"It is doubtful that the popular sport in Seattle can survive,"
August 5, 2006 3:00 AM   Subscribe

"It is doubtful that the popular sport in Seattle can survive," wrote a Seattle sportswriter in 1966, after three of unlimited hydroplane racing's most popular drivers were killed in one horrific day in Washington, D.C. Forty years later, what was once the most popular sport in Seattle survives, if not thrives, and this weekend's Chevrolet Cup will feature boats with safety improvements that trace directly back to the events of "Black Sunday". But it's nothing like it used to be in the 60s and 70s, when "winning a hydro race was about the biggest thing a Seattle kid could do," and everyone in town, knew names like the boats Miss Bardahl, Miss Budweiser, and the drivers Bill Muncey, Chip Hanauer, and Dean Chenoweth -- and no one, but no one would miss the Seafair hydro races.
posted by litlnemo (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, they could lose the cat and dog terrorizing, settin' off every car alarm in town Blue Angels air show and I would not miss that.
posted by y2karl at 7:12 AM on August 5, 2006


No doubt - I'm happy to be on the other side of the country today. The constant mosquito buzz coming from the lake drove me nuts. After 9/11 hearing the after burners from the jets pointed at my apt as they went by caused me to nearly wet myself.
posted by photoslob at 8:01 AM on August 5, 2006


another recollection - as a southerner who relocated to Seattle for several years I love how educated and sophisticated the city felt. Most folks I knew were fairly disdainful of their southern brethren and their perceived folkways - Nascar, beer and stupid amounts of unbridled mechanical speed. Yet, every summer sea fair brought out all of Seattle for seafair to see the boats, jets and if they were lucky a good crash or two. Great post.
posted by photoslob at 8:13 AM on August 5, 2006


I think people forget what Seattle hasn't always been this city of books and computers. Even twenty years ago this was a blue collar town. Boeing, manufacturing, logging, and the port dominated the economy. Today, obviously, it's software, biotech, and buckets of venture capital.

There's a saying that Seattle sports fandom consisted of "Huskies and hydros" before the Supersonics moved into the Coliseum in 1966. Two years later came Forward Thrust. By 1978 Seattle had the Seahawks, the Mariners, and the Sounders. And somehow, in all that noise, the hydros have hung on to their race once a year in Lake Washington.

The hydros are a relic of the blue collar town that everyone has tried to paint over with layers of pretension and sophistication. And that blue collar town remains alive here, even as neighborhoods gentrify and light industrial increasingly gets pushed into the Kent Valley and out of SoDo.

So, I think everyone whining about it should put their book down, crack open a Rainier, and enjoy the cacophony, because on Monday it's right back to Overeducated White Collar Land.
posted by dw at 8:52 AM on August 5, 2006 [2 favorites]


Well said dw.
posted by photoslob at 9:17 AM on August 5, 2006


Except the Rainier brewery is now a Tully's. But other than that, yeah.
posted by hattifattener at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2006


Well said dw.

That being said, though ... while I loves me my go-fast-turn-left NASCAR, and can crack open a Rainier with the best of them ... I just can't grok hydroplanes. They're aircraft without enough lift.
posted by frogan at 12:47 PM on August 5, 2006


I was having this conversation with my Dad a few weeks ago after the scoreboard race during the Mariners game. I have never seen hydroplane racing mentioned OUTSIDE of Seattle, but IN Seattle, people go nuts.

Thanks for the post.
posted by karmaville at 1:05 PM on August 5, 2006


dw, that was a great comment.

karmaville, if you think people go nuts now, you should have seen it back in the 60s and 70s. (Well, the 70s are what I remember.) It really was a big deal then. Everybody who didn't go to the races watched them on TV or listened to Pat O'Day call them on the radio.

I tried to include the Mariners game hydro races in the FPP but couldn't find a good link. I imagine there are a lot of people who see them and don't know why we have hydros instead of something else.

