Consider the Seattle Mariners. As a child I often went to see the lowly Mariners play in the Kingdome, led by future non-Hall-of-Fame “stars” like Alvin Davis and Harold Reynolds. Usually the M’s lost, and even if they won, you still had to spend a few hours in the dreary concrete Kingdome, the major league ballpark that most closely resembled an airport parking garage. Only the arrival of Ken Griffey Jr. and one well-timed double by Edgar Martinez saved the team from a mid-’90s move to Tampa. Six years later, the team was a legitimate contender, winning a record-tying 116 games and briefly making believers out of fans—until they lost the pennant in five games to the New York Yankees. Even more demoralizing for Seattle fans: The series was held a month after Sept. 11, 2001. For the only time in history, America was actually cheering for the Yankees.
The Seahawks finally made it to the Super Bowl in 2006, their 30th season in the league, only to lose to the Steelers on account of some forehead-poundingly iffy officiating. (Years later, the ref apologized for those bad calls. Thanks, we appreciate that.) The Sonics flirted with greatness from time to time after that 1979 championship, but lost in the NBA Finals in 1996 to a 72–10 Bulls team. The team is now situated for fantastic long-term success … in Oklahoma City. The NBA allowed the move in 2008, while refusing to OK a similar deal to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle five years later. The sports gods are capricious, especially when they are David Stern.