Tonight Sonics’ fans faced their worst fear. That worst fear being the OKC Thunder clinching the Western Conference Championship. And that, quite honestly, sucks. Especially since Seattle got a teaser year on what Kevin Durant is capable of and OKC will get to see Kevin Durant in his prime. A lot of Seattleites are probably going to feel bitter and they damn well have a right to. The team was taken from them by an ownership group that didn’t care for them and politicians that didn’t follow through on their public promises.
When it comes to the NBA playoffs Sports with Neil’s twitter account has been rather silent and that is for a good reason, I am still bitter about the Sonics leaving (if you don’t believe me look at @nvr93’s tweets). And when I originally started to write this blog post I wanted to keep a level head and look at it from a perspective other than the jilted sports fan. In the end I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to do it. So instead you are going to get a post that vents the author’s frustration with the entire situation.
First off Howard Schultz can step on a Lego in the dark. If anyone is looking for a place to place most of the blame, Schultz and company not holding out for a local buyer (when selling the Sonics) is a good place to look. The team went up for sell right around the time I started to really follow them, for those of you who are wondering that would be the 2005 playoff run. Since I started the following the team during one of their up years I obviously became infatuated with them. And that infatuation would continue through their rapid descent into Oklahoma City following the 2008 season.
I remember constantly checking the scores of the NBA playoffs, tunning into TNT and ESPN to watch one of our local teams make the playoffs (a novel idea, right Mariners?). That year was fun, very fun indeed. The next three years really, really sucked as the team collapsed and ownership changed hands. And any hope of an actual arena deal getting done with in King County, and the state of Washington, disappeared.
Bennett’s arena plans were an absolute joke and so was the product on the court. The team was torn apart and the rosters’ rebuild was under way. This is where Seattle’s “lack of attendance” comes into play. When every team goes into rebuild mode their attendance falls (the Yankees and Red Sox have experienced this as well), most people don’t want to spend a day’s wages on attending a basketball game when the product on the court is crap. National media outlets would overlook this fact as they talked about the potential (and then eventual) relocation of the Sonics.
The kicker was the when Nickles took the ownership group to court to make them fulfill their lease and then settled for a settlement that paid the city the remaining fees on the Sonics lease.
One thing Nickles forgot when negotiating that settlement was that businesses in the Seattle Center depended on the crowds from Sonics games to keep them afloat during the winter. Without the Sonics those businesses folded, costing their employees jobs and the city tax revenue. In other words the settlement hurt the city more than it helped.
Now on top of the economic problems generated by the departure of the Sonics is the emotional hole left by the departure of Seattle’s oldest professional sports franchise, also the cities second professional sports championship (hello Seattle Metropolitans the 1917 Stanley Cup winners). I guess which made this departure even worse was the young, but clear, talent on the roster. That talent will now see playing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
For me the departure of the Sonics hurt because I had just started to enjoy basketball and religiously follow the team. What I mean is that I put the Sonics on the same level as the M’s and the Seahawks (I have been following both franchises since I was a baby, both of which are below Cougar Athletics). And to have a team I was starting to really value sucks in oh so many ways. And now to have that same team four wins away from their “second championship” is even more frustrating. Especially since the city and the Thunder franchise (and any future Sonics franchise) share the history.*
*If I had written this part an hour ago, the tone would have been angrier and it probably wouldn’t have made any sense.