August 7th, 2022, Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, Washington.. somewhere right around noontime.
I was sitting in my lower level seat next to my darling wife who is a GIGANTIC Seattle Storm fan as we were basking amongst the sold out crowd there to watch one of the most iconic Seattle sports legends play her final regular season game. It was an awesome experience seeing the love pouring out from fans in the seats, and former teammates and coaches, and other superstar athletes who have appreciated her greatness over the years through a video montage.
Sue Bird will go down as one of the greatest legends in Seattle sports history. If you are of the ilk who feels the compulsion to state that nobody cares about the WNBA, you are likely a fractured man with a frail sense of your own masculinity. It is that simple.
In Seattle, Washington, the Storm have a strong following, perhaps the biggest following of any WNBA team. No, they aren’t the Seahawks, or Sounders, or the Mariners as of late in terms of crowd size, but this town has plenty of fans of women’s basketball.
I have been to many Storm games over the years. I see Seahawk players regularly there, and former Sonic players hanging out court side, as well. I have regularly seen fans there wearing old Sonic jerseys who probably have adopted the Storm after the Sonics were stolen away from them (such is my story).
Of course, I have seen thousands of women of all age ranges there to support the finest women basketball players on the planet because they probably see girl power as a positive thing. Go figure that.
So, when I see some dude on the internet actually reply that nobody cares about the WNBA, I just kinda feel sorry for them. Finding comfort in their own masculinity must be fleeting.
But I have digressed severely from the original direction I was going with this piece.
Sue Bird is an astoundingly successful athlete who should be viewed as the GOAT of her sport once she is officially finished. She is one of the very best point guards I have ever seen play, and I have seen a lot of Gary Payton and John Stockton over the years. Her no-look passes are pure Jedi, and her abilities to take over games where her team needed her most are breathtaking to watch.
In 21 years of basketball in Seattle, she has won four titles. Additionally, she has won five Olympic gold metals. She has played longer on a Seattle team than anyone else ever has. She played longer than Steve Largent, Walter Jones, and Edgar Martinez.
She started her career as a Seattle Storm and she ended her career as one. That’s probably the most special thing about her, for me as a Seattle sports fan.
And it wasn’t all wine and roses for her, either. In between championships, she had legitimate down years with this club, and injured seasons, as she weathered through the ebbs and flows with this sport. In those periods of her career, she never looked for an opportunity to leave when the going got tough, and believe me, she would have had her pick of any WNBA team to go play for.
She could have gone home to New York, and she probably could have furthered her brand there, and became a bigger star on the national scene. She could have gone to LA and that would have easily opened doors for herself in the entertainment industry with her bursting personality.
Instead, she stayed in Alaska South, and waited for the Storm to build it up again to bring home a third and fourth ring.
So, when I sat there in the sold out arena, and I watched this very special celebration of her, and I saw Russell Wilson pop onto the Jumbotron, and I heard all the boos, if I am to be honest, I didn’t feel an ounce of badness about it. Not a bit of it, and I say thing having been as big of a Russell Wilson fan as any over the years.
This situation was about her, and her greatness. Storm fans were there to celebrate her, and not watch the dude who very passive aggressively worked a trade for himself out of town for the past year and a half.
Russell Wilson is many things for Seattle. He was a great quarterback in his prime, and he was a huge part of our city’s Super Bowl win. His play on the field was often times spectacular to watch. None of this can ever take that away from him, and I believe what he did for Seattle Children’s Hospital was even greater than anything he ever did on the field.
Having said all that, I believe there is this whole other side of Russ that runs very counter to all of that. His self promoting style is very hard to swallow as a fan, and I suspect some Denver fans are going to grow tired of that in a hurry, especially if he doesn’t prove to be the savior for their club like many are projecting. I think his desire to be the center of attention, and the entourage he rolls with probably makes him a challenging teammate, and maybe even more challenging to coach.
Russell Wilson is a diva, and the thing is, I think he’s likely always been one, long before he ever met and married Ciara. I think his marriage to Ciara is just a natural progression in his life, as I think being a Denver Bronco is after growing dissatisfied with the Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson is fueled by an intense ambition. He’s hard wired with it, and it has lead to to achieve great things, but ambition is a double edged sword that comes with a cost.
His intense ambition led him to eventually wanting to get as far away from Pete Carroll’s style as he could. As a fan of both individuals, I think that’s sad, really.
In 2012, Pete Carroll went against his preferences at quarterback, and went with an unproven 5-10 quarterback to lead his team. All of Carroll’s quarterbacks were taller pocket passers, but Pete saw something special in him that he felt was worth riding with.
Many Russell Wilson fans say Pete Carroll held him back. I say Pete Carroll gave him a legitimate chance to be an NFL starter where most other head coaches probably would have viewed him as a plucky backup. If not for Pete, there likely would not have been this Russell Wilson story such as this one.
And people who are deeply fans of Russell Wilson can point to Pete holding him back in the last few years in Seattle, but do they ever consider that maybe Pete knew more about what Russ can and can’t do than they do? That maybe Pete knew exactly which style of offense gave Russ the best chance to succeed?
It’s going to be interesting to see what Russell does in Denver over the next few years. I can see him doing great things, but I can also see him struggling. We shall see soon enough.
One thing that we will never see from Russ, though, is anything close to having the legacy in Seattle that Sue Bird will own forever. There will likely be a statue of Sue Bird outside of the Pledge Arena. I highly doubt that there will ever be a statue of Russ outside of Lumen Field.
That said, I suspect, over the years, Russ will be thought of kindly by most Seattle fans again, but right now, I don’t personally blame anyone who can’t resist the urge to boo him. I don’t think that makes them trash. I think it makes them passionate Seattle fans who didn’t like how he and his agent worked their way to Denver by trashing Pete Carroll and teammates in a back channel way to the likes of Colin Cowherd, and such.
Sue Bird would never have done that, and didn’t do that. I’m sure there were times in the span of twenty one years where she wasn’t in love with Seattle’s coaching, or maybe felt the front office didn’t make enough of the right kind of moves to surround her with better talent.
Sue Bird’s greatness isn’t just what she did on the court. It was who and what she was off of it that made her what she is, and how she will always be thought of by everyone who played with her, and coached her.
Can anyone ever say the same about Russell Wilson?
I don’t think anyone outside of Colin Cowherd and Russell’s agent can with any honesty.
If I had one wish for Russell Wilson while he was here in Seattle, it would have been for some trusted individual close to him to point to Sue, and convince him to truly be more like her. I think it would have made his legacy greater, and maybe he would still be here.
I am sure he meant well wishing Sue the best in that video montage. I believe he’s a genuine fan of hers, but also I think he has earned some boos at Climate Pledge from anyone who was feeling it in that moment.
I also think that it is absolutely poised to be a wild home opener at Lumen Field in a month. I will be very curious to see how he is greeted. My guess is that it will be a mixture, and I think that is completely reasonable response from the Twelves.
Cheer him, if you are feeling it. Boo him, if you need to do it. It’s all a process.
As for Sue, you keep doing you, girl.