Get to Know: Rich Michelson

Every game day as the Seahawks kickoff my wife becomes a widow, and my children fatherless. A transformation will take place and I will become part of a seething monolithic collective hive mind. No I am not being assimilated into the Borg Collective. Instead I will don my Seahawks 12th Man garb, and ignore the outside world for the next three-and-a-half hours. I am the Seattle fan; I am the Ex-Pat.

Eight years ago when I agreed to move from Seattle to the Salt Lake City, Utah area with my wife, I knew that there would be sacrifices of certain things; time with my family, time with friends, and snow days for half an inch of snow. I also lost most of my direct connection with the Seattle sports scene. How does a Seahawks fan survive behind enemy lines you ask? Well the answer is very carefully. To be fair, Salt Lake City is not really enemy territory; it’s Broncos/Raiders/Cardinals/49ers/Chargers/Packers/Steelers territory. Today I still read the Seattle Times, and the Seattle P-I (R.I.P.) blog, USS Mariner, and Lookout Landing, and the occasional national sports story, when I need my Seattle sports fix. However I am not really connected. I can’t go out on the street and get that Seattle vibe. Not like when my best friend and I used to hop a bus to the Kingdome for a Mariners game, ride my bike on the Burke-Gilman to a Huskies game in the damp cold, or have my ears nearly bleed from the echoing roars in The Clink (Seahawks Stadium to me).

Since Salt Lake City is a kind of professional sports no-man’s-land/DMZ there is an uneasy tension in the sports fans here. I have a handful of 12’s out here. However many 12’s are loyal to the Seahawks, but root for the Jazz, BYU, University of Utah, or even Nebraska. There are also lots of Mariners fans that are loyal to other NFL teams. Regardless of the level of loyalty to the Seattle sports milieu, all Seattle sports fans are well acquainted with sporting grief.

Being a Seattle sports fan, I am used to loss. When you grow up in Seattle in the 1980s and love sports, you get used to losing. There was not a dominant team for me to root for in the mid-eighties. Basically Seattle lost all of its big time sports mojo in 1984. Now I understand for your history buffs out there that there that there were a few Seahawks and Supersonics’ playoff games after 1984, but there were no games of significance until the 1991 Rose Bowl Game.

Seattleites have endured loads of sports loss (I would say second only to Boston sports fans until they started winning everything in 2001 after the Patriots shocked the Rams). We have lost the two sports franchises to other cities only to see them to achieve greatness and go to the championship only a few years later (1982 Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers and 2012 -2013 Oklahoma City Thunder/Seattle SuperSonics). The University of Washington Huskies football teams were the bad boys of the PAC-10 in the early nineties, winning Rose Bowls with passion and an utter disregard for the overly sensitive feeling of the other member of the league. The PAC-10 (NOT the NCAA) leveled sanctions on the Huskies that would make any of the violators in today’s NCAA become apoplectic with rage. Check out the sanctions here. Other cities seem to apply a “bad boy” image to our winning and successful sports programs whether professional or amateur. For whatever reason the national press loves to hate on Seattle sports teams when we are successful.

Now lets be honest, this is not a New York Yankees situation. Seattle just doesn’t have a very rich tradition of sporting success. We have had moments of success, but no extended sports dominance with the exception of three straight Rose Bowl berths by Washington 1990-1992, and the brief playoff run by the Mariner from 1995-2001. This run by the Seahawks could turn into much more. We could be on the cusp of a run of sports dominance. The Seahawks are the class of the NFC for a second straight year. The Sounders were the Supporter’s Shield Winners and the US Open Cup Champions again. The Mariners may be very improved this year. They could top the American League (don’t believe me? Click here). Finally we have two different Seattle based basketball ownership groups attempting to bring the NBA back to Seattle.

With all that being said, I am from Seattle; we have to have our share of misery and loss. When we do lose, the whole city seems to implode. When our communal sports expectations are inflated or expectant (think UW Huskies post-Rose Bowl, Seattle Mariners 2001-2004) we set ourselves up for the heartbreak of misery and loss. So much of who we are as Seattle sports fans hangs on the success of the Seahawks.

Our city’s collective sense of loss affects our sports fandom. My theory for why The Clink is the loudest place in the world on game day is that we have this collective sense of loss that brings out a feral fandom from the depths of our souls. My wife thinks it the long grey winters that brings out the animal in us. It could be one or both; I’ll leave that you, the reader to decide. Meanwhile, game day draws near, as does my transformation into one of the 12’s. Come one, come all to the Clink; do The Wave like its 1985! Let the raucous party begin.

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