In Paul Allen’s world, these are the glory days
Seahawks owner Paul Allen, in the midst of his own winning streak, talks about his championship team, unique players and memories of his first Super Bowl win.
Seattle Times technology columnist
Pick up your Seattle Times print edition on Friday, Jan. 30, for a special Super Bowl section, plus a Marshawn Lynch Paper Hawk doll and a keepsake poster of wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
People have good years, sometimes great ones. Then there is the last 12 months of Paul Allen’s life.
It started with his Seattle Seahawks winning the Super Bowl last February. You’d think that would be a pinnacle, but it turned out to be just the start.
After pledging at least $100 million to fight Ebola, the Mercer Island billionaire was named “Philanthropist of the Year” by online magazine Inside Philanthropy.
Allen then started a new cell-science institute to accelerate disease research, establishing another permanent center of advanced research in his hometown.
During a pause in the action in Los Angeles, where Allen perched en route to Sunday’s Super Bowl, he described his “really rewarding year,” new directions for his philanthropy and his appreciation of “the 12s.”
Mostly, though, he talked about the Seahawks, its standout personalities like Marshawn Lynch and their storybook season.
“Your dream when you buy a sports franchise is to win the championship, the Super Bowl,” he said during a phone interview Tuesday. “The first time you go you’re kind of amazed to be there. The thing is, once you’re in the Super Bowl, you want to win. As time goes on, you want to win more and more.”
Allen said last year’s memories are still vivid, including the pregame jitters and later holding up the Lombardi Trophy in a cloud of confetti.
“I remember riding in the bus to MetLife (stadium) with coach (Pete) Carroll and he was saying ‘We have a chance to do really well in this game.’ He usually has a pretty good sense of where things are so that was certainly foresight on his part.”
So how will the team do this Sunday?
Allen refused to speculate, saying he’s got a personal rule about that.
“I never predict the outcome,” he said.
But he is optimistic.
“I think we’ve got a great chance — a fired-up team, great coaching staff, some amazing players.”
The game against the New England Patriots will be the third trip to the Super Bowl since Allen bought the Seahawks in 1997, amid threats by the previous owner to relocate the team to California.
Aside from his wealth, which Bloomberg estimates to be $16.8 billion, the Microsoft co-founder was an unlikely savior of Seattle’s football glory. Basketball was his favorite sport and the Portland Trail Blazers were his marquee investment after he retired from Microsoft in 1983.
The Blazers under Allen have flirted with a championship — and are in good standing this year after showing Seahawks-like resiliency — but never made it all the way, much less a repeat.
As an aside, Allen said he’s supported efforts to bring the NBA back to Seattle, but he doesn’t see much hope in the near future.
“I’m not sure the environment’s right at the moment for a team coming back, but you go far enough out in the future, anything can happen,” he said.
Allen was diplomatic when asked about former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer’s rookie year as the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon, once you become involved in team ownership. Steve, as you know, is a superpassionate person. I think he’s really taken that to a new level,” he said. “Probably he’ll mellow over time, but right now he’s really enjoying it.”
Allen said it’s been even more satisfying to end up back in the Super Bowl after “having a challenging early part of the year, and then the amazing turnaround we had from the beginning to the end and the playoffs — and the amazing NFC Championship Game.”
“The first time you’re surprised to be there,” he said. “This time you know you’re going to have to go through some challenges; no one has done back-to-back Super Bowls in a decade.”
That’s given the team itself a stronger redemption story, almost as good as that of its star players who were earlier overlooked or undervalued by other organizations.
When combined with Carroll's upbeat attitude and positive messages about supporting one another, you’re almost morally obliged to root for this home team.
Allen, 62, doesn’t take credit for the team’s moral story.
“So much of that comes not just from Pete but the players understanding what Pete’s saying and internalizing it and saying it in their own way,” he said. “It’s rare to see the kind of bonding that’s happening this year with the team.”
Asked how this was affected by letting the skilled but strong-willed Percy Harvin go midway through the season, Allen again pointed to Carroll and General Manager John Schneider.
“I try to act as a sounding board to Pete and John and talked it through with them a little bit. And they decided they needed to go a different direction,” he said.
Allen called the October trade of Harvin to the New York Jets “a watershed moment” and added: “We moved to the right direction and the results speak for themselves.”
There was still plenty of attitude left on the team, but in a good way that makes the Seahawks more appealing and is changing the way people around the country think about Seattle. After decades of being known for mumbling grunge musicians, silent Scandinavians and engineers building software and airplanes in the rain, it’s now the city of Richard Sherman, the Legion of Boom and Beast Mode.
Allen’s glad to spice things up and said it’s all part of the game.
“Obviously we have some very unique personalities on the Seahawks,” he said. “Some of these personalities people are going to identify with and embrace. Other people, who root for other teams, are going to find them not so exciting. It’s part of the juice of sports that you tend to find certain sports figures that you cheer on from other cities and others that you’re a bit skeptical about.”
How about Marshawn Lynch, is Allen “tired of his act”? Apparently not.
“Marshawn is such a unique person,” Allen said. “I’ve had some great discussions with Marshawn. I think he’s a really interesting person and he does some great charitable stuff.”
Allen understands that some people, such as Lynch, just don’t like talking to the media.
“Everybody has their own personal style ... some people like to talk, others not so much. The individual player gets to decide in the end,” he said.
Allen has had Trail Blazers who were also reluctant to give interviews.
“In an ideal world everybody would find it easy to talk to the press ... but not everybody is so excited,” he said.
Asked if Allen will run interference between Lynch and NFL administrators using fines to try and make Lynch act differently, Allen again deferred to his managers.
“I don’t get involved trying to negotiate that at all,” he said. “That’s between John and Pete and the league.”
Asked if he had any parting thoughts, Allen called out the fans he called “the 12s.”
“I really appreciate the help and support we’ve gotten from all the 12s this year,” he said. “I would send out my tweets to encourage them before games but I’m not sure I need to do anything because their support has been amazing. The players can feel it. I can.”
About Brier Dudley
Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 206-515-5687