Not every sports fan is a straight man, and not every straight man is a sports fan. But Seattle—our love for fleece and Dennis Kucinich notwithstanding—is a sports town. Find me another city with two 70,000-seat football stadiums within five miles of each other.
So if you're faced with an aggressively straight male Seattleite, like your s.o.'s dad or the guy who changes your oil, gay or straight, male or female, you're gonna wanna be able to keep up your end of the conversation.
If baseball were music, the Seattle Mariners would be a country song. One of only five teams never to have made the World Series, the Mariners (aka "the Ms") kicked off their existence with 14 straight losing seasons. Recently they set a new low for a contending team by losing 15 of 17 games in the middle of a pennant race. Their best player, Ichiro (just Ichiro), is a preternaturally talented hitter recruited from Japan, where he's a huge celebrity and hosts a talk show in the off-season.
Always Mention: "Edgar's Double." This two-bagger by fan favorite Edgar Martinez beat the Yankees in a 1995 playoff series.
Never Mention: "The Heathcliff Slocumb Trade." The Ms acquired this washed-up reliever from Boston for two players who later starred on the 2004 World Series–winning Red Sox.
The Seahawks (aka "the Hawks") are the best run and most successful major pro sports team in the city—they're also the only locally owned pro team. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (Elizabeth's brother-in-law) gets the headlines and commercial spots, but in-the-know Hawks fans recognize offensive lineman Walter Jones as the team's best player. Jones trains in the off-season by pushing an Escalade up the driveway of his Alabama home.
Always Mention: "The Paul Skansi Game." The Hawks pulled out a 1990 win in chilly Kansas City when former UW star Skansi caught a desperation pass in the end zone as time expired.
Never Mention: "The Super Bowl Refs." Several dubious calls in the 2006 Super Bowl overturned Seahawks' touchdowns. Rabid fans insist the game was fixed.
The SuperSonics (aka "the Sonics" or "the Supes") were sold last year to a consortium of Oklahoma City businessmen who say they'll move the team there unless someone builds them a $500 million arena here. This could've been cyanide time for local Supes fans—except for Kevin Durant. Durant, the only freshman in history to win college player of the year, was the Supes' first-round draft pick this summer, and begins his NBA career here in November.
Always Mention: "1979." That was the year the Sonics won the NBA Championship, the last major pro sports championship for a Seattle team. (Aside to Seattle Storm fans: the WNBA is not a major pro sport. Yet! Fingers crossed!)
Never Mention: "Oklahoma City."
University of Washington Football
With the University of Washington smack dab in the middle of the city, college sports are more important in Seattle than most other big cities. Historically, the football Huskies (aka "the Dawgs") have been the jewel of the athletic department, but they've stunk the past few years. That's started to change thanks in part to Jake Locker (aka "the Savior"), a teenage quarterback who's got both eye-popping athleticism and guy-you'd-bring-home-to-Mom appeal.
Always Mention: "The Whammy in Miami." The Dawgs upset the University of Miami in 1994, breaking the Hurricanes' record 58-game home winning streak.
Never Mention: "Barbara Hedges." Dawgs fans blame the former athletic director for legendary coach Don James's abrupt resignation and for the football program's recent slump.
University of Washington Basketball
Husky basketball has always been the mousy little sister to the football program, but recently it has grown out its hair, been fitted for contacts, and sprung for a pair of Seven jeans. Coach Lorenzo Romar woos some of the nation's top recruits to Washington, and the team has been to the NCAA tournament three of the past four years.
Always Mention: "The #1 Seed." In 2005, the Huskies went 29–6 and earned a coveted #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Never Mention: "The UConn Game." There are actually two UConn games—one in 1998, one in 2006. In both games UConn eliminated UW from the NCAA tournament with last-second shots.
Other local teams are the Seattle Storm of the WNBA, the minor league hockey Seattle Thunderbirds, the minor league soccer Seattle Sounders, and, if roller derby's a sport, the Rat City Rollergirls. Each has a base of about 2,000 hardcore fans.
Take note, New Yorkers, Bostonians, Chicagoans—attending a game in Seattle is not what you're used to. Boisterous behavior, fighting, and drunkenness, as natural as peanuts and Cracker Jack in your stadiums, are frowned upon here. Even booing is looked at askance. The tradeoff is that Seattle has five of the best sports venues in the country.
We get nine months of rain here, so when it's nice, being outside is a mental imperative. Yet for more than 20 years, the Mariners played their summers within a concrete dungeon called the Kingdome. When Safeco opened in 1999, baseball became a civic celebration. Many fans never take their seats, preferring to roam the open concourses or hang out in the bar just beyond the centerfield fence—which may be Seattle's most fertile pickup zone.
One of the loudest places you will ever be. The crowd at Qwest Field once induced 11 false-start penalties from an opposing team—they couldn't hear their quarterback's snap count. This is the most rowdy sports crowd you'll find in the Pacific Northwest. If you enjoy whistling at high volumes and screaming "faggot" at people, you'll fit right in—but not if you like to brawl. The spontaneous fights common at most NFL stadiums (Philly has an underground court on-site to punish people) aren't common at Qwest.
With room for only 17,000 fans, the Key is the smallest arena in the NBA. That's bad news for team owners, who say they'll move if this relic from the 1962 World's Fair isn't replaced, but it's great for fans, who can't help but have a good seat.
Husky Stadium—UW Football
With Lake Washington gleaming just beyond the east end zone, this is the prettiest place to watch sports anywhere. The profanity and homophobia on parade at Qwest doesn't happen here. Those who attend Husky games are mostly alumni who believe in good tackling and sobriety.
Hec Ed Pavilion—UW Basketball
It's officially called "Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion," but everyone calls this 80-year-old, 10,000-seat arena "Hec Ed." Now that the team's better, so are the fans, especially the rowdy student section. Students call it "Romarville" after the Huskies' coach.
Local legend Niehaus called the first Ms game in 1977, and 31 seasons later he's still at it. A master at heightening the tension of late-inning baseball drama, Niehaus was for many years the only good part about being a Mariners fan.
Calabro's booming baritone has been the sound of Sonics basketball for 20 years. His extemporaneous, joyous dunk descriptions should take on a new dimension with the arrival of Kevin Durant.
Raible, a good-looking former Seahawks player, began his career as a part-time sportscaster after retiring from football. He became the full-time sportscaster when execs noticed that female audiences responded better to Raible than to overweight, bearded Wayne Cody (or, as my stepmom called him, "that fat guy on TV").
Bob Rondeau—Husky Football
Long ago, the sports broadcasting association decided that it was okay for college announcers to be homers, and Rondeau is no different. After I flip him on, I can tell within seconds whether the Dawgs are winning or losing.
The Apple Cup—University of
Washington vs. Washington State University
If you see a statistically improbable amount of crimson and purple showing up in your coworkers' wardrobes in late November, it's not (as it might well be) a symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Your workmates are simply displaying their sympathies in the annual football game between Washington's two largest universities. Washington State (crimson), located in Pullman, usually loses to the big-city Huskies (purple) in this game, which will be played for the 100th time this year.
Franklin High School vs. Garfield High School
True local hoops fans don't miss this game between two perennial inner-city basketball powerhouses, even at the cost of connubial tranquility. The 2005 game at Garfield fell on Valentine's Day, but happily married Husky basketball coach Lorenzo Romar was there anyway. A win in this game means neighborhood bragging rights for the rest of your life.