Hey Sacramento, Seattle Sonics fans feel your pain
After reading this Seattle Times news report about a possible deal to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, I decided to watch the two-hour director's cut of "Sonicsgate," Jason Reid's 2009 documentary that profiles the rise, fall and relocation of the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City.
(As I write this, I'm hoping I don't go to bed tonight with bad dreams about "man possessed" emails.)
I grew up in Olympia cheering for the Sonics, but I wasn't living in Washington at the time of the sale. The film is gripping and gave me a chance to re-examine how the whole debacle played out. Watch it below or click on this link to order the shorter, updated version that aired last year on CNBC.
My initial, visceral reaction? Seattle was robbed, the NBA is greedy, and taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for private ventures that can afford to pay their employees tens of millions. (I'm not going to talk specifically about the arena deal. That's a different topic for a different day.)
Our city's loyalty to the Sonics is totally understandable. Professional basketball is an exhilarating world where egos, athleticism, guts, glory and heartbreak are front and center on the court.
I would just caution us all to contain our excitement over the possibility of the Kings becoming the Sonics 2.0. First, it's early and no one involved in the deal has spoken publicly. Second, Seattleites of all people should understand why Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is vowing to keep the team where it is. Johnson isn't a novice or fair weather fan. He's a former professional basketball player who knows the game and the political system behind it. (Heck, he may even be good buddies with NBA Commissioner David Stern, who famously blamed city and state officials for refusing to subsidize a new venue for the Sonics.)
Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer are reportedly working together on the deal. If so, they must be as transparent as possible about their intentions and show a sense of honesty that was sorely lacking during and after the 2006 transaction between former Sonics owner Howard Schultz and Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett.
In fact, it would behoove us to remember the prescient words of writer/poet and former season-ticket holder Sherman Alexie toward the end of "Sonicsgate," after he reluctantly rattles off the name of other cities that would have to lose their teams in order for Seattle to realize its NBA dreams. He mentions Sacramento last.
"To get a team, I'm gonna have to break the hearts of people just like me — who will then have to go in front of cameras and talk about their pain like this. And that's the only way we're going to get a team."
On Wednesday, Alexie followed up with this Tweet:
Dear Sacramento Kings fans, I honor your pain and fear. And I hope that your city finds a way to keep your team.— Sherman Alexie (@Sherman_Alexie) January 10, 2013
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics