Monday, March 3

Something is not OK in Oklahoma

As I’ve said before, I’m hesitant to comment on the Oklahoma City initiative regarding the Ford Center. After all, no matter what comment I make, it will be taken as interference in something which is, truly, none of my business.

But setting aside the merits of the initiative, you have to marvel at the propaganda being produced by Clay Bennett’s wife’s newspaper, the Daily Oklahoman. From the ads on every page of the site urging people to vote YES on the initiative, to the multiple editorials in support of the measure, to the dearth of investigating into whether this is something the city actually needs to do, you get the feeling the Oklahoman is, well, just a bit biased. You can imagine the conversations at the daily story meetings:

Cub Reporter: Hey, I was reading some stuff about how stadiums aren’t the economic drivers they’ve been made out to be. How about I do some writeups on that? I could study the situation in other cities, do some comparisons, you know that sort of thing.

Editor: Shut up.

And that brings me to this opinion piece from Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry. Henry tosses out the standard adjectives regarding the improvements (“astounding”, et al), but focuses the latter half of his piece on motivating voters to build upon the existing momentum in downtown Oklahoma City. As Henry puts it, by renovating the Ford Center, Oklahoma City will have a chance to be a, ugh, “big league city.”

You know, like Green Bay. Or Jacksonville.

But the icing on the cake is Henry’s final line, wherein he admonishes his constituents to heed the words of Will Rogers: "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.”

Sadly, Henry neglected to mention another quote from Rogers, one I feel is closer to how the late independent thinker would feel about this particular flim-flam act. I’ll let Will tell it:

"There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you."



Hardwood Paroxysm said...

Look, I'm definitely in support of the Sonics getting to stay in Seattle. They shouldn't be moved. Attendance needs to go up, but they shouldn't lose the damn franchise, everybody but Stern and Bennett, the soulless jackass agrees.

But the Sonics nation should really stop ripping on OKC and Oklahomans in general. They haven't done anything to you, one guy has. None of them want you to lose your franchise. We all put our pants on the same way, one leg at a time (except me, I get a running start and do both legs at once). I think you'll go farther with the general public and create more outcry if you don't vent the bitterness at people that don't deserve it.

They're a small market, so what? They sold out games. They have a lot of enthusiasm. It's good basketball country. And having the most people shouldn't be the only criteria for owning a team.

Again, I hope the cases get upheld and Bennett finally relinquishes this ridiculous crusade, but taking a dump on Oklahomans is unnecessary. And this is from someone that once said they should rename their motto to "We're 99% sure it could be worse."

Hardwood Paroxysm

Anonymous said...

Fair comment, but I think you're off the mark. I have no quarrel with the citizens in Oklahoma, and you'll note I didn't use any slurs or "cowboy" comments, because that stuff just denigrates your argument.

I do have a quarrel with Bennett. And since the Oklahoman is his mouthpiece, being that his wife owns it, I think it's fair to critize that paper. I value reporting as an important part of the American way of life, and what is going on with that paper is despicable. All local papers engage in boosterism to a degree, but considering that the owner of the paper will stand to make a substantial financial windfall on the backs of the citizens, it disgusts me to see a newspaper used in this manner.

Again, the problem isn't the average person in Oklahoma any more than the problem here is the average person in Seattle. Put it this way: I have more of a problem with David Stern and Howard Schultz than I do with Clay Bennett, and last time I checked neither of those two gentlemen reside in Oklahoma.

Anonymous said...

totally agree, nuss. Hardwood P., I don't know if you understand how emotional this situation is in Seattle, but if you have a hometown team that you've cared about for 25 years, then you might understand how I feel. Bennett is flat-out stealing this team, and his one road out of town is being paved by this initiative.

If the people of OKC approve this ballot measure, they will be assisting a guy who stole an NBA team from a city that did nothing wrong. How are we supposed to feel? Aw shucks, that stinks, too bad?

No way, I'll be even more pissed if the people in OKC vote to pass this ballot measure KNOWING FULL WELL THAT BY PASSING IT THEY ARE RIPPING THE HEART OUT OF SEATTLE BASKETBALL.

Sorry if I come off as irrational, but this whole situation stinks from every angle.

