Wednesday, April 3, 2013
The Sonics Situation
We try to keep our content pretty unbiased here and I've canned quite a few post ideas on the premise that they are too "Seattlecentric". However, this whole tug of war for the Kings, which has been buried on major news sites, isn't just a Seattle thing, or a Sacramento thing. Its about a couple of different things, being a sports fan and the NBA in general. And we don't have a lot of sports stuff on here.
For as long as I can remember, I've always been a Seattle SuperSonics fan. I was there during the Kemp/Payton years, and I was there when those titanic teams fell apart due to mismanagement and egos. I was there Vladamir Stepania and Jerome James' breasts. I've seen the highs and the lows. When the Sonics were ripped out of Seattle with tepid resistance from the city and state government, I was furious. I swore off the NBA forever(This of course didn't last), and I railed against the very system that created this situation. Still, back in 2008, I wanted the Sonics back under two conditions, one, the new arena combined public and private financing and is a good investment for both sides, and two, it had to be either an expansion team, or from Memphis, a city who at the time I'm not sure realized they ever had a team.
Now, five years later, Seattle has its deal for a new arena. Despite some attempted slander by the Seattle Times, it is widely considered the fairest deal possible. An ownership group has assembled that is hell bent on bringing a team back and has ridiculously deep pockets. However, the NBA has made it clear that there are no plans to expand and further dilute the market and talent pool. The NBA has finally reached a point where the talent level in the NBA is reminiscient to 20 years ago, before early entries muddled the pool, they don't want to give that up. Furthermore, its all about market share, the owners do not want to allow another set of hands in the pot.
The Sonics ownership group has set their sights on Sacramento, which has endured its own descent from the elite with poor ownership. Chris Hansen and company made the Maloofs an offer, the Maloofs accepted, Sacramento is spurred into action, and today both parties presented their sides to the NBA Board of Governors.
Naturally, the city of Seattle is excited about the return of the Sonics. But to me, at least, the entire scene rages with great hypocrisy.
One thing that the citizens of the greater Seattle area is great at, is being angry. The specter of the Sonics leaving suddenly made the Sonics very popular. An award winning documentary was created exposing the whole twisted process that led to the Sonics departure. Sonicsgate and their crew were the constant, driving activists that constantly rallied Sonics fans and ensured that what happened here would never be forgotten. Suddenly, now that the Sonics were gone, it was very cool to be a Sonics fan.
Now that it is becoming increasingly probable that the Sonics will be returning. It, after all, makes very little financial sense, long term or short term, to veto the purchase agreement signed by the Maloofs and Hansen and crew. I've been disappointed by the reaction of Sonics fans. Sure, there is the natural excitement of basketball coming back, I get that, and feel it, but at the same time, I'm left wondering, what the hell were we so mad about?
I was outraged by the NBA's economic model holding cities ransom to the point that I often wondered if I could support another NBA team whenever they came back. Why support such a business that operates from Stern's bully pulpit? Now, at the eve of the Sonics returning, I find myself terribly conflicted, and I think I'm in the minority. It seems like Sonics fans, including the Sonicsgate crew, who penned an insulting letter to Sacramento Kings fans on Grantland, weren't mad about the actual process, they were mad they lost their team. The reaction to pissed off Kings fans is "Yeah, that sucks, we know how that goes, but this is real exciting!"
Come opening night next fall, Key Arena will be packed to the gills, I, and thousands others will be there. Chances are David Stern will have swaggered into the arena as well to deliver a smug coronation. And chances are the 17,000 fans in attendance will boo the living hell out of him, venting five years of anger. Stern will look up, smile and soak it all in. He has everything he wants, a new arena and a billionaire ownership group. Nothing has changed, we didn't prove anything to the NBA, they operate as they always have, we're the suckers. The NBA played hardball with us and we caved. We didn't really want the NBA to stop holding cities hostage, or to change their flawed economic system. We didn't want to fall on our swords to send a message, or, even with the wheels of business rolling the Sonics back to Seattle, we didn't want to take a stand. We turned around and did the exact same thing to Sacramento without hardly a speck of genuine remorse. In the end, we're all suckers to the great business that is professional sports. We root for clothing and the idea of what it represents. In the end, all we wanted was basketball, and sometimes it just feels wrong.