When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark completed their transcontinental voyage to the Pacific Ocean in 1805, they wintered on the Oregon Coast. Having never spent a winter in the Northwest, the pair and their crew had no idea what was to come.
Days and weeks of rain and the less than balmy weather combined to ruin their spirits – so much so that Lewis was to claim later that that winter was tougher than almost any other part of the expedition.
Northwest winters are uniquely dispiriting, and when your local sports teams offer: 1) a woeful Pac-10 team, 2) a mediocre NFL team which will win its division in spite of itself, and 3) an NBA team bent on fleeing the city, it doesn’t get any easier.
The Sonics’ case is especially tough to endure. As someone who has rooted for this team for more than two decades, through some bad but mostly good times, I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say this year’s squad is the least interesting of them all.
Sonic history is littered with enjoyable teams, both good and bad. But for a team to grab a city’s heart, it must make an emotional attachment, it must have a personality. Even the more recent Sonic vintages, the Allen and Lewis gang, were still able to reach us because of the greatness of those two players.
But this year’s team? I’m not buying it. It is the combination of two factors: the seemingly bright future of the franchise combined with the likeliness that none of us will ever reap the joy. That agonizing irony pervades everything related to this edition of the Sonics.
After all, why should we get emotionally involved with a team which will leave us when it’s ready to become exciting again? Even worse, what if they stay and Clay Bennett claims a massive financial reward (i.e., a new facility) in exchange for his extortion? Can we divorce our disgust at his machinations from our affinity for the team?
Perhaps I’m expecting too much from the Sonics. As a boy, it was easy to transpose my team’s greatness with my own, but I’m old enough now to know better. As adults, we’re able to hide the silliness of rooting for a bunch of strangers behind the pure enjoyment of the rooting. But when the people running the very organization for which we’re rooting blatantly destroy that organization, it becomes difficult to hide the foolishness of the whole situation.
I know people in Oklahoma City will think this to be reflective of Seattle’s overall apathetic attitude for this ongoing saga. Their eagerness for the Sonics is supposed to trump our big city blase, but that’s only because they have yet to experience the pain of watching a team you’ve supported through eight presidential administrations being used as the knot in a game of tug of war.
Make no mistake, this is a terrible team. A 3-15 record does not happen by fluke any more than a 15-3 one does. But there is more to it than that. Even before Mr. Bennett has backed up the moving vans to the KeyArena doors, it seems as though the Sonics – the Sonics we know anyway – may have already left.