All right, after sifting through another 2,500 e-mails Thursday night and Friday morning, we had to run a sequel to the “Save The Sonics” piece from Thursday. Allow me four points before we turn it over to the readers:
Point No. 1: There’s one solution David Stern could facilitate — you know, assuming he cares at all about not murdering the Sonics in Seattle — that seems so remarkably logical, it’s hard to figure how this couldn’t work. The NBA failed in Memphis, and the Grizzlies are currently for sale, right? Well, couldn’t Stern broker a sale in which Clay Bennett acquired the Grizzlies at a discount and moved them to Oklahoma City, then sold the Sonics to a group of local buyers? (An article in Friday’s Seattle Times says numerous local buyers are lining up.) That wouldn’t make everyone happy? We lose one of the weakest NBA cities (Memphis) and gain a city that was routinely selling out Hornets games (Oklahoma City), and if that’s not enough, Seattle gets to keep the franchise it has had for 41 seasons. Everyone wins.
Now, I’m assuming Bennett would veto this idea for two reasons: He paid more for the Sonics than the Grizzlies are currently worth, but, more importantly, he’d be losing a potential superstar (Kevin Durant) by taking over the Grizzlies. OK, fine. Let’s make him happy. There’s a precedent here — after the ’78 season, Boston owner Irv Levin “swapped” franchises with Buffalo owner John Y. Brown, then moved the Braves to San Diego and renamed them the Clippers. As part of the deal, the teams swapped a motherload of players and picks: Boston ended up with Tiny Archibald, Billy Knight, Marvin Barnes and two second-round picks; San Diego landed Kermit Washington, Kevin Kunnert, Sidney Wicks and the rights to Freeman Williams (the eighth pick in the ’78 draft).
Assuming Bennett wouldn’t swap franchises unless he could take Durant with him, what if Stern faciliated the following trade: Seattle ends up with Rudy Gay, Mike Conley Jr. and Brian Cardinal’s contract, and Bennett’s Grizzlies end up with Durant and the rights to Phoenix’s 2010 No. 1 pick. Seattle sacrifices Durant to keep the Sonics in Seattle, but the franchise ends up with two blue-chippers for him — throw in Jeff Green, this summer’s lottery pick, five first-rounders in the next three years and all the cap space, and that’s a really nice foundation. Meanwhile, Bennett gets to take a meal ticket to Oklahoma City (Durant) and team him with Mike Miller, Juan Carlos Navarro, Hakim Warrick, Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittendon, this summer’s lottery pick and a ridiculous amount of cap space. Again, that’s a pretty nice foundation.
Doesn’t everyone win? If anyone can explain to me why this couldn’t or shouldn’t happen, I’d love to hear it.
Point No. 2: I know it feels good to blame the Oklahoma City fans and take potshots at their city, but from the e-mails I’m getting from Oklahoma, those fans don’t like how this is playing out, either. They already proved they can sell out an NBA arena for an entire season, and they’re definitely ready for an NBA team, … but they don’t want somebody’s hijacked franchise under sleazy circumstances and they don’t want to be held responsible for killing 41 years of basketball in Seattle. If anything, they’d love to get the Hornets back because they’ve already established genuine ties with the players on that team. I just don’t think you can blame the Oklahoma City fans for what’s happening here. They certainly didn’t ask Bennett to steal someone else’s team.
Point No. 3: It’s legitimately incredible that Congress wasted so much time on the moronic Roger Clemens hearings, and yet here’s an issue that truly matters — the ongoing problem of professional sports owners extorting taxpayers with the threat of relocation, with Seattle as the latest victim — and Congress is nowhere to be seen. I just love the fact Roger Clemens’ appearance at Jose Canseco’s pool party takes precedence over 41 years of professional basketball in Seattle with the people who run our country. Awesome. I’m moving to Canada soon.
Point No. 4: Many Sonics fans asked me for advice on saving the team, like I would have some sort of magic solution that hasn’t been considered yet. And honestly, I don’t. As long as David Stern is OK with this whole thing, and it seems like he is, then it’s probably going to happen. A number of you suggested a complete boycott — for instance, the Sonics are playing host toMinnesota on NBATV on March 14, which would work well because it’s a nationally televised game — but boycotts never work because there’s always enough fans who don’t give a crap and end up crossing the “picket line” (defeating the purpose of a boycott).
