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Originally published Sunday, December 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

From the very start, it was a lost year

Into the frozen frenzy of a January night on the banks of Lake Michigan, Chicago kicker Robbie Gould, in overtime, lasered a 49-yard field...

Seattle Times staff columnist

Into the frozen frenzy of a January night on the banks of Lake Michigan, Chicago kicker Robbie Gould, in overtime, lasered a 49-yard field goal that ended the Seahawks' mercurial season.

And 14 days into 2007 a theme was forged for sports in the Northwest.

Gould's field goal was both dagger and harbinger.

This was a year of losses, real, possible or even imagined.

From June Daugherty, the former Washington women's basketball coach, to the person who fired her, athletic director Todd Turner, jobs were lost.

And from the Sonics to the Huskies, games were lost.

Nowhere is the sense of impending loss more profound than at KeyArena, where the Sonics' Oklahoma City-based owner, Clay Bennett, has announced his intention to break his lease with the city and move the team to his hometown.

While the strength of the lease, which runs through the 2009-10 season, will be decided in court, Bennett's threat and NBA commissioner David Stern's elaborate support for the move hang over Seattle as dark and low as the winter sky.

Bennett wants to take away this team that legally may be his, but emotionally still belongs to Seattle.

Look at what Gould's long knockout punch of a kick wrought.

In the semifinals of the World Cup — despite playing almost flawlessly — Richland's Hope Solo lost her goalkeeper job on the national team because her coach, Greg Ryan, still was living in the 20th century and believed Brianna Scurry was a better choice for the semifinal game against Brazil.

The U.S. lost that game 4-0, then Solo was ostracized from the team for questioning Ryan's logic.

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Occasionally there is justice, even in the sports world. Ryan was fired, in large measure because of the way he handled his self-made fiasco. And Solo is back where she belongs, on the national team. She should be the starter in the Beijing Olympics.

Speaking of blunders, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) lost its collective mind when it made Archbishop Murphy High School near Mill Creek forfeit its potential championship football season because of a minor clerical error that occurred because Terry Ennis, the school's coach and athletic director, was dying from cancer.

Despite a three-year period of unprecedented losing, Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham kept his job, but Washington State coach Bill Doba lost his after a 30-29 record over five years. Willingham also fired his defensive coordinator, Kent Baer.

Seattle lost, even when it won.

Manager Mike Hargrove left the Mariners in late June, when the team was in the thick of the American League West race. And after 37 years, Seattle Pacific soccer coach Cliff McCrath unjustly lost his job, even though he was just three wins away from 600.

Lorenzo Romar had another winning season as basketball coach at Washington, but he lost a chance at his fourth consecutive postseason appearance when the Huskies men were snubbed by the NIT. And he lost three members from his recruiting class of 2006.

Spencer Hawes went to the NBA, Phil Nelson transferred to Portland State. And this month Adrian Oliver announced his plans to transfer.

It was a year of losses.

After failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs three seasons in a row, coach Anne Donovan left the Storm. Roosevelt High girls basketball coach Bill Resler, one of the stars of the documentary "Heart of the Game," was fired. Sonics coach Bob Hill was canned after one dolorous 31-win season.

Seattle lost Ray Allen in a trade to the Boston Celtics. And it lost Darrell Jackson in a trade to the San Francisco 49ers.

It took the Seahawks three long snappers to find a replacement after J.P. Darche was lost. And after losing their bid for Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, the Mariners settled on Carlos Silva, who lost one more game last season than he won.

The year was a tsunami of disappointment.

The Mariners' free-agent signee, pitcher Jeff Weaver, lost and lost and lost. And, all season at the plate, first baseman Richie Sexson looked just plain lost.

Speaking of lost, has anyone seen the stats on the Sonics' three consecutive first-round flops — centers Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene?

Some losses were harder to accept than others. None hurt more than the loss of Seahawks fullback Mack Strong, who, in his 15th season, was forced to retire after suffering a neck injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This sense of loss, of course, transcended Seattle.

Baseball lost more of its innocence when the 409-page Mitchell Report announced that 90 present and former players had used performance-enhancing drugs.

The biggest loser on the list was uber-hurler Roger Clemens, whose string of denials were as full of holes as Wiffle balls.

Sprinter Marion Jones lost her Olympic gold medals after she was busted for drugs. And speaking of losers, Barry Bonds and his Macy's parade balloon-sized head, broke Hank Aaron's home-run record, then was indicted on perjury charges.

Michael Vick lost his freedom and his football future after his dogfighting enterprise was exposed. NBA official Tim Donaghy lost his job and faces 25 years in jail for betting on games.

Looking for further proof that there is justice in the world?

Radio shock jock Don Imus lost his job and his integrity when he called players on Rutgers' Final Four women's team — well, let's not even dignify what he said by repeating it. He's back on the air, but Rutgers is having a better season than Imus.

O.J. Simpson did the impossible and lost whatever little respect he clung to, and NFL gunslinger-safety Adam "Pacman" Jones, who has lost more appeals than Bobby Cox, remained where he belonged, on the sideline, suspended for the season.

We can't talk about loss without mentioning some of the area's best and the brightest who died this year.

This city mourned after the sudden death of former Sonic Dennis Johnson. Basketball also lost Tony Harris, a former standout at Garfield and Washington State.

High school football won't be the same without Ennis' gravelly voice pushing players past their limits and into the state playoffs.

We also lost ski icon Buzz Fiorini, former Rainiers star Edo Vanni and cheerleader Bill "The Beerman" Scott.

But let's close this dirge for a difficult 2007 with some winners.

The Seahawks, who inadvertently started all this bad news, won their fourth consecutive NFC West title and have a puncher's chance at another Super Bowl trip. Wide receiver Bobby Engram has had a career year, and cornerback Marcus Trufant won a well-deserved first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Despite the struggles of Weaver and Sexson, the Mariners won 88 games.

The Sonics, huge losers on the floor, finished second in the lottery and watching that draft pick, Kevin Durant, play in Seattle has been one of this season's joys.

Former Husky Brandon Roy is having an all-star season in Portland. And the Blazers' coach, former Sonic Nate McMillan, is an early favorite for NBA Coach of the Year.

After Hargrove left the Mariners, John McLaren finally was rewarded with his first shot at big-league managing.

Washington State lost Doba, but hired the right replacement, Eastern Washington's Paul Wulff.

And the rise of Cougars basketball is the feel-good story of the year. Now the tricky secret will be keeping coach Tony Bennett in Pullman.

Ron Crockett finally won his race at Emerald Downs, the Longacres Mile, with The Great Face. Tia Jackson was the right choice to succeed Daugherty, who, after suffering cardiac arrest last spring, is getting a second chance at life and basketball at Washington State.

Fourteen days into the new year, Robbie Gould punched a hole in the cold Chicago night and unknowingly punched the Northwest in the gut.

The first good news for 2008?

Gould and the Bears won't be making any statements this January.

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

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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