bowl, according to Las Vegas.

The Seahawks are in a unique position to make a run at a championship in the next couple of seasons, thanks to the emergence of quarterback Russell Wilson.

Unlike other contenders, the Seahawks aren’t paying their “franchise quarterback” a big-time salary. Wilson, as a third-round draft pick last season, makes by far the least amount of money for a starting QB in the entire NFL. He inked a three-year contract last season for “just” $2.99 million.

Contenders like the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers have quarterbacks that count $13.5 million or more against the salary cap.

What that means is the Seahawks can spend money under the salary cap at other positions. Wilson’s low cap number allowed the team to make the trade for Harvin and sign defensive end Cliff Avril Wednesday, who was thought by many to be the best available free agent in the NFL. It also allows the Seahawks to basically keep all their essential players from a season ago, including Marshawn Lynch, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman.

Things are also looking up for the Mariners, who have been getting kicked around since making their last playoff appearance back in 2001. During spring training, the M’s have actually been looking like a team that can make some noise.

Yes, it’s spring training, but that doesn’t mean these games are meaningless. With the Mariners, you have to look for any little improvement — even if it comes when games don’t count — with optimism.

For the last decade, the Mariners’ offense has been anemic, at best. But this season, the team has the players who can put numbers up on the scoreboard.

The additions of offensive threats like Mike Morse, Kendrys Morales, Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez and the development of guys like Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders should produce some runs for the Mariners’ solid pitching staff, led by Felix Hernandez.

The news is also encouraging in regards to the Sonics’ return to Seattle. On Monday, Chris Hansen broke more than a month of silence to announce he is launching a priority waiting list for future tickets.

The head guy in a group that reached an agreement to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to KeyArena before next season released a statement, which said, “in addition to helping us understand and prioritize the demand for tickets, registering your interest will be a critical step in demonstrating to the NBA and basketball fans around the country the unbelievable passion that exists in the Emerald City to BRING BACK OUR SONICS!”

The sale and relocation to Seattle must still be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors when it meets April 18-19 in New York. The team would play at KeyArena for at least the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons while a new arena in the Sodo District is constructed.

Soak it up, Seattle, because this could be the beginning of a golden age of professional sports in the region. The Seahawks are a legitimate Super Bowl contender and maybe even the favorite, the Mariners seem to be an markedly improved squad, and it looks like NBA basketball is on its way back.

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