I did have one idea that won’t necessarily save the Sonics, but will definitely achieve the goal of raising national awareness for what’s happening here. It’s a radical idea, an act of aggressive pacifism, if you will. I don’t think it’s ever been done before, but I think it could work. And no, this idea wasn’t inspired by the “Donna Martin Graduates!” episode on “90210.” OK, maybe a little.
Anyway, as soon as the third quarter ends for one of Seattle’s upcoming home games, the Sonics fans should simply leave their seats and walk onto the court. Don’t be violent, don’t antagonize anyone … just walk onto the court en masse, and as soon as the court is filled with people, start chanting, “SAVE OUR SONICS!” for 10 minutes straight. Assuming you had 3,000-4,000 people stroll onto the court, there’s no possible way they could arrest everyone, and if they called the game, who cares? You were probably losing the game, anyway. The crucial thing to remember is that it should be done as nonaggressively as possible; the rest of the nation won’t be sympathetic to your cause if you act like jerks. And you shouldn’t chant anything like “BENNETT SUCKS!” or “STERN SUCKS!” You want everything to be as simple and benevolent as possible.
If you could pull this stunt off in a dignified way, it could be incredibly effective and raise the right amount of national awareness for this issue. (In fact, it would be the dominant story of that week and make the sports radio/talk show rotation.) I’m not going to pick the game for you, but I will say that you should pick a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday game so the story (and the highlights) can get national attention for the rest of the work week. Remember, carry yourselves with dignity and don’t act like jerks. Heck, I might even show up to join you.
All right, let’s get to the e-mails. These are follow-ups from people who read Thursday’s “Save Our Sonics” piece:
City: Berkeley, Calif.
Look, you know what it’s like to grow up supporting your home team, and I’m sure you have vivid memories of the Celtics from your childhood. My equivalent of that is being snatched away, and no one outside of this state seems to care at all. That is, perhaps, the saddest part of all — we’re being robbed and our neighbors are apathetically looking on, never bothering to call the cops.
City: Bellevue, Wash.
Bob Blackburn, the play-by-play man for many years of the Sonics, had a garage sale recently as he was moving out of my neighborhood. I wandered over to look at all the Sonics memorabilia he had. And after speaking with him for a few moments and looking at all the incredible NBA-related items, I walked away. I didn’t want anything. The Sonics are dead to me.
Here is what I have to say to those who are mainly responsible for the Sonics’ departure.
Howard Schultz and Co.: I hate you and your peons. You bought the franchise, only to sell it off after a pathetic effort as an owner. How can you claim it was a bad investment and that you were losing money when you sold it for a hefty profit? I was fooled into believing the Sonics would be safe for decades to come with the new billionaire owner with strong Seattle business roots and that you were not lying when you said you wished to save basketball in Seattle. You convinced Seattle and then the world to pay five bucks for a cup of coffee and you couldn’t somehow convince the local government to work something out for the existing crappy lease at Key Areana or for a new stadium or remodel?!?!? You bastards!
Washington state local government: I hate you all and your lack of vision. How can you not care that the Sonics are the only franchise here to have actually won a championship (the Storm doesn’t count)? You fail to recognize the cultural benefit of having an NBA franchise in the city, and you can’t grasp the immeasurable commodities the Sonics provide. You are all just as responsible for the team leaving as anyone. I find it hard to believe that if somebody were to buy the Space Needle and move it to another city that you would just allow it to happen without a fight. You bastards!
Clay Bennett and Co.: I hate you and your peons. You bought the franchise with the intention of stealing the team away all along. You had no interest in keeping the team here at all unless you were given a $500 million golden palace to play in. “[Clay Bennett and I] didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle, we hoped to come here [to Oklahoma City],” said Aubrey McLendon, a minority owner and close friend of Clay’s. “We know it’s a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it’s great for the community and if we could break even we’d be thrilled.” You put on a nice show for awhile there pretending to be interested in keeping the team in Seattle, but the truth came out, and it was obvious you weren’t even considering contributing any money for your request for a new arena. You bastards!
