On Wednesday, ESPN.com's the Sports Guy Bill Simmons asked for Seattle Supersonics fans emails about their anger, frustration, and sadness about losing the team to a bunch of rednecks from Oklahoma. Yesterday, less than 24 hours later, he got them. Simmons received about 3000 of them, and it made quite a statement. I didn't get one sent to him, but decided to submit the following today anyway...
So I was all set to write you yesterday, when I see 3000 distraught Sonics fans already beat me to it. Wow. Now THAT's a response! Although you'll probably never read this, I wanted to add two quick things that I didn't see in the mailbag (and this is also therapeutic):
(For the record, I fell in love with the Supes in 1990, when the Bulls were in Vancouver to play an exhibition game against Seattle. While I was there to see MJ, I came away talking about rookie Gary Payton, who wore #2 with a high flat-top, and led everybody in scoring and trash talk. I also found out who Shawn Kemp was- who became, and still is, my favorite NBA player of all-time- who at the time was a 20 year old 2nd year power forward who wore #40 and had 6 dunks in the game. I've been a Sonics fan ever since)
One is that while the hottest places in hell should be reserved for David Stern and Howard Schultz, I don't blame Clay Bennett. He and his redneck buddies had a brand new arena with no tenant and wanted to bring a pro sports team to their town. They looked for a team they could move, whiny cry-baby coffee bitch Schultz sold them the Supes, and now Stern is allowing them to leave. The fact Bennett is moving the team should rate about the same on a level of surprise as OJ Simpson ranks on the Vengeance Scale when he says he's trying to find the real killer. We knew this was coming.
The man who doesn't get enough blame however is former GM Wally Walker. You've probably heard this before, but the Jim Mcilvaine signing is what triggered this whole mess. Kemp was the best power forward in the league at the time (yes I'm biased and hate Karl Malone, but Kemp was the 2nd best player in the '96 Finals after MJ), but Walker refused to talk extension. Instead, he gave a seven year $33.6 million contract to Mcilvaine, who had done nothing with the Bullets, and did nothing in Seattle.
It upset Kemp, he forced the worst 3-team trade in history, and the Sonics were never the same. Kemp's career went in the tank, Schultz eventually takes over and runs GP out of town, fan interest sinks, Schultz throws a hissy fit and sells to The Rednecks, and now the Supes are leaving.
Those early-mid 90's teams were my favorite I've ever cheered for (although considering my other teams are the Mariners, Vikings, Canucks, and UW Huskies, I suppose that's not saying much). I hope the city at least keeps the name and colors, and that Kevin Durant bolts for free agency ASAP.
thanks for listening to all of us Bill,
I don't expect people outside of the Pacific Northwest to really understand or care. Although I'd like people to, it's human nature to feel like "that's too bad but it won't happen to us." As much as I hate David Stern for being such a cold-hearted SOB, I also understand why he's taking this stand: if he caves now, any owner in his league, and really that of any of the other pro leagues, will have a tough time getting citizens to pay for their new arenas and ballparks and stadiums. Minnesotans just paid for the vast majority of a new Twins ballpark only to watch the team let Torii Hunter and Johan Santana walk because they say they couldn't afford them. This from Carl Pohlad, one of the three wealthiest owners in baseball. Folks in Seattle paid for new baseball and football stadiums when their teams threatened to leave, and help pay for the renovation of Key Arena in 1995. Now they're being told they have need a new one?
As a fan, this is all depressing and disgusting at the same time. Being a sports fan is about the most illogical and irrational thing you can do. You give a ton of investment in time, money, and emotion, and the owners and players are the ones who reap the benefits. Our payoff is a championship, which for my aforementioned teams, has been 30 years and counting waiting for one. I would love to know if the Green Bay Packers model of fan ownership can work in the NBA. We know it's worked in soccer, as fans recently purchased a second division English football club, and now fans of world power Liverpool want to do the same. Could fans of the NBA, major league baseball, or the place it's needed more than any other, for the six NHL hockey teams in Canada, do the same? This article in Time magazine doesn't answer the question, but at least asks it. With fan ownership your time, money, and emotion invested would actually make a difference, as your voice would be heard and your dollars spent on the team would actually be a real life investment. Not to mention with fan ownership, the team would never be able to leave because you wouldn't buy it a new stadium.
It would be the one way for fans, who foot the bill for the billion-dollar pro sports business, to take some control back. It's not often I want to emulate Cheeseheads, but in this case, I would love if the green and gold of the Sonics could be like the green and gold of Packers.
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