Artwork by Rafael Calonzo, Jr (Click for larger pic)
If you’ve followed the arena situation at all in Seattle, you’ve heard two different arguments. One, we need to build it to retain the tradition of NBA basketball in this city. Two, the NBA is blackmailing the city of Seattle and the state of Washington into building them an arena. This second argument has been reinforced, of course, by the recent sale of the team to Oklahoma City investors.
Well, neither side is right. It’s not necessary to carry on the tradition, and it’s not blackmail.
Let’s consult a dictionary, shall we?
From Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary
\Ex*tort"\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Extorted
; p. pr. & vb. n. Extorting
.] [L. extortus, p. p. of extorquere to twist or wrench out, to extort; ex out + torquere to turn about, twist. See Torsion
.] 1. To wrest from an unwilling person by physical force, menace, duress, torture, or any undue or illegal exercise of power or ingenuity; to wrench away (from); to tear away; to wring (from); to exact; as, to extort contributions from the vanquished; to extort confessions of guilt; to extort a promise; to extort payment of a debt.
Now, Pete, you’re saying to yourself, isn’t that a little harsh? After all, are Clay Bennett and his colleagues holding a gun to our head? No, they are not. But a closer examination of the definition reveals that, yes, the city is being extorted. Or do you think that forcing the city to make a decision in 12 months isn’t duress? Or that moving the Sonics to Oklahoma would be anything but “tearing away” the team from its devoted followers?
Believe me, I have struggled with saying this out loud. As someone who writes for a website devoted to a sports team, it’s more than a little hypocritical of me to criticize those who throw their support and money behind the team. In fact, I admire the tenacity with which others have attacked this issue, trying to raise public consciousness of what is obviously a dire situation. And, most importantly, as someone who tied his shoelaces as a kid to mimic the way Gus Williams did, I have more than just a passing interest in Sonics’ basketball. But after having looked at this from every angle, I cannot legitimately justify going ahead with a new arena.
I’m sorry, but when you look at the current situation objectively, you cannot come to any other conclusion. At the present time, basketball fans in Seattle are faced with two options in regard to Clay Bennett:
1. Buy scads of tickets, hoping to convince the city council/state government to build a new arena for Mr. Bennett. End Result: Mr. Bennett becomes wealthier, both via increased sales and the added value to his team due to the new arena.
2. Don’t buy scads of tickets, watch Mr. Bennett move the team to Oklahoma City. End Result: Mr. Bennett no longer has to fly to Seattle and pretend to understand how to pronounce Puyallup.
So, we either give him a sack of money, or he takes our team and leaves town? That isn’t extortion? For crying out loud, if this was The Rockford Files, James Garner wouldn’t even take the case it’s so painfully obvious what is happening.
I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it: I don’t begrudge Schultz or Bennett their reasons for making more money, as we all have the same motivations. But did anyone else read the comments
of Ray Allen recently? Look, I like Allen, he’s a gentleman and a terrific player; the consumate pro that any fan would love to have on his team. But when he starts complaining about how the Key lacks wireless connnections in the lockerroom, about how the coaches don’t have proper offices ... well, it makes me want to vomit. Let me get this straight – we need to spend $150 million in taxpayer money so Ray Allen can check his email? Are you kidding me?
The argument these stadiums/teams produce economic benefits is provably false
, so the only argument can be that we as fans want others to pay for our fun. Sorry, folks, but I won’t play that game, because that makes us no better than Bennett, Schultz, Stern, and all of their ilk – and, in fact, makes us co-conspirators in an extortion scheme. Thanks, but I’ll pass.