David Stern: I hate you. You recently stated the “miracle” that was needed to keep the Sonics here was not coming. “I accept that inevitability at this point. There is no miracle here.” The Sonics have been here for 41 years! 41 YEARS, DAMMIT! And now you are basically supporting them leaving here for a smaller market in Oklahoma City!? How does the move make the NBA better? You plan to expand the NBA with new teams in Europe and you can’t support keeping the Sonics in Seattle? Obviously, the NBA business model needs some work. Don’t hold Seattle hostage because NBA team owners are struggling to add some extra money into their already huge bank accounts. The “miracle” we need is not dead; look what we were able to achieve with the Mariners and Seahawks, both of which were on the verge of leaving town. You bastard!
City: Berkley, Mass.
I must not be watching enough TV because I haven’t seen the “NBA Cares” commercial with Clay Bennett and David Stern fondling money and in the background there is a group of ex-Sonics fans burning their Kevin Durant and Ray Allen jerseys. What a joke. The NBA: Where ripping out an entire city’s heart happens.
You’re 12 years old. Your parents have a seemingly good marriage. Granted there might be a few problems between them. Sometimes your dad stumbles in drunk and says he gambled away your mortgage payment. First Union Bank says you’re about two mortgage payments away from foreclosing on your trailer. But you still have hope your parents can get through the tough times, your dad might quit gambling and maybe (someday) you’ll move into a modest two-bedroom house. However, one night your a—— father walks out on your mother leaving her debt ridden and vulnerable. Then along comes this charming man who sweeps your mother off her feet. He promises to get your family on the right path and find that two-bedroom home. Everything seems great for the first few nights. Every night you get watch “Jeopardy” together and eat lasagna. He seems like a perfect match for your mother. Then one night he comes home drunk and gives your mother the clap and then proceeds to kick you out of the trailer. So you call your uncle Dave to recount the tragedy hoping for him to commiserate with you. After all, he’s your successful uncle who has always been there for you. Only he tells you to eff-off. Next thing you know is that you’re on a Maury Povich special for out-of-control teens who end up going to boot camp.
Thanks Clay, you (expletive)!
Name: Peter King
I was stationed in Iraq for 2004, and the Sonics made the playoffs. That year was hell, but somehow sports and the Sonics got me through. I am attatched to this team, and I would rather go back to Iraq then see them leave! Its an outrage David Stern is letting this happen. I would spend another five years in Iraq if I could wipe that smug expression off his face.
Name: Bill Sanders
I don’t believe the fight for the Sonics is over and nor should it be. Can you imagine the C’s leaving Beantown? Granted we don’t have the history, the banners (we do have one), the Basketball Jesus, Tommy Points, the man of 10,000 post moves and bad sweaters, The Chief, The Truth or The Garden. But, we do have Slick, Downtown Freddie Brown, Sikma, The Wizard, JJ, Chambers, X-Man, The Reign Man, Det and The Glove. Quite possibly the greatest jewel of them all is Kevin Calabro, our play-by-play man. It would be a shame to move 40 years of history out of the Emerald City because Mr. Coffee sold out to Mr. OKC.
City: New Haven, Conn.
I just read your “Save the Sonics” mailbag, and I know this e-mail is too late for its inclusion, but I can’t believe no one suggested getting Pearl Jam involved in the fight to save basketball in Seattle. The band members would be perfect spokesmen as NBA fans (as you know, the original name of the band was Mookie Blaylock and their first album is named for his jersey number) and Seattle legends. Plus, you know Eddie would love to take on backstabbing, heartless, billionaire businessmen in a public fight. I’m sure you can use your column or other channels to appeal to the band to join the cause; their support makes too much sense for it not to happen.
City: Austin, Texas
This whole situation is eerily familiar to the Hartford Whalers fiasco of the 1990s. The team was sold to petulant, whining owner who, after systematically trading away almost every talent on the team, save a couple of players (Primeau), demands a new arena, then blasts the city and the governor for not being committed enough, moving the team to some small market and leaving a city scorned and a generation of young fans disillusioned.
As a kid in Hartford, I hated Peter Karmanos, that rat of an owner, with every inch of my body. When I saw the Hurricanes win the Stanley Cup, I was happy for Glen Wesley, the only Whaler left … until I saw Karmanos hoist the Cup. To this day, the feeling of emptiness I had, sitting in the Hartford Civic Center after the last game, seeing the players throw all their equipment into the stands, is something I will never forget. I hope everyone will realize just how pathetic and truly evil the ownership of these two organizations were.
City: Beacon Falls, Conn.
