Tuesday, June 30

One Year Later

Depending upon the circumstances, one year can be a long period of time.

One year spent waiting through, say, a traffic light or watching a year’s worth of early-90s Cavs highlights? That’s an eternity.

But watching one year of your life go by without your favorite basketball team? That can transpire rather quickly.

As a writer for a web site nominally devoted to a team which no longer exists, I suppose it is incumbent upon me to spill some pixel-filled pearls of wisdom about how it feels one year after Greg Nickels made a deal with the devil and allowed Clay Bennett to leave town for what turns out to be the tidy sum of $45 million.

It was, obviously, a painful day for all of us when the announcement was made. Speaking as someone who hasn’t lived in Seattle since the (first) Bush administration, though, I almost feel guilty about complaining – after all, how can I grouse about somebody leaving Seattle when I did it more than 15 years ago?

Regardless, this situation transcends individual situations, it transcends even city-wide feelings. Instead, I look at what happened to Seattle and the Sonics as a searchlight beaming directly onto the professional sports experience, and that’s precisely why it should trouble everyone, from the season-ticket holder in New Jersey to the casual fan in New Orleans.

In the aftermath of the relocation, I was a bit irked at the way the rest of the sports fans across the country viewed the way events transpired. For the most part, the prevailing sentiments fell into one of two camps:

A) “Hey, if you guys wanted your team so bad, you should have supported them better.”

B) “That really sucks for Seattle, we should do something about … hey, how ‘bout those Cavs, can you believe LeBron?”

Naturally, that bothered me. Where was the outrage? This wasn’t the Hornets leaving Charlotte, or the Grizzlies leaving Vancouver, this was the Sonics leaving Seattle. We mattered more. We had a history, dammit! Why wasn’t everyone as angry as we were?

For quite a few months, I lugged that emotion around with me, so much so that I began to wish that the league would just collapse so that everyone else would feel as crappy as I did. Then, slowly, I began to realize that the way other fans treated the Sonics’ departure was no different than the way I treated the Colts’ departure from Baltimore, or the Browns’ from Cleveland, or any of the myriad of other franchise shifts in the past twenty years.

That is to say, with a small bit of melancholy and a great big helping of indifference.

And you know what? I can’t expect any more than that.

One year later, and I still despise Stern, McClendon, Bennett, and the rest of the co-conspirators for the shoddy way they treated the fanbase here. When word came that the Blazers were mulling the possibility of playing a pre-season game in Seattle this fall, I almost threw up. Really, Portland, you think after one year that we’re ready to forget the past 40 years? That I can start cheering for a franchise that considers this guy a hero? I think not, my patchuli-scented friends.

But the truth is that I am not the target audience for the Blazers’ marketing scheme, any more than I am for the NBA. The target is the casual fan, the one who only dips his toe in the league’s pool when he feels like it, who can take or leave basketball with the ease of trying the new restaurant on the corner.

One year later, and I have finally come to the realization that the league cares as much about devoted fans as Hollywood cares about the hard-core fanatics who love their product. We are a loyal entity, a group who remain devoted no manner how shoddily we are treated.

Imagine if a local business treated you the way the NBA treated Seattle fans. After 40 years of devotion, after setting attendance records, after building two arenas, after caving in to every demand the league/team placed, they threatened to leave because of a lack of support. Can you imagine how you would feel about a local theater that tried to do that? A restaurant?

You can’t, of course, because the NBA – and pro sports in general – are a different animal, and they know it. Stern knows we are addicted to his product, and he knows no matter how poorly his teams behave towards their hosts, no matter how greedy his owners act or how egregious their demands, that there are always those who will forgive them, simply because they love the game.

One year later, and most of the anger has ebbed. And while I’ve grown to understand why the majority of population takes a not-my-problem attitude towards what happens in other cities, let me offer a few words of advice:

You’re next.


Henchman #2 said...

What's unfortunate is that, if the entire situation had been delayed a year, or even 6 months, I don't think that the team would ever have moved.

