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Quantifying Seattle's playoff success

It's not the worst time to be a sports fan in Seattle.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There's no gentle way to describe yesterday's conclusion to the 2014 NFL season -- so I won't. Before the game, when I was in much higher spirits (and was anticipating a significantly different outcome), I did some poking around the Internet to determine the most successful era in Seattle sports history.

Success can be measured in several ways: the number of talented players on a roster, the number of wins achieved in a season, or, the way that concedes the most to chance, the number of playoff appearances and titles collected by a team. Using this last and most fickle category, I charted each postseason appearance made by one of the four major Seattle clubs -- the Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, and (now defunct) SuperSonics -- from their inception to their last game.

Of the four franchises, the SuperSonics were founded first. Their arrival in 1967 preceded the others by nearly a fully decade, with the Seahawks' establishment coming in 1976 and the Mariners' in 1977. The Sounders were the last to take root in the city when they came on the scene in 2007. Despite the Sonics' nine-year head start, however, no team qualified for the playoffs until the mid-1970s.

Dividing 40 seasons between 1975 and 2014 (the first and last years with a Seattle playoff contender) by decade yields the following results:

Era Playoff contender
1975-1979 SuperSonics (4)
1980-1989 SuperSonics (7), Seahawks (4)
1990-1999 SuperSonics (8), Mariners (2), Seahawks
2000-2009 Seahawks (5), SuperSonics (3), Mariners (2), Sounders
2010-2014 Sounders (5), Seahawks (4)

Although this decade is just reaching its midpoint, the number of playoff appearances by a Seattle club is quickly approaching the total for entire decades in the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s. Granted, a postseason berth doesn't always guarantee a championship. It's one thing to clinch the division lead three years in a row and flunk out of the first qualifying round of the playoffs each time. It's another thing entirely to secure a spot in the Super Bowl or World Series in back-to-back seasons. For that reason, I needed to dig a little deeper to find out which era not only encompassed the most frequent trips to the postseason, but held the most meaning for fans.

In order to weight each decade accordingly, I assigned a simple point value to every level achieved in the postseason by each team. A wild card was worth one point, a division title, two points, and so on until each rung of the playoffs had been accounted for. By this measure, things looked a little differently:

Era Playoff points
1975-1979 15
1980-1989 12
1990-1999 21
2000-2009 20
2010-2014 28

No more than two teams overlapped championship-contending seasons in any given year, and in no season has more than one team claimed a title in their respective league. Since the Sonics' departure in 2008, Seattle has only been able to rest its laurels on three pro teams, which makes the postseason runs of the Sounders and Seahawks in the last few years all the more impressive. Thanks to the Sounders' six-year streak of playoff appearances and the Seahawks' back-to-back Super Bowl attempts, this is set up to be the most significant decade for Seattle sports franchises since the '90s.

Does knowing this remove the sting of yesterday's defeat? No. Nor does it give us any assurances going forward, no matter how much we'd like to see the Sounders claim their first MLS Cup or the Mariners compete in their first World Series. For all the joy and heartache it brings us, there is at least a small comfort in knowing that the playoffs are little more than a crapshoot among the best teams.

Underneath the pain, however, runs a current of hope. Baseball is around the corner, and with it, renewed expectations for a year that will make the rest of MLB sit up and notice the Mariners for the first time in years. It may not feel like it at the moment, but it's a good time -- maybe even the best time -- to be a sports fan in Seattle.