Matt said...

Again, focus your anger. The OKC people have had nothing to do with this and they're in an impossible situation. There's no way they come out as anything but the bad guys.

I totally understand the emotions involved. It's heartbreaking what's being done to the franchise.

Two questions, and they're honest questions, because your anger and grief have been covered ad nauseum.

1. How is Oklahoma City supposed to react? "No, no, we don't want it that way?" Are they supposed to vilify a guy that's been the face of the community?

2. This is a legitimate question. If the fans are so set on keeping the franchise there, and so passionate about the team, why have the attendance figures been so low? I'm not saying it's a good reason, there's no good reason to move the Sonics. But wouldn't it help Stern out if the fans proved how great of a market is, and not just when they're winning?

redickulous said...

Here's my take on the issue- If this seasons godawful team was concocted by Bennett and Co. to create apathy from the fans they did a pretty good job..and it follows the path of the Conspiracy theorists who believe so. I'm not one to ascribe to Conspiracy theories but ..i yi yi, what a MESS this season has become.

I reflexively follow the Sonics and the NBA, and I cannot recall a worse year-- The majority of the players are bland, marginal at best, and Earl Watson should NOT be a starting point guard anywhere beyond the D League. Durant should not be the #1 go-to guy on an NBA team..yet. Luke Ridinour and Nick Collison (and the departed Wally Siezerback) are natural STARTERS and have been getting the shaft by Coach PJ Carlissimo...whom by the way, should have been fired long ago- Why? Why? Why? is this guy getting a pass this season? 16-43! He makes Bob Weiss short-lived tenure look Phil Jacksonian by comparison.
My solution to spruce things up in Sonicland, at least for Comic Relief value: Dust off NBA vet LATRELL SPREWELL and have him reunited with Coach PJ. We'd end up sympathizing with the guy! Sprewell could mentor Durant on Money Management, and like that Seinfeld episode with George the complete opposite of what he says.

Sonics- RIP. sad.

Paul said...

Look, the whole "well, you didn't support your team" argument is a farce and everyone knows it.

Bennett deliberately set out to put the worst, cheapest team on the floor from day one. He has invested NOTHING into the team to keep it here. The promotions, advertising, half-time shows, etc. have been the most half-assed in the team's history. And to top it off, he completely (and deliberately) alienated the entire northwest by demanded we build a bloated, tax-payer funded, super-arena or else he'd take our team away.

Who in their right mind would support such a thing?

I'm as big a Supersonics fan as anyone. I can name every player on every Sonics roster since 1979 off the top of my head, and I have almost zero enthusiasm for this team right now, and it has nothing to do with their poor record (I rooted like crazy for those crappy 80's teams--Go Danny Vranes!).

As I said when I was on NPR a couple of weeks ago, this doesn't even feel like our team on the floor anymore--this is the Oklahoma team. And until we boot That Bastard Bennett out of town, it will remain so.

Anonymous said...

Man, I hate this kind of conversation, because it just shows that the NBA is playing us for suckers. The league pits one city against the other in a zero-sum game, and the only winners are the NBA owners.

As to the attendance, ponder this: The Sonics are now completing their third consecutive season of losing basketball, they are owned by a man who is set on moving them to another city, and they probably have the lowest advertising budget in the league.

Despite that, there are FIVE OTHER NBA TEAMS with lower or equal attendance figures. I submit to you, if the Sonics are poorly supported, then how about the Kings, Pacers, Sixers, Grizzlies, and Hornets? Do you think the NBA should abandon Philadelphia because that city doesn't support their team when it loses? Still feel comfortable making that argument?

Hardwood Paroxysm said...

So, would you guys agree that the fans only have to support a team if they're winning? If the team is bad, it's okay if the fans don't come?

Again, I'm NOT saying that that gives Bennett the right to pull what he has. But I think the discussion deserves merit.

Also, Nuss, one thing. The Hornets have had better attendance the last two years, and will likely make it three this season. Indiana's had better attendance 3 of the last 5 seasons. And Sacramento has had higher attendance the last 4 years. So that argument doesn't really flow, at least according to this:

And one thing I've seen Sonics blogs hang on to is that they have more people. But if they have more people, but the other markets have more people showing up, is that a bad sign?

