There are, perhaps, as many ways to judge a work of art as there are a basketball player.
The evaluator of a player, luckily, has cold, hard numbers to help him, while a man standing before a work of art, whether Monet or Miley Cyrus, is forced to look inward and answer the question, “How does this make me feel?”
Ultimately, a great work of art stimulates thought in the mind of the viewer, creates discussion, and – if it is truly great – a wide range of opinions.
And so, while I won’t elevate it to the level of Dog Day Afternoon or Lawrence of Arabia, you have to say Sonicsgate is a worthwhile piece of art.
Okay, there are at least four or five movies in there, and, granted, two hours is waaaay too long for this story, but, that’s all immaterial, really.
What is important is that this film got made, and kudos to the three gentlemen who created it. Those who might argue that the Sonic history half of the movie should have been pared down are not grasping how important that part of the story is to Sonic fans. That is our history up there on screen, and if this film doesn’t tell our story, what will?
Sure, the film is a downer, but so is the subject matter. What did you expect, a lighthearted rom-com?
I was not eagerly anticipating the release of Sonicsgate. Obviously, I’ve digested more than my fill of this story already, and the idea of sitting through two hours of something that would leave me with a horrible mixture of anger, depression, and misery was … well it was less than appealing.
But about halfway through the movie – around the time it focused upon the botched negotiations between Steve Ballmer, the City, the State, the Sonics, and the NBA – I had an epiphany of sorts, and it really surprised me.
The NBA will come back to Seattle.
At first, it was a rush of excitement, one of those rare clear-headed moments that happen about once a year, when all the complications fall away and you’re left with a crystallized insight of the future.
It seems obvious when you think about for more than a moment, really. Assuming (I know, I know) Ballmer’s plan comes to fruition and the economy eventually reaches a point at which the $75 million required from the State becomes viable, Seattle will be left with a fantastic arena and no tenant.
And how long do you think it would take the NBA to react? Six months? Six minutes?
I understand other cities – St. Louis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, etc. – are ready to host the NBA, but none of those cities combine Seattle’s deep basketball history with the league’s guilt over abandoning it, tossed in with the fact that Seattle is a large metropolis with equally large corporations ready to spend money on luxury suites and advertising.
But almost as soon as that rush of excitement arrived, it departed, because I was left with the realization that the only way the dream of the NBA in Seattle can take shape is for us to swipe another city’s team.
And let’s face it, that is the engorged river we’ll have to cross at some point in the next few years. After all of our whining and complaining about the unfairness of Oklahoma City stealing “our team” (and, yeah, your narrator’s as guilty as anyone), we are poised to repeat that same dance on another city’s grave.
Last spring, while driving down to Portland to watch the Blazers, I had an almost identical conversation with a fellow SupersonicSoul author, and I reasoned that if we got an expansion team it would be different since it would mean we wouldn’t have the blood of relocation on our hands.
Raf’s counter-argument, as I look back upon it now, was right. Simply by building another arena and joining the NBA – whether with an expansion team or one heisted from another city – we become co-conspirators in the never-ending game of arena creep taking place across the country.
Sure, we’d be able to argue that we hadn’t stolen someone else’s team, but by creating yet another ridiculously overpriced altar to basketball, we would have given the people in Minneapolis or New Jersey or Oakland, more reason to worry that within months, they were going to hear the inevitable refrain from their team’s owner about “unbalanced revenue streams” and “lack of competitive edge.”
And I honestly don’t know how to counter that argument. As someone who likes to think of himself as a quasi-Libertarian who hates to see wasted spending, despises the way professional sports leagues play cities and fans off one another, and recoils at the thought of how many mouths could have been fed with the dollars spent on demolished stadiums, I’m torn.
There is the part of me that loves sports, and the NBA. Watching the NLCS last night, there was a moment in the 8th inning when Manny Ramirez strode to the plate with the game on the line. Ramirez v. Madson might not be Ali v. Frazier, but it was fantastically exciting to watch, and it reminded me of how it felt when the Sonics were in the championship mix for most of the 1990s.
The thrill you get as a fan in those moments is almost incomparable, and it is those moments we’re craving when we consider dipping our toe back into the NBA’s pool.
Do those moments, though, justify the expense? Will our joy in watching the Sonics compete for the ’19-’20 championship override the guilt in knowing we did to another city what we criticized Oklahoma City for doing to us, in knowing that we, as a people, spent more than a billion dollars on three stadiums – Safeco, Qwest, KeyArena – in the same time as we ran up tremendous deficits, causing all sorts of devastating cutbacks to crucial services?
It’s a tough, tough question to answer. The makers of Sonicsgate may not have intended to ask those questions, but their film certainly contributed to at least one person thinking about them.