July 16th, 2008

Don't Hassle the Hoff

The Day It All Went Away

As I sit here starving, curbing the salacious appetite that prevents me from being the fit and healthy person I long to be, it's hard to get to sleep. It's hard to get to sleep when your mind's on so many things. Thinking about work, thinking about putting my car in the shop tomorrow to fix the interior, thinking about the debt that's quickly surpassing 5-digits with each new necessary repair, thinking about this weekend's camping trip as a 4-day salve to allay all my worries, thinking about moving out into an apartment in Seattle and juggling another burden to my budget.

And then it hit me. As a chronicle of my life - the tall and the small - I've failed to write about something near and dear. I've failed to write about July 2, 2008.

It's not easy to describe how utterly heartbroken I am right now. These words are coming to you from someone who hasn't had to deal with a whole lot of tragedy in his life. Of course, there could always be worse things to happen to me. Of course, there WILL be worse things to happen to me. But at this moment, as I sit here, 27 years of age, having lived but not really LIVED, I'm completely devastated.

The Seattle Supersonics have played their last game.

It's impossible for me to even think about a joke or a sarcastic remark or to even find anything slightly lighthearted to say. Granted, it's just a sports team. And, as the years have passed, it's felt more like rooting for fabric than rooting for a team. The influx and outflux of players and coaches and management and owners. The fact that it's just a game. It's not losing a loved one to a mortar blast in Iraq. It's not a debilitating terminal disease. It's not life-or-death. But that doesn't mean I didn't give years of my life to following this team. To caring intensely. To riding the highs and wallowing in the lows. Year in and year out since about 1993 or so. Since I was a 12 year old at a friend's birthday party at the local skating rink, more interested in the playoff series against Phoenix than socializing with friends or doing the Hokey Pokey. Watching games on TV alone in my room, rocking back in forth in my beanbag chair, clutching my hands together in mock-prayer as the final seconds tick off with Shawn Kemp defening a potentially winning shot. And when the games weren't on TV, pacing back and forth in front of the radio as Kevin Calabro and Marques Johnson relayed each pivotal inbounds pass. The dejection I felt as the final minutes elapsed in game 6 against the Chicago Bulls was nothing like this. Because at least in 1996 there was always Next Year.

Now there's just an emptiness. All the yelling and screaming and bemoaning of the guilty parties in the world won't do a damn thing. Up and down the list, from Howard Schultz to Greg Nickels to Clayton Bennett to Christine Gregoire to David Stern to the crappy lease agreement to the fact that leases don't mean jack squat in this day and age. Rick Sund and Wally Walker and Jim McIlvaine and Aubrey McClendon and Nick Licata and everybody else. In the end it all adds up to the fans of the Seattle Supersonics losing their team. Most likely forever. It means in a decade from now many will have forgotten we ever had a team here. It means kids born today will never know what it was like to have NBA basketball in their city. They may hear stories of Gary Payton and Lenny Wilkins and Jack Sikma and Shawn Kemp and Nate McMillan and Dale Ellis and Big Smooth and Detlef Schrempf, but it'll be meaningless because who will they have to compare them to? They'll have teams in other cities they've seen occasionally on television. They'll have highlights of future stars on Sportscenter. And hopefully they'll have a deep rooted resentment that we managed to bungle the whole fucking thing.

Throughout this whole ordeal, it's felt like we were slowly and agonizingly losing our grip on a fellow hiker as he dangled over the side of a cliff. Sure, there's an outside shot Sylvester Stallone will come along and snatch him up before he falls miles to his death, but in the real world you're about to lose a loved compatriot and all you can do is clench your teeth and try to cling to the last few precious seconds you'll have together. Two more years or two more minutes, it would've all ended up the same anyway.

More than anything, I'll take away from this a complete lack of trust. A trust in the adults making the right decision. No, I never for a minute trusted Clayton Bennett, but the fact that someone else DID - someone with the power to buy this franchise to massage his ego and to sell this franchise because it cut into his bottom dollar - makes me lose all of the remaining molecule of faith I had left in the intentions of others. Even bigger than that, I've lost all the trust I had in what's supposed to be a concrete truth of life. You can't have a major league franchise in your city for 41 years and lose them to a place like Oklahoma! That just can't happen! This is bigger than a child realizing there's no Santa Claus; there was always something fishy about that guy. But this, this is my TEAM! They're the Seattle Supersonics! This isn't the Vancouver Grizzlies or the Charlotte Hornets or the New Orleans Jazz! This is an athletic institution in the city of Seattle! This is the longest-running professional sports team in the city and the only one to ever win a championship that actually mattered! You can lose a night club, a restaurant can go under, your favorite record store can go up in flames, hell, they can dig up an entire graveyard and build a set of identical suburbs, but they can't, they just can't take your team away ...

On the one hand, I feel bad for the city. I feel bad for the real fans. Shit, I even feel bad for the bandwagon fans who only give a crap when the Sonics are winning consistently. But, we did this to ourselves. Let's face it, the Sonics were the red-headed stepchild of our sporting community. The Seahawks tanked it for a good decade, the Mariners have had, like, five good years out of 30+, while the Sonics have been good for well over half the time they were here. And yet, the Seahawks get the loudest open-air stadium in the league, the Mariners get one of the finest ballparks in the majors, and the Sonics get the finger.

This would never happen in New York. This would never happen in Boston. Fuck, Philly and Cleveland have revelled in mediocrity for decades and this would STILL never happen there. Only in Seattle. Only in a city this fickle and passionless, with people so insipid and derelict, with a state government so incompetent we can't even get a proper subway or light-rail system implimented. Seattle likes to think of itself as a major U.S. city, but it doesn't hold even the nub of a candle to L.A. or San Francisco or Chicago or any other major city you can think of.

And now what do we have to hang our hats on? Getting money approved to remodel a perfectly good, fan-friendly arena. Even though the legislature had its chance and refused to even LISTEN to a proposal. But, OK, let's say a state this tight-fucking-fisted somehow by the grace of voting-out-the-swine approves the requisite money. Then we've got to take David Stern at his word and hope another chance gets dangled our way. So we can do to Memphis what Oklahoma did to us; except that's not exactly accurate since they've had the Grizzlies for as long as it takes me to finish taking a leak. It could be next year, it could be a decade from now, or it could be never.

Color me an optimist, but my money's on the latter.

Regardless, for all the bitter hatred I feel for all that have done we the true fans wrong, the Seattle Times is right in one respect. They can't take our memories.
  • Current Music
    The Presidents of the United States of America - Supersonics