Sonics fans soldier on, without a team
Sonics fans are still here and the bond with their beloved NBA team remains, even though it is now playing in Oklahoma City.
Seattle Times staff columnist
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Part 2: History and devotion rule Husky Stadium
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What about Sonics fans?
They're still here. They're still vocal. They seem invisible at times because their team is gone, but they're still significant.
"All Sonics fans, we're kind of like soldiers who went to battle together," Save Our Sonics co-founder Brian Robinson said. "There's still a bond. But it's not the same as being a fan and having your team here."
Their story is the most heartbreaking and complicated in Seattle sports history. In July 2008, a group of Oklahoma businessmen were allowed to move the Sonics franchise to Oklahoma City. Forty-one years of Sonics history in Seattle was put in a holding cell. Now Sonics fans are enduring their second season without their team. They're left only with anger, memories and fading hopes that the sport will return some day.
But interest hasn't decreased as much as it has been redirected. Fans have become committed to telling their story, and the documentary "Sonicsgate" has helped with that mission. The film, which was released in October and is shown to viewers for free, recently finished a successful weeklong run at SIFF Cinema. It has also received more than 65,000 online views, according to Adam Brown, the "Sonicsgate" producer and media director.
"People really responded to it on an emotional level and are getting angry, and that's what we really wanted," Brown said.
Sports Illustrated praised the film, which was directed by Jason Reid, calling it "the most persuasive grass roots flick" of 2009.
"Don't be fooled by the price tag: This pitch-perfect documentary shows the collateral damage when a team leaves town," the magazine declared.
Last season, the first without the Sonics since 1966, inspired anger within the fan base. This season is more about the reality that the Sonics are gone, Robinson said.
"I think the die-hard basketball fans are really missing the NBA," Robinson said. "Everybody I've talked to says that this year is way tougher than last year. Last year, we were mad and mocking how bad the team was in Oklahoma City. Some of that anger has subsided. We just want the NBA back now."
Sonics fan Russell Pompea created the Facebook page "1,000,000 People Want the NBA To Bring Back The Seattle Supersonics!!!" a few weeks ago. He's almost 45,000 members toward his goal of 1 million.
Not bad for a team that supposedly didn't care enough to keep its team. The Sonics fans are proving that notion to be false. Even last season, when fans were enraged, the television ratings for NBA games in Seattle often were much better than in Oklahoma City.
If Seattle is considered a bandwagon sports town, what does it say about this community that Clay Bennett totaled the Sonics bandwagon, yet so many fans have continued on foot. They're soldiers, for sure.
"I think it shows that this really is a basketball city," Brown said. "There's so much history. It wouldn't be the same without that history. This is a deeply rooted city when it comes to basketball."
On Sunday, the "Sonicsgate" folks will host a tailgate party before the Seahawks' season finale. It begins at 9 a.m. at 552 Occidental Ave., next to Elysian Fields. During the party, they will sell T-shirts, give away DVDs and show the movie on a flat screen.
It's a chance for Sonics fans to be together again. Without a team, those opportunities are becoming rare.
"It's been a really sad transition," Robinson said. "With Save Our Sonics, I was fighting to save the team for my kids. But the only thing my kids know is that Clay Bennett is a bad guy, and Daddy missed a lot of dinners to fight him."
Robinson paused and collected himself.
"God, I hope the Sonics come back one day," he said. "I really want them to."
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.