I was a Hartford Whalers season-ticket holder for 10 years before they were stolen from a small group of loyal fans and moved to that hockey hotbed, Raleigh, N.C., by Peter Karmanos. I’ve yet to watch a hockey game since they moved and feel for every Sonics fan out there. There were signs in the Civic Center that said, “Kuck Faramanos” but were taken down by management. A note to all Sonic fans: You’ll really resent ownership if/when the team wins a championship in their new city. That’s how I felt when the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup.
City: Hartford, Conn.
I wish this forum were around when the Whale left town. Losing a team is like a death in the family.
Name: Elaine D.
I am a 62-year-old woman and have been a fan since day one. I can’t say how much the Sonics have meant to me and my son, who grew up being a season-ticket holder. Please, please let the country know how passionate we are about this team. We are perceived to “not care” as that is what the ownership team has put out there, which is totally untrue. We love our Sonics!
City: Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento is facing the same situation as Seattle (Arco Arena dates from the early ’90s). A 2006 ballot initiative to build a new publicly financed arena was crushed by twice the losing margin as the Feb. 26 Kings-Heat game in Miami (Kings lost by 19). So, let me see if I can recap the NBA owners’ business model.
- Bring team to a new city. City pays for an arena. City loves the owners, sells out the arena. Owner does some charitable work in the city (building Little League ballfields, etc.).
- After 10 years, owners want another arena. Sports media talks it up as “good for everyone.”
- City government asks “why finance an arena for billionaires when we’re struggling to deliver basic services?”
- Owner and sports media hang city government in effigy.
- Owner threatens to move.
- NBA commissioner comes in to “mediate” the issue, in reality, adding his efforts to shake down the city.
- Deadlines are set by which things need to happen. They don’t.
- Fans try to save the team and fail.
- Team leaves for another city.
- Repeat steps 1-9 in new location.
I’ve never been more proud of the fact that in the last 15 years I haven’t paid dime-one to the NBA for its product.
City: Mountlake Terrace, Wash.
Name: J.L. White
In the sports world, Seattle is Rwanda. It’s as simple as that. Yup, the previous Sonics owner sold the team to a greedy bastard hellbent on moving them 2,000 miles away; the Seahawks got shafted royally by bad officiating in their only Super Bowl appearance; both the ‘Hawks and the Mariners were nearly out the door in the mid-’90s, until we promised them hundreds of millions of dollars for new stadiums; the Heathcliff Slocum trade, the first Vin Baker trade … and so on and so on. These things happen, and the rest of the country gives a little sigh, shakes its collective head, and goes back to wondering what Matt Walsh did or didn’t tape for the Patriots. T.S. for us.
Name: Elliott Smith
When Clay Bennett was introduced into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame a couple of months ago, David Stern was his introduction speaker. Turns out the two have been really good friends for more than 15 years. Yet no one is mentioning this. It’s becoming unbearable watching the two of them steamroll our spirit and take our team and not have anyone call them out on it. Thanks for being one of the first national journalists to say something.
Name: Peter Hardenbrook
I am reading the e-mails from Seattle and I am getting this creepy feeling like this is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the SoSH thread about all the stories people told about loved ones lost and feel good stories about the Red Sox finally winning the Series in 2004. This is awful, and I wish I could do something.
City: Moses Lake, Wash.
Name: Jon Bartlett
I read every e-mail in your Sonics mailbag. I clicked on the YouTube link and watched all the Kemp dunks. Tears were welling up in my eyes. Then I read the e-mail from the guy who couldn’t watch the Kemp dunks without crying, and I started tearing up more. Then the next to the last e-mail where the guy couldn’t even write his e-mail because he was crying. I’m 37. We’re grown men, we don’t cry! That’s how much this hurts. Suffice it to say that you got 3,000 emails, well there are 10 times or a hundred times as many people who feel the same who just didn’t get a chance to write. Stern doesn’t realize how big a mistake he’s making.
Although it might seem on the surface that Seattlites aren’t passionate about their team or maybe even a little too self-satisfied or smug to care (and if I were watching a bunch of Sushi-eating, zombie-like M’s fans on TV from afar, I might have that impression too) … but, believe me, this isn’t the case. This town has NEVER lost a team before (although we evidently love flirting with the possibility) and in my gut I think people will freak out once they realize it might actaully happen and it will galvanize support to stop it. I think it’ll result in some sort of forced sale like what happened with Behring-Allen and the ‘Hawks.
