Friday, August 23, 2013
SEATTLE — Ivor Sachs flashed tickets to the next Sounders FC match, the Huskies’ opener at renovated Husky Stadium and the Seahawks’ home opener as if he were revealing a winning poker hand.
“Better than gold,” the 68-year-old director of sales at a Seattle seafood company said, smiling. “This is like a treasure chest. I waited over 40 years to watch the three major teams I love play games that really mean something.
“These tickets are hard to get. There’s people on eBay selling them for thousands of dollars. I’m one of the lucky ones who has all three.”
Owing to a whopper of a scheduling quirk, a three-week stretch in Seattle will be like no other as the city braces for three monumental games.
This is going to be good. No, better than good.
After a season filled with disappointments on the field — the Mariners — and off the field — Chris Hansen’s failed attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings — it’s time for three sports spectacles.
Three teams. Three passionate fan bases. Each match or game is a sellout or nearly sold out. Each contest will draw national attention to Seattle and perhaps restore the city’s reputation as a bona fide sports town.
The three-week thrill ride begins Sunday night when Sounders FC plays Cascadia Cup rival Portland. Seattle, which has led Major League Soccer (MLS) in attendance in each of its four seasons, sold out 67,000-seat capacity CenturyLink Field.
It’ll be the second-largest crowd in MLS history. Adding to the excitement, Clint Dempsey, the U.S. men’s national team captain, will make his much-anticipated home debut for the rave green in front of an ESPN2 audience.
Six days later on Aug. 31, Washington reopens Husky Stadium, which underwent a $280 million makeover. The Huskies face 19th-ranked Boise State under the lights at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 in a rematch of last year’s 28-26 defeat in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.
Then the attention shifts to the Seahawks’ Sept. 15 home opener against rival San Francisco on national-network television. Aside from that game’s possible Super Bowl implications, Seahawks fans will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for stadium noise.
Anthony Beyrouti described Seattle’s run of games “the perfect storm.”
“Every big game is happening at the same time, which is extremely rare,” said the president and CEO of Venue Kings, a ticket-distributing company based in Vancouver, B.C. “You can probably compare it to Boston when Boston had the Red Sox winning, the Patriots winning and the Bruins winning and the Celtics winning.
“But those are over the course of a year. Here you’re looking at the Sounders one week. The Washington Huskies one week and Seahawks one week. Bam! Bam! Bam! There’s nothing to compare it to in Seattle because it’s never been like this.”
Beyrouti admits business is good these days because the demand for tickets is intense.
At Venue Kings, the 11-year-old company lists 50-yard-line tickets for the Seahawks’ home opener at $900 each. A similar seat is selling for $350 for the Huskies opener and $200 for the Sounders-Portland match.
“Realistically you can’t get a greater three-week period in Seattle, especially with no basketball, and baseball not doing anything,” Beyrouti said. “To have those three sports going off like that is pretty incredible.”
For fans like Nick Gurney, a 26-year-old Burien software programmer, the three games represent Seattle at its best. Each team has its traditions and quirky customs that make it special, he said.
On Washington football, he says, “It’s the full-day event. The way my family and I do it, we get on one of the buffet boats. Drink a lot of beer. Eat a lot of good food. Take the boat all the way to the stadium and then after the game walk through UW campus and just enjoy it.”
On the Seahawks: “It’s that pounding in your chest. The atmosphere at a Sounders game is better, but it just gives you chills at a Seahawks game. It’s something everyone should do once if they live in Seattle. Go to a Seahawks game. Drink a couple of beers. Have a couple of Seattle dogs and just take it all in. It’s just amazing.”
On the Sounders: “It’s that heritage. I’ve been going to it since high school, before the MLS. It’s being with all of the old-school friends. Doing the March to the Match. Drinking some beers with buddies. Starting my day at noon and ending it at midnight. Having a crazy day and doing it with family.”
You’d be hard pressed to find a three-week period in Seattle history that drew more than 200,000 fans to three sporting events.
On Oct. 7, 1995, the 23rd-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish scored two touchdowns in the final 1 minute, 24 seconds to upset No. 15 Washington 29-21 and stun a sold-out Husky Stadium crowd into silence. Later that night across town, 57,180 fans at the Kingdome roared as the Mariners toppled the New York Yankees, 11-8, to even the American League Division Series at two games apiece and set up the M’s dramatic series-clinching win the next day.
Almost a month later, the Sonics throttled the Los Angeles Lakers in front of 17,102 at KeyArena in the second game of a season that ended in the NBA Finals.
“Since I’ve been here, that 1995-96 year is the best it’s ever been in terms of multiple teams experiencing success,” said Mike Gastineau, a radio personally and author of “Authentic Masterpiece,” which depicts the launch of the Sounders. “It’s been few and far between that we’ve had a stretch like this, which says a lot about the state of sports around here the past few decades.”
Considering a Forbes article last month that ranked Seattle No. 1 on its list of the most miserable sports cities, you wonder if the next three weeks can change Seattle’s sagging reputation.
“This is going to be — when you put the three games together — a nine-hour infomercial for how great this city is and what a great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to visit,” Gastineau said. “And with the weather we’ve had. If it stays good, this city looks so good on TV.
“It’s one of those things that sports does that the naysayers tend to overlook. This is an unbelievable bonanza for free advertising for how great Seattle is.”
Sounds wonderful. Unless it rains.