My reasoning is this: David Stern allowed the Sonics to leave without protest because he wanted to send a message. That message was "If you don't pay for an arena, your team is gone." However, right after that happened, the bottom fell out on the economy, and a precident for large amounts of private funding for stadiums (and PSLs) was set.

Now, not only has Stern's whole message been undermined by financial circumstance and public opinion, but he has a team that moved out of one of the higher profile cities in the country to a city where it's uncertain whether the NBA can compete with the popularity of football and college sports.

PN said...

I agree completely (and, to be fair, this is something Brian Robinson pointed out at SonicsCentral some time ago). Unfortunately, hindsight, as always, is useless in this case unless you're using it to help you predict the future. If other cities can use what happened here to understand that not giving in to ownership can actually pay off, well, then perhaps it might have been worth it from a big picture standpoint.

anonymous #12 said...

One year later, and most of the anger has ebbed.

I'm still feeling pretty angry.

What's unfortunate is that, if the entire situation had been delayed a year, or even 6 months, I don't think that the team would ever have moved.

Are you saying you have faith that an arena solution would've been reached? Not me. And since Ballmer wasn't going to buy the team without one, that just means if Bennett & Co had to sell, they would've sold to some other ownership group in some other market.

criminy. said...

"For quite a few months, I lugged that emotion around with me, so much so that I began to wish that the league would just collapse so that everyone else would feel as crappy as I did."

I absolutely hope that still happens. I want as many teams to move to different cities and have the nba become more and more of a fricking joke. Stern allowed it to happen in the first place; I want it come to fruition in the most extreme way possible. I want to see the Bobcats/Pacers/Kings/Hornets/etc to move, and prove to the rest of the nation just what an asswipe stern was to let this move happen in the first place. I want to show that he brought it down upon himself in the first place; there is no one else's fault other than his own. He let the flood gates open, and consequenty, F him and the rest of the league. F OKC.

Fakin said...

You're writing is terrible and the team's gone, so shut down this piece of shit.
And everybody should stop judging places they've never been to or know anything about.
I'm from okc and and have family in oregon, seattle, and spokane, and the people down here are far more friendly and real than you pretentious northwesterners. Y'all ran the team into the ground and you're pricks for not transferring the name and whining so goddamn much and not caring enough to keep your team. The thunder were awful their first season and will continue through rebuilding but we still love them, and seattle doesn't deserve the team

O-D said...

I feel your pain and as a Milwaukee Bucks fan I wonder whether we might be in the same boat in a few years. Stern is undoubtedly a complete dickhead, he's over-expanded the league into markets that have no business having NBA teams, Memphis, OKC, New Orleans, etc. (I apologize to fans of those teams and have nothing against those cities) while moving, or threatening to move them out of established markets such as Seattle and Milwaukee. Maybe one day we'll have a league where fans, who are the one's solely responsible for the revenue that pays Stern and his fatcat owners, have more of a say in the league policies and maybe even ownership roles, which would guarantee that our teams stay in our cities. Don't listen to the ass-hole above me either, keep writing your blog and making your voice heard. Peace.

Commando Dave said...

We're having a YEAR ONE Rally for HARDCORES ONLY, all day tomorrow @ Floyd's Place. Info @ SonicsMIA.com

Paul said...

"You're (sic) writing is terrible "

Uh . . . ? Yourz writings is bad alsoz.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Lardo : May your burgers always be burnt to a crisp...

JAS said...

“I'm from okc and and have family in oregon, seattle, and spokane, and the people down here are far more friendly and real than you pretentious northwesterners.”

Nice to know that you and your family get along so well. Judging by your own disposition, any personality flaws your relatives up here may have are probably the result of genetics, rather than location. Or maybe they just don’t like you. Not hard to see why they wouldn’t.

chunkstyle23 said...

Face it guys, Fakin and his compatriots are right. Us whiners are ruining his Internet and NBA experience by keeping this enterprise running. Let's call it quits and leave the punditry to our superiors in Overflowing Klassiness City. Because it's not like there's room on the Internet for, like, a multitude of opinions or, say, good spelling.

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