When word got out that Paul Allen had written a memoir, I wondered how the billionaire cofounder of Microsoft turned multitasking and multi-interest philanthropist would treat the Seahawks and the way he was persuaded into buying the franchise.
You need look no farther than the first sentence in chapter 15 of “Idea Man” – 12th Man.
“If I entered the NBA out of passion, I was called to the NFL out of civic duty,” wrote Allen, who owns the Portland Trail Blazers as well as the Seahawks – among many, many other entities.
That, in 18 well-chosen words, is exactly how the transfer of the Seahawks from Ken Behring to Allen played out in 1996-97: If Allen didn’t “rescue” the franchise from Behing’s attempt to move it to Southern California, who would?
Allen’s honest appraisal of what was a sticky situation continues, as he offers, “By the midnineties, the team was losing more than $5 million a year. It had an absentee owner and a lackluster coach. The Kingdome, which it shared with the Seattle Mariners, was falling apart.”
It was against this backdrop of deterioration that Allen agreed to purchase the Seahawks, if – and only if – the voters approved funding for a new stadium. Long – and arduous – story short, they did, so he did.
“My hometown had asked for help, and I wanted to respond, but I wasn’t about to go it alone,” he wrote.
The rest has been the best of times (the run to the Super Bowl in 2005, as part of four consecutive NFC West titles) and some of the worst (4-12 and 5-11 seasons in 2008 and 2009).
Allen recounts it all, and as honestly as he remembers what first brought him to the Seahawks.
He touches on his role the day the Kingdome was imploded; the firing of longtime associate Bob Whitsitt on Jan. 14, 2005, and the reasons behind it; the acquisition of middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu in the 2005 NFL Draft; his relationship with former coach and general manager Mike Holmgren, or “Walrus,” as Allen calls him; and his stint as the 12th Man flag raiser before the NFC Championship game at Qwest Field.
This chapter alone makes the book worth reading – and you can buy it here – because of Allen’s direct approach to recounting how he became the owner of the Seahawks.
He has changed the franchise, and the franchise has changed him.
“Football is much more than a civic chore for me now,” he wrote. “I’ve gotten hooked on the weeklong buildup to Sunday, to the point where I can’t tell you which I enjoy more, the Seahawks or the Blazers.”