Tuesday, April 15

The Bell is Ringing

Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.
—John Donne

Perhaps you are asking yourself, why is this site referencing a devotion written by a 16th century metaphysical poet? Have Sonic fans completely abandoned all hope of retaining their team and turned to meditation? Can we now expect essays on the proper use of crystals?

I’ll tell you why: Because what is happening to the Sonics in Seattle is happening – on another level – to all NBA teams in all NBA cities.

In New Orleans, where a city bludgeoned by unspeakable tragedy is paying $7.5 million a season in taxpayer money to keep the Hornets from fleeing. You read that right. The Hornets, a team owned by a man, George Shinn, whose net worth of $100 million neglects to include his $275 million basketball team, receives nearly $8 million every year from the people of New Orleans.

While David Stern was painting elementary schools during all-star weekend festivities to show how much he cared about New Orleans, one of his bosses, Shinn, was milking those same children’s families for enough money to easily build a hundred new houses in the hurricane-ravaged city. In addition, the Hornets train in a “practice facility” in the midst of an $8.5 million renovation – none of which came from Shinn’s pockets. Further, that facility has been called a “temporary solution” by the Hornets, and they are clamoring for a better (read, more expensive) practice facility, so that they may better entice free agents to relocate to the Crescent City.

It is happening in San Antonio, where the model of success for the NBA, the Spurs, turns around and asks the city for more concessions and more money, less than five years after receiving a brand-new building, the same building they received because the brand-new building they received in 1993, the Alamodome, was obsolete within a decade.

It is happening in Brooklyn, where the subsidy figure for the Nets’ Atlantic Yards project has now reached the $2 billion mark, and shows no sign of stopping.

All of this has been occurring while America is in on the verge of entering (if it has not already entered) a tremendous recession, one which will negatively impact: 1) the financial wherewithal of the 30 owners of NBA teams and 2) the fans who spend their disposable income on those teams.

And yet, we continue to fork more money over, gladly building new arenas in places such as Orlando, a city which received a new team and a new arena fewer than 20 years ago, a “new arena” which apparently is now obsolete, like so many other edifices the NBA has left in its wake, even though the money to pay for the new arena is apparently already in question.

My point in all this rambling, you ask? This: That NBA fandom has an opportunity to finally punch back after being knocked around by the moneyed elite who have been bullying us for the past 25 years. Unlike all previous encounters between the league and its fans, it is the fans with the upper hand in this situation. The Sonics’ owners and David Stern have seen a local story grow into a national one, and they are faced with the chilling prospect of entering into a court battle this June, one which will undoubtedly reveal skeletons in closets Stern & Co. do not wish you to see. Further, the owners of the Sonics are unquestionably concerned about losing the case and facing an additional two money-losing seasons in Seattle.

Those are the facts at hand, and those are the facts NBA fans need to keep telling themselves as the weeks unfold. Do not listen to the experts on television, who have studied this issue about as much as they’ve studied British naval history, tell you that the Sonics are as good as gone – they are not. When you see a story about the Sonics on espn.com or si.com or wherever you get your news, click on it. The mere fact of clicking on a story tells the keepers of the information that their audience is interested and just keeping this story at the fingertips of the national sports scene is essential at this point.

A solid opportunity to reach the commissioner will present itself Wednesday morning when Stern appears on the Mike & Mike show. While he will do his best to avoid making any comments, flooding the hosts’ email with questions about this situation is a solid idea. You can reach their email via this link. Take five minutes of your day and send a question for Stern to them.

In the end, David Stern and Clay Bennett share one goal: Making this story disappear. You, as readers, as bloggers, as whomever, have an opportunity to thwart that goal. Talk about it on your local radio call-in shows, write about it on your websites, read about it on the web, just keep it on the front burner.

As the marvelous Tim Keown pointed out in a recent ESPN column, “Someone has to have the worst arena in the NBA.” If the Sonics are successful in getting a new or refurbished arena in the next few years, it is inevitable that another city and another team will go through this dance.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.


