Connelly: High time we celebrate the Storm like the Seahawks
On Sunday afternoon, as the Seattle Storm won a thriller and the Seattle Seahawks lost their opener, Seattle public affairs executive Roger Nyhus asked a provocative question on his Facebook page:
"WHY AREN'T WE CELEBRATING THE STORM THE SAME WAY WE'D CELEBRATE THE SEAHAWKS OR SOUNDERS?"
Damned cogent question, especially in that there was lots of celebrating going on down at Key Arena.
Musician Eddie Vedder was shouting his lungs out at court side. Mayor Jenny Durkan was "giving the ref hell for some bad calls" in words of amused Seattle activist Derek Richards.
"The WNBA plays such a more interesting brand of basketball than the NBA -- less star focused, less one-on-one, more execution on team fundamentals = more excitement," said Seattle attorney John Zilavy, who was in attendance with family at Sunday's game, in a Facebook comment.
Yet, as both games were going on, veteran Seattle journalist/editor Scott Sunde went for walk. He could hear TVs, went by a sports bar, heard cheers and even an airhorn. "It was all Seahawks," he commented Monday on Facebook. "Perhaps a championship will change that."
Seattle is a sometimes fanatical, sometimes fickle sports town. We fix on winners -- "Refuse to Lose" with the 2001 Mariners, "Legion of Boom" with the Seahawks -- but have a tendency to bail when luck runs out. None of the tribal loyalty shown at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field during long losing seasons.
Just as we pioneered craft breweries, we've perfected sports with a fervent following, but short of football.
"Judging by reader interest and clicks, the Seahawks and Mariners are more popular," Sunde went on in his Monday comment. "The Sounders are popular but in a limited way . . . The Storm fit in there. Great fans, great interest, but a limited market . . .
"The team is great and beloved. However, the readership numbers -- I've looked at them online for nearly 10 years-- show which team has the greatest following.""
Some Storm fans are impatient at this.
"Even after the Storm first won the championship, local print reporters and broadcast sports reporters consistently overlooked them as national champs -- especially when reporting about our other pro teams as if the Seahawks and Mariners were the ONLY teams that mattered to Seattle fans," Pam Eakes, a prominent Democratic activist, wrote on Monday.
Dan Pike, a former Bellingham mayor, watched the Storm on television and opined: "Better entertainment than 99 percent of sports that have been served up by the networks over the years."
What can expand that fervent base?
Winning, especially when the men don't. Remember, there have been seasons when the University of Washington women's basketball team was sometimes outdrawing its male counterpart. I watched a Seattle newspaper publisher get as fiery at one game as Durkan on Sunday afternoon.
I'm a Notre Dame alumnus. Our athletic heroes have fingernails painted green. Domers have gotten used to the men's team tanking early in the NCAA tournament, while the women's team goes on to reach the Final Four . . . and once won it all. As I recall, a rich alum has endowed the salary of Coach Muffet McGraw.
The Storm already have another cachet: They treat their following well, and do their bit for sisterhood. Part of the proceeds from a game last year went to Planned Parenthood, at a time when the Trump administration was attacking its funding.
"Their engagement with their fans and the promotion of women and girls -- they are more than just a sports team, they are a movement," State Rep. Joan McBride wrote on Facebook Monday.
But, in words of veteran Seattle writer John Douglas Marshall, "Women's basketball will always be a tough sell to some men, although whether they have actually watched a women's basketball game, especially in person, is an open question."
The guys ought to answer it, in fact sports fans of both genders.
"The one game I attended, they were a joy to watch: Sue Bird is incredible," Mike Barer, a store manager out at Crossroads, wrote on Facebook Monday.
Or as related by season ticket holder Denny Fleenor: "A friend and fellow fan told me of a woman who resisted going to a Storm game because she didn't want to watch 'inferior basketball.' Then she went to a game and is now a season ticket holder."
Derek Richards is a Sounders, and a Storm, and a Seahawks fan. Buoyed by the crowd for Sunday's game, he is looking forward to a renovated Key Arena with more space and amenities for fans.
Storm fans were able to wake up Monday morning to "Morning Edition" on KNKX, which broadcast the deciding money in the Storm's 75-73 victory over the Washington Mystics.
So, time to prepare ourselves for another Seattle sports championship, and tune in a bit of basketball history.
"WNBA is an actual team sport, unlike NBA with its hot shots, and I have yet to see an article reviving memories of the last time Seattle and Washington, D.C. fought for a championship -- Sonics vs. Bullets," said State Sen. Sam Hunt.
You have now.