At the time, my younger brother and his wife were living in town, expecting their second child. It was a joyous period of life. We’d share meals, talk music, and our toddlers would escape our clutches to go ransack the living room, like good toddlers. We would definitely chat about the bad Seahawks, seeing as he was a big fan too. Yes, even in 2008. We once spent a cold game together in the Hawks’ Nest. That was intense.
So when the late-night text, the one you never want to come, came, it shattered so many things — like our artificial sense of peace. Yeah, it was cancer. In my 31-year-old brother. Out of nowhere, without warning, he’s a possible statistic, facing a possible death sentence. And a best-case scenario of remission. Fuck cancer, obviously. But now it was fucking with my loved ones. Fuck it even more.
It wasn’t easy, but… he beat it. He survived. We exhaled. We celebrated.
(We’ll get to the Paul Allen segment before long. Indulge me in the meantime, please.)
Thing is, though: do you ever truly beat a cunning, underhanded foe like cancer, who doesn’t play fair? Breno Giacomini and J.R. Sweezy made Seahawky names for themselves by playing all the way to the whistle and then a little beyond if necessary. Cancer ain’t like that. It walks up to you on the sideline, well after the play is over and your helmet is off. And then, in full view of the officials, it punches you in the face and kicks you in the balls. To which the ref shrugs and tells you, while you’re doubled over in pain and shock, “Don’t look at me, I’m not gonna throw a flag, that’s just what cancer does.”
Three years later, my brother’s remission changed its mind; the worst news, again. Another cancerous strike assaulted his body, and I kid you not, this time while his wife was pregnant with their third child, a girl, a girl at last, one overdue girl who’d be sure to wedge some good sense into her older brothers and three male Fraley cousins.
Well: In 2011 he beat the disease AGAIN. Through a combination of determination, divine providence, and sheer luck, distributed in whichever portions you feel appropriate, he emerged victorious, fucking cancer over instead of letting it do that to him. Again.
Paul Allen beat lymphoma twice too, in the same temporary way, with maybe some of the same “don’t fuck with me” attitude so many survivors share. The third time, Allen lost. Yesterday, following victory upon victory in so many facets of his life, cancer claimed him as its latest statistic. He lost.
And we all lost.
If you were a mad scientist of sports — emphasis on the “mad” part, since you root for Seattle-based teams — tasked with building a franchise owner from scratch in your lab, you’d come up with…
…Paul Allen. Only with a clean bill of health. He had everything going for him, everything you could ever want.
- Unlimited resources;
- Unbreakable local connections;
- A calm decisiveness when things needed done;
- And most importantly, a commitment to hire the best people AND THEN GET OUT OF THEIR DAMN WAY.
Others will recount his professional and civic life better than me. This ringer article isn’t a bad place to start. Without Allen, there’s no Microsoft, sure. But there’s also less money at research institutes. There’s no South Lake Union revitalization. There’s no MoPop. (Don’t you dare hate on the museum. Don’t.) The Seahawks are in California, and maybe the Trail Blazers too.
Allen gave away more than $2 billion in his lifetime and pledged that the bulk of his fortune be destined for charitable causes. Why? “Those fortunate to achieve great wealth should put it to work for the good of humanity,” he said years ago.
His chosen terms are so simple, so straightforward. The quote sounds like something one of us in the stands at
CenturyLink Field Paul Allen Stadium would say, worded with our everyday vocabulary, spoken without the fancypants airs of the lawyer someone worth 11 figures can afford.
That’s because Paul Allen also lived his billionaire lifestyle the way an everyman might. A ridiculously wealthy everyman, granted. But think about it! If you were suddenly one of the ten richest men on the planet, what would you do? You’d fund research, you’d get stuff named after you, you’d give a ton away, you’d go on adventures, you’d buy a few ridiculous toys, and because you’re reading this column, you’d probably also consider buying a pro sports team. Or two.
Paul Allen did all of that. He lived your dream, the one you know is a level of farfetched beyond farfetched. The yachts and jets, sure — but he also shredded on guitar with rock and blues legends. He created jobs. He searched for sunken treasure, successfully. Of course he did.
HE SAVED THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS.
He did it because he knew sports are a key ingredient of civic pride. Part of the BeastPode mission is to turn sports analysis into something fun again, without the self-importance present in so many media outlets today. There’s a fuckton (multiple fucktons!) of money involved in pro sports, so it’s serious business on one level, but why are you and I even watching if it’s not to have some fun along the way? We need sports, to build community around something that unites us rather than divides us. God knows there’s a lot out there today trying to accomplish the latter goal rather than the former.
Look, again, for the first or the billionth time. You’re never going to forget this moment:
Allen had the importance of local sports figured out, and he had billionairing figured out. He’s going to be irreplaceable.
When you tell your friend, your spouse, your partner, your date, your kid what you’d do with a billion dollars, or when you daydream it on your own, you inevitably get to the donations part. It’s been said in this very post already, but Allen had a passion for philanthropy. I choose to believe his generosity will help save my brother when cancer comes back for him the third time. And unlike what happened to Allen yesterday, is defeated for a third time.
So, in the most inadequate way possible, let me extend a final “thank you” to the best owner a Seahawks fan could ever have wished into existence. Thanks — inquantifiable thanks! — for the football, for the model of what a billionaire can do, for the hope, for the public life that contained storybook moments along the way, only to end far too soon, with an abrupt, unfair denouement decidely not out of a fairy tale.
Paul. Mr. Allen. Thanks for being you, at a time when people needed exactly you. Even if you lived another hundred years, we would not have the time to properly thank you. We miss you already.