I wish I could describe to you how wild the M’s crowds were in the miracle ’95 run (standing up and screaming whenever there were two strikes on any visiting batter, at any point in the game) or at the Key crowds in ’96 (I went to several games during the playoffs that year, and it still is by far the loudest thing I’ve ever experienced; i’m talking ears ringing for days and voice compeltely hoarse). Our passion and anger is there, it’s just below the surface. This is completely the opposite from fans’ passion in cities such as New York in Boston where I’ve also lived (for college in Boston and then two years in the city before moving back the West Coast). I think we have the potential to be the city that rises up and says “ENOUGH” in the form of protesting, rallies or something. It hasn’t happenned yet because we’re just not close enough to the deadline.
Name: Matt Schissler
I grew up outside Seattle and have been a Sonics fan my whole life. Right now, I’m teaching English in W. Thailand and my fifth graders are working on a computer project. The kids are mostly orphans and people displaced by a truly horrible miltary regime in nearby Burma. In spite of all the obstacles they’ve faced, and still face, they’re nearly always happy, positive, boundless bundles of energy. When I started reading your Sonics mailbag, the library was full of the sounds of happy children. I just finished reading and am obviously distraught. I haven’t said anything to my kids, but they can tell something is wrong, really wrong, and this place is silent. Nobody is laughing. Nobody is smiling. Silent. These kids have never seen a basketball game, never watched the Sonics and have no clue what is happening to Seattle. But now they’re sad, too.
Congratulations, David Stern, Clay Bennett, Howard Schultz and the rest of you: you ruined the afternoon for a bunch of orphans from Burma. Hope you’re happy.
For me, the most traumatic part of this situation is that I’m am far and away a Sonics fan before I am a NBA fan. So if/when the Seattle Sonics leave to become the Oklahoma City Rodeo Clowns, then a part of life that has brought joy and excitement to my life since I was a kid will become too painful to watch and impossible to follow. It is already starting to happen. I couldn’t get excited, even during the draft. If the the team leaves, it won’t be like getting cut, which will heal even if it leaves a scar. It will be like loosing an arm or a leg; there used to be something there that is now gone forever.
I read the mailbag, and kept reading, and kept reading, and after about 30 e-mails, I had to stop and think, “What would I do if one of our franchises decided to pack up and leave town?” I remember back in 2000 when the Bears were contemplating a move across the Lake to Gary, Ind., this city erupted. Very quickly, the city renovated Soldier Field into what is now the Mistake by the Lake, but you know what, the Bears are still here, and that’s all that matters. The Cubs-Sox rivalry means so much to this city, and if one half of that rivalry were to disappear, this city would be in tears. And even though Bill Wirtz did everything he could to ruin hockey in Chicago (he was almost successful), his son has taken a renewed interest in making the team relevant again, and now the fans are returning en masse.
If the Bears, Cubs, Sox, or Hawks were to ever leave this city, it would burn down and cease to function. As a die-hard White Sox fan (we do exist), I, and the rest of the Southsiders, would actively seek Jerry Reinsdorf and hang him from the Dan Ryan overpass. Sports mean so much to me and this city that we would be inconsolable if one of these teams were to leave, and that’s how I began to empathize with Sonics fans. The fact that sports can affect us so deeply is a testament to the important role they play in the lives of so many. If there’s no better reason to keep basketball in Seattle than that, then I think we’re all in trouble.
City: Northridge, Calif.
Name: Cam Miller
I really had no feeling about the Sonics moving out of town, until I read those sad letters from Seattle’s die-hards. For nearly 10 years, I had a room covered wall to wall in Red Sox posters, newspapers, autographs, etc., but the best parts were the pictures above my bed, collected through the years. I finally went off to college in California, came home that winter, and stood IN SHOCK when I entered the room. The walls were stripped clean, everything was gone, and in its place was what looked like part of a halfway house. I dug for hours in the basement, through countless boxes, looking for my pictures. It has been two years, I’ve yet to find the pictures, and I’m just now starting to believe I’ll never see them again. I guess what I’m saying is, I’m not a Sonics fan, but I know what it’s like to not only walk into that same room everyday, but stare at the empty space above the bed, and wonder what might have been.
