49ers Jim Harbaugh ranks among the opponents we love to hate
Seahawks fans love to hate San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Where does Harbaugh fit among Seattle’s most hated opponents? Here’s a list of 10 others Seattle fans weren’t crazy about.
Seattle Times staff reporter
He’s not Jim Harbaugh in Seattle. He’s Jim Har-BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
The San Francisco 49ers’ coach has quickly become the man Seahawks fans love to hate more than any other. For one, he coaches the team that might be the biggest roadblock to Seattle’s Super Bowl dreams. Then there’s his demeanor, ranging from cranky to irritated and everything in-between.
There’s also his long-running feud with Pete Carroll. In his fourth year coaching the Seahawks, and having the team that appears poised for huge success, Carroll seems like a true Seattleite. That makes his enemies Seattle’s enemies.
So yes, expect Harbaugh to hear some boos (and a few other things) when the 49ers come to CenturyLink Field Sunday night for a game that ranks among the most highly anticipated regular-season games in Seahawks history.
Harbaugh, though, is merely the latest in a long line of sports figures local fans loved to hate — Seattle sports villains, if you will.
Here’s one man’s list of 10 others who earned infamy among Seattle fans (and a quick disclaimer: These are people who became villains for crimes committed against Seattle sports teams while working/playing elsewhere, so no Clay Bennett, or Ken Behring, or Tyrone Willingham).
10. Tommy Prothro, coach, UCLA football
You have to go in the way-back machine for this one. But before Seattle had any pro sports teams, longtime UW football followers remember when the UCLA coach was public enemy No. 1. Among his crimes was running up the score in a 1969 game boycotted by UW’s black players, highlighting a season of racial unrest at Washington. Prothro and UCLA took no mercy, winning the game 57-14. The next year in Seattle, a UW team revived by Sonny Sixkiller got its revenge, beating UCLA and Prothro 61-20. The Huskies showed their disdain for the Bruins by going for two points and then successfully executing an onside kick while holding a 54-12 lead (imagine that happening in today’s Twitter-ized environment).
9. Dick Motta, coach, Washington Bullets
Motta’s constant repeating of his “the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings’’ line quickly grew tiresome to Sonics fans as the Bullets beat Seattle in seven games to capture the 1978 NBA title. So when the Sonics turned the tables on the Bullets to win their only NBA crown in 1979, Seattle fans let Motta know about it. So did Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens, who said, “We simply removed the tonsils and silenced the fat lady.’’
8. Karl Malone, player, Utah Jazz
By the time the Sonics beat the Jazz in the seventh game of the 1996 Western Conference Finals, Seattle fans had had enough of Malone’s apparent flopping and interminable free-throw routine. Sonics fans took special delight in counting to 10 as Malone lined up for his free throws to remind officials that, you know, maybe he was taking a bit longer than the rules said were allowed. Malone shot just 55 percent from the line in the series.
7. Phil Knight, owner, Oregon Ducks
As the Oregon-Washington football rivalry ascended to new levels of intensity the past few decades, Knight — and his seemingly endless checkbook writing to the UO athletic department — became the personification of all that UW fans dislike about the Ducks. Enough so that many fans wish there was some way UW didn’t have to be allied with Nike in any manner.
6. Jim Leyritz, catcher, New York Yankees
You could take your pick of mid-1990s Yankees. But Leyritz struck a special discord after he was hit by a Randy Johnson pitch in a 1995 game that sparked a 10-minute brawl. When Leyritz said later that he’d get back at Johnson, Johnson responded with his immortal line, “He’s trying to intimidate the intimidator.’’ Johnson hit Leyritz four times in his career, tying the most of any player he plunked, probably not a coincidence.
5. Bill Walsh, coach, Stanford football
While UW was being investigated by the NCAA and Pac-10 in 1993 for violations that eventually landed the school on probation, Walsh, the Stanford coach, told a booster group that UW typified the current evils in college sports and that their football players were “mercenaries.’’
Walsh quickly apologized. But Washington fans enjoyed it immensely when the Huskies beat Walsh and Stanford 31-14 to open the 1993 season at Husky Stadium.
4. Mike Harden, safety, Denver Broncos
By the late 1980s, Denver had become the Seahawks’ fiercest rival. And while John Elway was a constant source of displeasure during that era, Harden became an even more unpopular target when he uncorked a late hit on revered Seahawks receiver Steve Largent in the season opener in Denver in 1988. The hit knocked out two of Largent’s teeth (Harden was later fined $5,000 for the hit). That set the stage for a particularly heated visit by the Broncos to Seattle later in the season. A game punctuated by personal fouls was capped by one of the most memorable plays in Seahawks history. Harden intercepted a pass in the end zone and turned and began running down the field — only to be leveled by a vicious shoulder blow by Largent. Even better, Harden fumbled and Largent recovered.
3. Bill Leavy, NFL official, Super Bowl XL
The Seahawks’ first — and so far, only — trip to the Super Bowl was marked by four controversial calls by Leavy’s crew. Leavy admitted four years later that Seattle fans had reason to complain, saying he “kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I impacted the game and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I’ll go to my grave wishing that I’d been better.’’ That doesn’t really make Seahawks fans feel any better.
2. Alex Rodriguez, shortstop/third baseman, Rangers/Yankees
OK, cheating a little bit here. Rodriguez played for the Mariners, and it’s his departure from the Mariners and the manner in which it was handled that turned him into such a reviled figured.
Still, it’s likely no player has ever heard more boos from more Seattle fans over a longer period of time than Rodriguez.
1. David Stern, NBA commissioner
Need we say more?
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta