2.29.2008

Let's put money ahead of people and loyalty!

For those of you who don't follow sports, don't care, or just don't know what's going on, the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA (professional basketball) were bought by new ownership who are looking to move the team to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City!! What?

I'm not a big NBA fan - I prefer college sports to the pros - but I hate stupidity and injustice of all types And it seems that Seattle, which has supported professional basketball for 41 years, is getting truly screwed by the new ownership that confessed -after begging for a new arena to replace the 13-year-old one they have - that they bought the team that won the city's only professional sports championship with no intention of staying in Seattle.

This link is a long piece full of reaction from Sonics fans and others. It is a very long article, but (mostly) well worth reading, especially for people who can remember the history of the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens, let alone the LA Lakers, Utah Jazz and St. Louis Rams, or even the Hartford Whalers and Minnesota North Stars of the NHL.

I mean, how many lakes does Los Angeles really have? (The team was previously in Minneapolis.) And Utah, the state of Mormonism, is a hotbed for Jazz? (Um... no. The team was previously from New Orleans, go figure.) But recent memory is best served by Baltimore, which saw its beloved Colts steal away in the cover of night, then accepted - however (un)willingly - the arrival of the players and staff formerly known as the Cleveland Browns while Cleveland fans tore the vacated stadium apart and fought to keep the name and legacy of the team, which is the final part of what Seattle should do. First, of course, Seattle should fight tooth-and-nail to keep the team in Seattle in the first place and lose out to ├╝ber-rich ignorant dimwits who don't realize (or care) that the hands they are chewing on are the very ones feeding them.

Clay Bennett, the new majority owner of the Sonics, does have one somewhat vaguely noble reason for moving the team to OKC. It's his home and where he does business and he thinks the area deserves professional sports. That's all fine and good. His methods, lies, the buddy-buddy passive acceptance of good friend David Stern (the commissioner of the NBA) and the theft of an icon from its strongest supporters are what make this rotten.

Bennett reportedly demanded an overpriced $500 million arena to replace a 13-year-old arena that cost $200 million to remodel. Seattle had also just built two stadiums for the football Seahawks and the baseball Mariners. After Seattle told him "No," a colleague and co-owner admitted that they really intended to move to OKC no matter what.

Now David Stern - unlike the NFL's Paul Tagliabue in the Cleveland/Baltimore situation - is standing around shuffling his feet and accepting the "inevitable" while noting that the league won't expand to give Seattle a team in the future.

Of course, for me this whole topic just brings up two more peeves of mine. One is the fact that cities have been told they have to divert funds that could be used for public services and infrastructure improvements to build new monoliths for multi-millionaires and billionaires who like to threaten to move a team elsewhere.

........

Blah blah blah... I forget the other peeve.

I just noticed that Simmons posted another piece with more of his thoughts on the matter and many, many more reader reactions. I can't say anything else. Just read what Simmons wrote and even skim a few of the emails he reprinted. I agree wholeheartedly.

I'll also quote a couple here to save some of you the time:

City: Seattle
Name: Ladd


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.

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.

City: Minneapolis
Name: Chas


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.

City: Seattle
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?

Okay... I"ll stop now. Read more (especially Simmons' intros) at the above links.

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