Seattle deserves our praise, not our pity. The people there should hold their heads high, even if there is a tear in their eye. They were adults — MEN and WOMEN — who held firm when residents of other cities would have childishly voted against their own best interests and capitulated like cowards. Seattle said no to Clay Bennett, and no to his greed. The city grew a steel backbone. Losing the Sonics seems like a small price to pay for collective courage and integrity. We should all be so lucky as to have looked an immoral thing clear in the face, and told it to go screw itself.
It worries me that people wouldn’t write you as many letters if Seattle had voted for the arena and Bennett had elected to stay. People might be so busy cheering they would forget the money that could have gone to schools, the elderly or even back to the taxpayers themselves. It worries me that many probably couldn’t be bothered to notice or care. People seem far more upset by this cost of doing good than they are strengthened by their courage. I wish they weren’t. Our loyalties and values tell us who we are as people, and, in your real life, stepping up to do the right thing for those who matter and count on you is a real brand of caring that you usually can’t find in ballparks or metaphors.
I am a fan. I am grateful that my loyalty to the Celtics is now bearing fruit. However, the ecstasy of sport must not morph into a willful ignorance or a denial of bigger realities, and there are real choices to be made when an owner’s push comes to a city’s shove. Owners are coming for your tax dollars. They have been. On the other side of things, Medicare and Medicaid expenses for the states are growing — they could soon be beyond our ability to cover them. We are fighting two wars and have entered a recession. We live in a time of national challenge. And Clay Bennett wants an arena. Thank you, Seattle, for showing us what caring really is.
The Brooklyn Dodgers, N.Y. Giants, Washington Senators, Baltimore Colts, Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves (again), New Orleans Jazz, Minneapolis Lakers, Buffalo Braves, Kansas City A’s, Al Davis, the L.A. Rams, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Montreal Expos, Minnesota North Stars, Hartford Whalers, Vancouver Grizzlies, Houston Oilers, Charlotte Hornets, even Philadelphia (the A’s went to K.C … my grandmom never quite got over that one). All of those towns have lost loved ones, their teams. Seattle, we hear you. We feel for you. We’ve been through it, at some point. And if we knew how to stop this we would. But we got dumped and couldn’t stop it. So welcome, Seattle. There’s a seat at the end of the bar with a shot and a beer waiting for you. And, sadly, this will happen again. So, who’s next? The Pittsburgh Penguins? The Buffalo Bills? The Milwaukee Bucks? The K.C. Royals? This is going to happen again. So, Oklahoma City, enjoy. And we’ll see you in the bar in 30 years when your stadium gets old.
Name: Kevin White
I struggle with the concept of billionaires who pay millionaires becoming angry when hard-working people such as myself are not willing to give tax money to pay for a new stadium. I’m trying to put two children through college and one in high school. Gas prices are the highest they have ever been, and mortgage rates continue to rise. We are paying for a remodel of the current KeyArena, and now they want more. When is enough enough?
They speak of our loyalty, but where is their loyalty to the fan who has attended their games, bought their products and rooted for them when they stunk? I was there when they won the championship in ’79 and saw the city turn out. That interest is still there, but we are paying for poor mangement of the team that has not put a winner on the court for years. I was there when the Sonics returned to the Finals and watched as tickets were impossible to get. And they say “we don’t care?” We care. Maybe too much, but we do care. But they are asking me to choose who I care the most about. They want me to care more about them and their needs (their billions) than for my family and their needs. What an unfair choice to ask of a faithful fan. The NBA has been losing fans and wondering why? Is it any wonder when they treat their fans with such disloyalty?
City: Ephrata, Wash.
Name: Bill Busse
After reading the collective e-mails from Seattle, I’m more sad than angry. I recall sitting in my room in the early days listening to Bob Blackburn and keeping score. The early teams were terrible but entertaining. Being able to see my hero Bill Russell play in Seattle is still a personal highlight. I was there the night Tom Mescherey picked a fight with Wilt Chamberlain, and I saw Spencer Haywood score 51. After seeing Earl Monroe in his rookie year, we talked about him for weeks. Maybe the most bizarre game was when Lenny Wilkens returned with the Cleveland Cavaliers after being forced out by Tom Nissalke. Of course, Cleveland won … it was like a home game for the Cavs. Later, I saw the 9-73 76ers (with seven healthy players) beat Seattle in a game that had “screw you coach” written all over it.
