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Updated Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 12:37 PM

Credit Seahawks, Wilson for saving Seattle's sports year

By Steve Kelley
Seattle Times staff columnist

Since the Seahawks opened training camp last July, Russell Wilson has played and acted like a super hero. A scrambling James Bond. Batman with a rifle arm. As imperturbably cool as Bruce Willis in Die Hard.

Wilson has been the sports story of the year in Seattle. The third-round draft pick has been a prodigy, who has baffled NFL defenses in the pocket, out of the pocket, on land and in the air.

Looking back on 2012, it almost feels like sports in Seattle didn't really begin until mid-summer when the Seahawks reported to camp and Wilson started playing quarterback.

The Hawks made most of the headlines. They created all of the hope.

The Mariners, for instance, didn't sign any of the available power hitting free agents and finished last again in the AL West.

(Let's pause here to give thanks to Felix Hernandez, whose perfect game against Tampa Bay in a sun-soaked Safeco Field was the single-most thrilling moment of the year.

(The Mariners also combined on a quirky six-pitcher no hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers and were the victims of a perfect game pitched by, what was his name again, oh yeah, Philip Humber.)

But the year without the Seahawks would have been disastrous.

The University of Washington basketball team won the Pac-12 regular season, but lost to Oregon State in the first round of the conference tournament and wasn't invited to the NCAA tournament. Then it lost Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten to the NBA and now the Huskies are struggling to find an identity.

Consecutive losses to Washington State and Boise State tainted the Husky football season like a Richard Sherman drug test. Quarterback Keith Price had a disappointing year, and the Huskies again finished with seven wins.

The quarterback position should be opened to competition in the spring, and next season feels like the most important year in Steve Sarkisian's coaching career.

The Storm, playing its pre-Olympic schedule without Australian Olympian Lauren Jackson, got off to a stumbling start and never quite recovered.

Only the Sounders gave us any pre-Seahawks hope. The trade for Eddie Johnson delivered the dependable goal-scoring striker they lacked the first three years of their history.

They won their first-ever playoff series, beating Real Salt Lake, but they finished the season cup-less, losing to Sporting K.C. in their attempt for a fourth straight U.S. Open Cup and losing to the L.A. Galaxy one game short of the MLS Cup.

The Seahawks saved the year.

You want drama? How about Wilson's Hail Mary pass and Golden Tate's whodunit reception that beat Green Bay and ended the league's cynical lockout of the officials?

How about Wilson's fourth quarter against New England and the defense's late-game stand against the Patriots' Tom Brady?

Wilson has owned the fourth quarter this season. Just ask the Chicago Bears. That win earlier this month, set the stage for the 150-point avalanche we've witnessed the past three weekends.

The Hawks expected to win games with their defense and figured they could make the playoffs if their rookie quarterback limited his mistakes.

Remember that? Now the Seahawks are a complete team and the sexy pick to make it to the Super Bowl.

Last week, a tainted drug test saved cornerback Sherman from a four-game suspension. At the end of 2012, the Seahawks' cup runneth over.

There were other victories to celebrate. Chris Hansen beat the odds and the pressure from the Port of Seattle and the local baseball nine and got his SoDo arena deal through both the city and King County councils.

But now we play the waiting game. Waiting for the shovels to get in the ground and waiting for the NBA to make a decision on the woeful Sacramento Kings and their owners, the Maloofs. After all, who else is out there? Atlanta? Doubtful. Expansion, sometime around 2016? Yikes!

Bremerton's Nathan Adrian won two swimming gold medals and a silver in the London Olympics. Former Washington keeper Hope Solo was remarkable as the U.S. won the Olympic soccer tournament. (Sorry, we've declared a moratorium on jokes about her recent marriage to former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens.)

And Storm point guard Sue Bird won her third Olympic gold, establishing herself as one of the greatest winners of all-time.

Now back to the Mariners.

It's been a curious offseason. It's almost as if the M's are considering changing their name to the DH's or the Fighting First Basemen. They have an abundance of both.

Maybe they're going to become the first team to play with two designated hitters and only eight position players. Brendan Ryan is an amazing infielder, but I'm not sure he can cover all of the left side of the infield.

As we head into 2013, we wait for them to make one more move that might offer hope for the coming season. Another deal is coming. But next year still looks like another season-in-waiting.

Waiting for Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and Mike Zunino and waiting for the young arms that still are at least a half year away. The seat underneath general manager Jack Zduriencik should be getting warm.

Because of the Seahawks, 2012 is just starting to get interesting. This December has been the best month in this town in seven years. Can we have another 31 days?

This has been the Year of the Wilson, and just maybe the harbinger of better years to come.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com


JOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Seattle was awarded a TD on this throw to Golden Tate (81) on the final play to beat the Packers.




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