SonicsGate: Remembered & Never Forgotten

Originally Published:  June 21, 2010

I know I’ve pissed away a lot of words on the subject, more words than are necessary, and certainly more words than can be impactful at this point, but another year has gone by. Another championship has been won. And likely this would’ve been the last year anyway, that there would have been professional basketball in the city of Seattle.

Sherman Alexie brings up a poignant point in THIS MOVIE, he asks, “What’s the one thing you love?” More than anything else. I can’t sit here and say that one thing for me was the Supersonics, but it was up there. If it wasn’t, it wouldn’t still be this painful this far after the fact.

You can sit here and try to pinpoint where and how much of the blame you want to put upon certain parties – and indeed there are plenty of villains to go around – but in the end it doesn’t get you anywhere and certainly it doesn’t bring back our Sonics. The Schultz group, Olympia, Seattle, Mayor Nickels, Clay Bennett and his cronies, David Stern, the NBA itself. Pile on if you want to. Society, the fans, the economic model, the media, the lawyers, the voters. It’s all just wind, blowing our outrage around, slapping everyone in the face.

I want the NBA back, and at the same time I hate what the NBA has become. But, if none of this had happened, I’d still be enrapt. I also don’t necessarily want to steal another team from another city like Oklahoma did to us because Alexie brings up another excellent point: I don’t want to break the hearts of people who’d have to go through what we went through. The thing is, it wouldn’t be the same, because this was an incredibly messy way for things to end.

No one else can say they had it play out exactly how it played out here. Not Cleveland and their Browns, not Baltimore and their Colts, not Brooklyn and their Dodgers. Yeah, you can boil it down to its essence – Greed – but with those scenarios and so many others, there’s a lone element behind those teams moving. Those circumstances were much simpler. By the fact that there ARE so many villains in our case, there WERE so many variables at play, the frustration is SO spread out that we can’t sit here and focus our ire on one single overlord of evil.

This is a death. Only we’re reminded of it constantly. And not just by the carcass sitting vacant in Seattle Center. It’s on television on a nightly basis throughout the fall, winter, and springtime months. The greatest players are playing the game that I love and I’m not allowed to participate as a fan. We’re not just the last kid picked in the schoolyard, we’re the kid told to sit on the side because we’re not good enough. How can you be expected to sit and watch when you’ve been so summarily rejected?

We’re reminded of it by all the cheering faces in the stands in other cities. Those faces who get to stand alongside a parade of champions. Yes, you can be happy for them that they get to experience the greatest moment of pure joy, but it’s also like they’re happy for our loss. An “At Least It Wasn’t Us” attitude that’s a slap in the face to our memory of a fallen loved one.

Everyone should be ashamed. Everyone involved, everyone who sat there and let it happen, everyone who waited until the last possible minute when it was already too late but hey let’s hope for another miracle.

Everyone should be outraged. Not just for us, and our lost team. Not just for the fact that our fans deserve to have a team to support. They should be outraged that ostensibly it COULD happen to them. That if the winds shift again in an economic climate, their city too could lose out on what is so precious and beautiful. They should be outraged that we’re all hostage to an organization in the National Basketball Association, pitting cities against one another, trying to squeeze from our guts every last cent until they get their way. And then when they do get their way, they keep squeezing and squeezing until we’re all turned to a mushy lump. High concessions prices, higher merchandising prices, even higher ticket prices. And the people who work so hard, who follow so passionately, who love so unconditionally, they’re the ones who ultimately get screwed. First by being priced out of the arena altogether, then by having their patience tried by owners – who start to lose money when the regular fan isn’t allowed to participate because it’s too damned costly – when they start cutting back and employing inferior executives who bring in even more inferior talent. Until finally we’re screwed by having our team executed and resurrected in another city, wearing different uniforms, going by a different name, yet still claiming they’re something they’re not.

Claiming that they’re the Supersonics, even though they hold no resemblance. Taking hostage of our history, our banners. Our championship trophy is in the hands of some greasy, lying monkey.

Of course, there’s no shame. Most everyone GOT what they wanted. The NBA moved a team away from a city who wouldn’t bow to their demands. The owners got a team for their hometown – they’re heroes in this whole thing to the people of Oklahoma City. The city of Seattle and the Washington State legislators got what they want, they didn’t have to fork over any money or make any attempt whatsoever to hide their contempt for something they have no use for. The old owners made a hefty profit; and David Stern got to once again whip out his gigantic balls and lord them over America. This is MY league and you will do what I say. And if you don’t recognize this, then I’ll take away what’s most dear, so next time don’t question my demands. Just submit. Submit with a smile on your face. Submit and enjoy it.

Because David Stern holds every damn card. And he can do with the rules whatever he wants. He’s under complete tyrannical control and he can see to it that not only will your team die, but so will your city.

You can say what you want about all the What Ifs that are raised at the end of the above movie I linked to – if we enforced the lease, with the economic collapse in 2009, SURELY the owners would have caved and cut their losses – but that’s just one case my cynical mind can’t fully endorse. I believe the Bennett Cronies wanted this team bad enough; I believe they would’ve held on out of spite and continued on their then-current course of action without consideration whatsoever for any long-shot Hail Mary deals the people of this state could have come up with. I don’t think all the Slade Gortons and all the Wizards of Oz in the world could’ve popped the balloon of that man possessed. I think once the ink dried on that contract to sell to the Oklahomans, not even Satan himself could’ve reversed what followed in those pathetic, helpless months and years that followed.

We would have lost our team upon this year’s NBA championship and David Stern would’ve seen to it that we’d never get one again.

Does that mean I’m so naive that I think Mayor Nickels did the right thing, made the right deal, had the right idea? I don’t know, maybe it does. But, I’m not naive enough to think that two measly years would’ve changed a thing.

And I’m not naive enough to think now that, because we DID make that deal, we’ll get another NBA team back in Seattle in my lifetime. I know there hasn’t been another NBA team with our history to up and move, so you can’t really compare the apples of Seattle to the oranges of one of those other cities who had their hearts ripped out; but how long has it been for some of these places? To get a team back. Who still don’t have a team at all.

For me, I don’t think it’ll ever stop hurting. Poll Seattle at large and I think you’ll get a collective shrug either way about the NBA returning. But for me, all I have is pain. My anger has long since passed. All I have is an empty hole and a constant nagging reminder of what I once had that so admirably filled that hole.

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