The night the Sonics won the NBA championship, my wife and I went out and drove around Seattle to enjoy to moment. I have continued to be a dedicated Sonics fan for all of their 41 years. I can’t imagine following the Oklahoma City Sonics.
Yes, the NBA is a business. I know that. I just don’t appreciate Clay Bennett and David Stern cramming it down my throat.
The Browns left us in 1995. I love the new Browns. I love that they are still the Browns. I love that I get to still root for the Browns. But, Bill, the best way I can put it is … it’s like finding out your wife cheated on you but then taking her back, and she’s completely faithful again. Yeah, she is really great but … once … someone else was there. I don’t know but Piece of Crap (whom I will not name due to my undying hatred for him) wanted a new stadium, and we could not finance it after building The Jake (will NOT use the new name) and The Q (will use the new name because Gilbert is amazing for the city). I know exactly how Seattle feels because I was there. I read four e-mails before I was compelled to open a new window and write this.
I cannot describe the passion it stirs up in me to read what they are going through. I don’t care whether or not you or anyone in Seattle reads this, I just want it documented somewhere. I hate owners who move their teams without some amazingly convincing lack of fan support. I feel Seattle’s pain and while I admire Oklahoma City’s passion for a loaner team while it was there, how does that justify taking a team from a city that cares? My heart hurts for Seattle. I have to go lay down.
Name: Johnny B
I planned on writing, but I couldn’t find the words. Instead, I want to send you this link to the local alternative weekly. Sherman Alexie has a column in The Stranger known as “Sonics Death Watch.” It’s on of the shortest, most heartfelt and depressing columns I’ve ever seen.
City: Mill Creek, Wash.
I’ve been a fan for all of my 22 years on this earth, and it seems we are completely forgotten in all of this mess. When I read some of the e-mails I was honestly near tears. Meanwhile, and I’m not lying, I could hear my roommate’s iPod in the next room switch to “Brick” by Ben Folds Five. It might have been the most poignant, sad, heart-wrenching moment of my life. The Supes are a brick, and I’m drowning slowly … very slowly.
City: Washington, D.C.
My philosophy for a good pro sports owner has always been this: It has to be an expensive hobby; it cannot be a money venture. It’s very much like horse racing, owners become involved because they love the thrill of watching their horse race, not because they are banking their economic future on the outcome. These owners who think they will become classical, mythical owners will never become anything more than plagues. David Stern has forgotten the roots of his game, he has forgotten why TNT and ESPN bought rights, and he has forgotten what these teams mean to the cities in which they reside.
There is still time to save this pending catastrophe, but it will take a powerful man to look in the mirror and realize his horrendous, misguided mistake. Hopefully, through the passionate words of Seattle fans and columnists like yourself, Mr. Stern will change his tune. He has done too much for a wonderful league to watch his legacy be buried by little boys in expensive suits who hide behind their desks, lawyers and publicists. He is twice the man than anyone else involved in this deal is, but he might just allow himself the dubious honor of eating their inevitable crow.
City: Hong Kong
Name: Eric Cannon
After reading all those posts from distraught Sonics fans, I thought, “Shouldn’t there be a Michael Moore-type stalking Clay Bennett and making his life and those of his flunkies a living hell?” I just got done reading an MSN.com article the other day about guerilla warfare by consumers fed up with corporate America’s usual way of doing business; e.g. blog postings of executives’ phone numbers and e-mails so you can harass them, virals on YouTube of MacBooks being demolished, etc. What can be done to make this happen? I just love the idea of somebody ambushing this a—— like “Triumph the Comedy Dog” at every possible turn.
Name: Mark Olstad
I think in your “Save the Sonics” piece, the e-mails left out provide the most valid argument to keep the Sonics in Seattle: They were the most dominant team in the most famous basketball game in video game history: NBA Jam TE. No team could match Seattle! The Charlotte Hornets were the only team that stood a chance. But Gary Payton could push around Muggsy Bogues any day of the week, and Kemp could totally do a windmill, double-flip dunk that would shatter the backboard in Larry Johnson’s face. Not only that, but they always had the token white guy, Detlef Schrempf, coming off the bench to keep Kemp and Payton rested for the crucial fourth quarter.