As far as I'm concerned, they can lose the Blue Angels from the festivities. I live on Beacon Hill so my house is getting buzzed by the jets all weekend. I'd miss the hydros, though. And yet I hate Nascar...
posted by litlnemo at 1:26 PM on August 5, 2006


I love it. The noise. The drunk idiots who drown every year. The chicks who flash you from boats.

Especially I love the Seafair Pirates and how they get drunk, take their roles over the edge and scare the shit out of little kids chasing them down the street. Which, of course, kids secretly LOVE.

It is so NOT Seattle. Once a year Seattle loosens it uptight recyclable organic panties wedged up it's collective PC ass and gets waisted DUDE, like the rest of America.

PRAISE LANDRU!!!! It's FESTIVAL!
posted by tkchrist at 1:40 PM on August 5, 2006


I remember when I was little that a Seafair Pirate once picked me up and planted a big smooch right on my cheek. Which I didn't like because he smelled funny (like alcohol, most likely). So in later years I was afraid of them, for sure.
posted by litlnemo at 2:00 PM on August 5, 2006


I tried to include the Mariners game hydro races in the FPP but couldn't find a good link.

Well, these aren't good FPP links, but if you ever find one, here's what they did for the hydro races at this year's Turn Back The Clock game when the M's wore the old '69 Pilots unis.

Also, the hat trick dot matrix style.

It is so NOT Seattle. Once a year Seattle loosens it uptight recyclable organic panties wedged up it's collective PC ass and gets waisted DUDE, like the rest of America.

I know it is totally unenvironmental and unsophisticated of me to say this, college-edumicated and literate professional that I am, but I really hope we get this SMASHCAR NASCAR track out on the Skagit peninsula they're talking about building. Because, you know? Sitting in the sun, drinking beer, and watching cars hit each other at 190mph is more fun than sitting indoors away from sunlight, drinking grande soy lattes, and reading Derrida.
posted by dw at 3:27 PM on August 5, 2006


"Well, these aren't good FPP links, but if you ever find one, here's what they did for the hydro races at this year's Turn Back The Clock game when the M's wore the old '69 Pilots unis."

Those are hilarious. But they're sailboats, aren't they? Still, that is awesome. As are the vintage unis. I love those striped stirrup socks. Dang, I should have gone to that game.
posted by litlnemo at 4:06 PM on August 5, 2006


There's a saying that Seattle sports fandom consisted of "Huskies and hydros" before the Supersonics moved into the Coliseum in 1966.

As Historylink notes, the Sonics' first season was in 1967. I would bet this was well before you were born. I got here before there ever were the Sonics or any other professional sports teams. It was a lot nicer town then.

Man, I would love to see them lose the Seafair Pirates. It would be so nice to see a Torchlight Parade without those drunken assholes ruining it for everyone.
posted by y2karl at 7:34 PM on August 5, 2006


"I got here before there ever were the Sonics or any other professional sports teams. It was a lot nicer town then."

Wow, you must be old, if you got here before the Seattle Rainiers. ;) (Yeah, I know you meant "major league"...)
posted by litlnemo at 3:19 AM on August 6, 2006


Wow, you must be old, if you got here before the Seattle Rainiers. ;)

Don't you mean the 1917 Stanley Cup champion Seattle Metropolitans?

I didn't know you were over 90, y2karl. :)
posted by dw at 5:30 PM on August 6, 2006


dw - the Barrenoff, Greenwood and 85th (?). Seattle's not only hipster sophistication - the original blue collars are old and weathered and in alcohol induced hiberation, but they wake up to lead the charge every year.
posted by iamck at 7:26 PM on August 6, 2006


I love hydroplane racing, it's such a pure form of motorsports.

karmaville writes "I was having this conversation with my Dad a few weeks ago after the scoreboard race during the Mariners game. I have never seen hydroplane racing mentioned OUTSIDE of Seattle, but IN Seattle, people go nuts."

They've run in BC at times too. Mighty unpopular with most of the lake shore owning crowd.
posted by Mitheral at 9:02 AM on August 8, 2006


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