Anonymous said...

There is an important fact to consider in this relocation discussion: the Sonics are not going to go bankrupt if they stay in KeyArena. Not that the Sonics don't lose money compared to amount of cash the owners put into the team each year, but no one buys a team looking to make their fortune. Compared to the time when the Giants and Dodgers left New York, there was a realistic concern that those teams could have gone out of business had they remained in their old stadiums.

A businessman originally buys a team for the cachet they get (like the attention Clay Bennett has got in Oklahoma for trying to bring an NBA team to his home), but once that someone owns a team, they want to maximize profits. That is why David Stern is promoting the "musical chairs" approach to franchise relocation: when a city builds a mega palace for a team (like in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix or wherever), then the teams who got their own "mega palace" a decade or so ago now see their arena not as a financial deathtrap, but merely NOT AS PROFITABLE as the teams who have new arenas. And the cycle will continue, because a decade from now the mega-palaces (like Staples Center) will seem outdated, not as a structure to show basketball games, but just in the limited sense that it's not as new and shiny as the mega palaces being built for other teams at that time.

If you think your team is safe from this menace, then you are deluding yourself. If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone!

ASponge said...

We Miami Heat fans have put together a proposed plan of action here: http://thesouthfloridafan.blogspot.com/2008/04/how-to-help-seattle-keep-their-sonics.html

It involves this:


"As a form of protest, we vow to boycott any game next season in which the Oklahoma City Sonics play, whether it be in our arena or watching it on television."

Spread this around as much as you can. It's going to take the other teams to prevent this from happening. Let's save the Sonics!

Eric Reynolds said...

You guys rock.

Scott said...

Just so you know, the Raptors community is right behind you and support the fight to keep the team in Seattle. We saw the Grizzlies torn out of Vancouver for business reasons and the bad taste lingers.

We at the AltRaps blog threw up a quick hit post this morning and plan on doing a bigger write up once our Raptors are out of the playoffs (which should be in, oh, a week).

Keep up the fight.



Anonymous said...

You guys are awesome.
Thanks, guys!

mcwalter44 said...

Man, I'm totally depressed over this Sonics mess. I've got tickets tonights game down in Oakland, hell I think we're going to see King Felix pitch an inning and them check out KD. This was going to be a great sport night out for my little bro and me, now it's just sad.

Anonymous said...

mcw - keep your chin up. I'm as pessimistic as anyone, and I really believe the Sonics will stay in Seattle now. Between the city's lawsuit, Schultz' lawsuit, the class action lawsuit, and the overwhelming public opinion these days, I have totally come around on this topic. If you're going to be at the game tonight, why not bring a sign saying SAVE OUR SONICS, or words to that effect? Pretty good chance you'll get on television ...

Anonymous said...

Cavs are behind you, too. Someone put together an online petition (please, only Cavs fans sign to avoid confusion, duplication, etc.)



And One's contribution:


Anonymous said...

The NBA business model is all the cities on this giant treadmill, and David Stern is driving a steamroller at the back, lashing those who are on the back end with a cat o' nine tails.

It's just our turn now. Soon we'll get rolled over. After Stern steadies the roller after the bump, he'll look eagerly at the next in line.

mcwalter44 said...

Nuss, I've got a Sonics your Sonics sign ready for the game. Hell, I've already gotten in the press from the final sonics home game.


I'll be there in Oakland with my amber red Payton jersey, I'm sure my bro will have his black and white Allen jersey. We'll see if we can get on TV and/or in the newspaper again. If you hear of any Save Our Sonics chants, it's a go chance that my bro and I were the ones that started it.

Anonymous said...

Now that's a fan, people! Nice work mcw.

You think you could get Baron to wave a sign as well? You know, because he won't be doing anything else tonight ...

mcwalter44 said...

I'll see what I can do... no guarantees, but I bet I could get Pietrus to wave the sign. I've meet him a few times before and he might just do it for a laugh.

Anonymous said...

BTW, a big thanks to everyone outside of Seattle who is pitching in to help.