Now, someday when I have kids and I am completely owning them in NBA Jam TE, they’ll probably be confused and ask, “Dad, who are the Seattle SuperSonics?” I don’t know if I’ll be able to deal with that. Please, Clay Bennett, keep the Sonics in Seattle. For NBA Jam.
The Sonics mailbag was honestly the most heartwrenching collection of thoughts I’ve seen about the Sonics’ impending exodus. I find it incredible that the only sportswriter who seems to give a damn about the Sonics is a die-hard Boston sports fan who should be reveling in the success of the finally good Celtics. I’ve seen my mom pound on the floor urging Ken Griffey Jr. around third base during the ’95 playoffs and I’ve seen hear nearly lose her voice screaming for Gary, Reign Man and Detlef. When the Sonics leave, a large part of my childhood will die along with it.
City: Elverson, Pa.
Name: Bob Sullivan
I see an exact parallel here between Clay Bennett and Bob Irsay, the former Baltimore Colts owner. I know I’m going back before your time, but I grew up in Baltimore. Irsay ripped my heart out that day in February 1983, when the Colts left town. I see so many parallels here it’s creepy. It’s like Bennett wrote a management paper on how Irsay alienated an entire city that passionately loved a sports team. To their dying days, many old Baltimore Colt players still refuse to associate themselves with the Indianapolis franchise. And, yes, older Colts fans still feel somewhat slimy about taking the Browns from Cleveland. Jim Irsay seems to be a good guy, and 25 years is a long time to hate. So I’ve finally gotten over it.
Still, the many parallels are creepy. Go look up the history of the Colts moving to Indianapolis and see what I mean. And Seattle fans, don’t EVER let Bennett take the team name. (What in the hell do Colts have to do with Indianapolis or Jazz with Utah?) Even if your team moves, MAKE HIM RENAME THE FRANCHISE. Do what Cleveland did.
I’ve been reading your postings of the righteous anger flowing out of Sonics fans with great empathy. And I know this is perverse, but I hope they maintain it.
You might recall a similar situation occured here in Minnesota a few decades back. An out-of-towner came in to “save” the franchise for the state of Minnesota. We were skeptical, but hopeful. We chanted the new owner’s name. Then the stadium demands started. Then it went from North Stars to just Stars (which would play better in the home state of our savior, Texas) and we knew the end was near. That final year, we committed to supporting the players and continued to show up at games. We parked a mile away and snuck in our own food and drinks so as not benefit the owner whose name we now cursed (Secord sucks; Norm Green sucks harder). We rooted on the players during an enjoyable final season. And then they moved … from a market with one of the highest sell-out rates in the NHL. A top 20 market with some of the highest TV ratings in the NHL. The state of hockey … without a pro hockey team after 26 years. And we swore we would never return.
Fast forward some years later, and here we are again: We have an NHL team playing in a brand new publicly funded stadium (even the a perfectly adequate one existed 10 miles away). We have big ratings and sell-out crowds. It’s like nothing ever happened. Shame on us.
You know why David Stern isn’t worried about the long-term effects of leaving Seattle? Because he’s right to. History shows that if a new “white knight” owner brings a team to Seattle in a few years, the state will gladly open its pockets and the fans will clamor to be the first to pay PSL fees in the new stadium. So stay mad, Seattle. For Baltimore, for Cleveland, for New Orleans, for Minnesota and every other fan base that has had a team ripped from them. I wish you well, but the odds aren’t in your favor.
Like so many others, I grew up with the Sonics. So many wonderful and horrible memories that I was able to relive in your mailbag. The most important one for me was Game 5 of the ’96 Finals. I was in eighth grade and watching the game from home with all my friends as my little sister went to the game. She was a HUGE basketball fan. She went to the game with a big “Sonics Pride” sign that she made herself that season. Lissy (my sister) was on TV a couple of times with her huge sign. She passed away in 1998 from Cystic Fibrosis. Your mailbag reminded me of that game and the fact that YouTube had clips. Long story short, in this YouTube clip at the 5:47 mark I got to see my sister again if only for a few seconds. Thank you again.
I read every word of the Sonics mailbag (nearly crying several times) and have to say I was a little disapointed that no Pearl Jam lyrics were included anywhere. So, I will let Mr. Vedder summarize my thoughts on the string of events leading to the Sonics showing promise as a franchise as they are about to leave for OKC.
“I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why, why, why can’t it be
Why can’t it be mine?”
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his “Sports Guy’s World” site here.