Once more, please don't think I'm trying to say you deserve what's happening. I just think the argument is interesting. I'd kick Bennett in the nuts for any one of you, as good NBA fans.

Anonymous said...

Your argument would be better if the only reason people were staying away was because of the losing. You're absolutely right, a city that stays away when the team loses does not have much of an argument towards keeping the team.

But there are HUGE extenuating circumstances here. For example, I live outside of Seattle, and attended my first game last week. As I have a small child, I thought about getting her something from the team shop before the game, but reconsidered, with the logic being, "Why the hell should I give 1 cent to Clay Bennett's pocket?"

Now, I think we can all agree that I'm a pretty good fan of this team. But what about regular, casual fans? Don't you think that that conversation has run through their heads this season? Doesn't this city get cut any slack considering who owns this team? Are we expected to be lemmings that are ignorant of the daily news?

Of course not, and that's why the attendance figure argument is a non-argument. This city has supported the Sonics for 40 years, and there were plenty of losing seasons in amongst them.

Again, I point to Philadelphia. I think we can all agree that Philly is no danger of losing its team, and is (rightfully so) considered one of the preeminent basketball cities in the U.S. Yet, in each of the last three seasons, including this one, Philadelphia has lagged behind Seattle in attendance.

And yet, no one is calling Philadelphia fans 'bandwagon' fans who don't support their team. And, considering the size of Philly and the fact their team is under no threat of departure, doesn't that make their attendance figures even MORE pathetic?

No, I won't accept any argument that the relatively poor Seattle attendance figures are anything but an indictment of the shoddy way the fans here have been treated in the past half-decade.

Anonymous said...

I think Matt makes a good point - how is OKC supposed to react?

I'm totally behind keeping the team here, and I hate Bennett as much as the next guy, but the OKC people are getting kind of stuck in the middle here.

To our OK friends, peace! And good luck getting a (non-Sonic) team!

Hardwood Paroxysm said...

Nuss, except if you notice, Seattle hasn't been above 20th in the league since 2002. It's not a recent development, the lack of attendance, it's a contributing problem and a weakness Bennett preyed upon your franchise. Teams with good attendance are harder to buy, and much harder to move. There's no way Stern can come out and abandon you guys to the wolves if you're in even the top 15 in the league.

I will say this repeatedly until I'm certain it's clear. This is not a justification for the kidnapping of the team. But this should be a rallying cry. Instead of boycotting the team and driving it's value down, wouldn't it be better for the fans to show up and show solidarity by selling the joint out? Just an idea.

Anonymous said...

I see your point, and will, in the words of Ron Burgundy, agree to disagree as to how to interpret attendance figures as a barometer of fan loyalty.

The important thing, I think, to take away is that attendance is irrelevant, at this point, anyway. The most important decision will be from the courts in June. If it is decided that Bennett has to uphold his end of the lease and remain in Seattle for two more years, we will be going down a whole different path. I strongly believe that new ownership will make itself apparent, and I cannot imagine David Stern will let Bennett walk away from Seattle when local ownership is willing and able to buy the team. That's my belief, anyway.

Anonymous said...

HP if you start the attendance count in 2002 you only get a small slice of the story. The Sonics have been supported for 41 years and were a quite successful team throughout the 90s. The owner at the time took advantage of that success perhaps too much and more than doubled ticket prices from mid90s to the end of decade. People paid while the winning was good but a series of bad basketball moves and developments brought a slump on the court and in ticket sales. There is every reason to believe that attendance will pick back up with improvement in the record. Most franchises get a chance to ride thru the down cycle to get back to the good. But rather than wait for on the court success to translate into improved business they focused on juicing up the arena revenue streams. When they couldn't get exactly the supersweet deal they wanted they abandoned the fans that supported them. Schultz sold us out and Stern went along with it. The fans maybe not have been at their strongest recently but they have done a lot.

Bennett and the NBA will probably find it is tough when the team isn't winning a lot in OKC too.

A fancy arena is only as good as the team and the team - city relationship.

Anonymous said...

Ignored in this conversation is the % capacity that an arena is filled. Key Arena, even when sold out, has no chance of cracking the top 10 in attendance numbers, given that it's (currently) the smallest arena in the league.

I wish I had the link, but I read that over the years the % filled to capacity has been competitive given the crap we've thrown out on the floor.

Anonymous said...

Guys, this has been some good discussion. I would love to see a post refuting the "Sonics fans are not loyal and are not showing up to the games, so I have no problem if they move" argument. I feel like I have to refute it at least once a week and would love an article I could cross-reference!

Hardwood Paroxysm said...

See, now, that's just frustrating. Even though I said "this is not justification for moving the team" I get " Sonics fans are not loyal and are not showing up to the games, so I have no problem if they move."

My only point is that if the goal is to get the whole world on your side against Bennett and Stern, showing up would be a nice start.

I've looked at the capacity numbers, and that is a fair point. I touched on it earlier in the season, but the long term disparity is troubling, you have to admit.

And in no way was I saying attendance was the sole reason, or even necessarily a reason for the douchebaggery being perpetrated. But it makes it easier for Stern to wipe his hands with it.

Again, I really sincerely hope the Sonics stay in Seattle, but I also hope this serves as an example to fans everywhere that you need to always support the team, if only to keep them rooted here.

Finally, the team-city relationship is most important, that's a completely accurate argument.

ADP said...

I think you are leaving a few things out.

First off, we have THREE major teams in the city. No offense, but OKC doesn't even have one in the major sports, so you could not possibly understand the dynamics of having two successful teams and one failing one. It affects attendance, even if the Sonics are the only one currently at play.

Secondly, why give Bennett money? Why pay for his legal fees? The best way to get him to sell is to bind him to the lease and hope the losses are bad enough that he has to sell. Both Bennett and Stern have been such jerks...why reward them? I feel that everyone going to the games will do little good (What Stern wants, he gets) and is a risk of being worse (paying for their fees) for us.

Just my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

This is idiotic. Bennett isn't loading the moving vans because attendance is low this year. He contrived to demoralize anyone who cares about the Sonics for the express purpose of using them (us) as part of his cover as he drags this franchise to OKC. Man, just to be rich enough to toss $350 million into a business, trash it thoroughly, move it to a market a third as big, and call it a smart deal. Whew, that's spectacular on so many levels. Life's pretty damn sweet when you marry into the Gaylord family...

And, yes, if the city wins the lawsuit no one, NOT ONE SINGLE FAN, should buy a Sonics ticket for the next two years. Or as long as Billy Bob Bennett is still called owner...

Anonymous said...

Hardwood P: I wasn't saying that your argument was "they don't show up so I have no problem if they move." I was hoping the writers here could refute that point of view, because I DO hear that argument all the time from people I live with/work with in LA. Most of the population I have met outside of Seattle believes we don't care, we don't go to games, and we could not care less if the team moves. Which is trash.

Anonymous said...

We have two successful teams?? News to me.

As for the "sticking it to bennett by not attending" argument, well, I think we all agree that it's a double-edge sword. It'll hurt him, but make us look bad as fans.

We need to have a major campaign for fans to boycott all Sonics merchandise and concessions. That's the one way we can hurt Bennett without hurting our own standing as fans.

Anonymous said...

I believe Hardwood's argument (and please correct me if I am wrong), is not that Sonic fans do not care about their team. Rather, it is that - when taken from the perspective of someone not living in the immediate area, and perhaps more objective - the best way to show that this is a horrible situation is to point to attendance figures.

In other words, if the Sonics were selling out every game, and Bennett still tried to move the team, the national outcry would be even more loud. I will agree with him, to a point, in that selling out every game would enhance our argument. At the same time, calling out Oklahoma's citizens(which, incidentally, I made pains not to do in my article) does not endear us to the national scene. I can see his point in both of those arguments, and being that they are coming from someone who professes to be on our side, I think they should be taken as constructive criticism, which is always a helpful commodity.

At the same time, it is not our responsibility to go broke buying tickets to fatten the wallets of a man intent on moving our favorite team. I would argue that just because the national media is asleep at the switch in covering this story is not our fault, it is the media's fault.