Like many sports fans in the Pacific Northwest, the idea of the Thunder advancing to the NBA finals has been eating away at me. It is easy for people around the country to tell us all to simply “get over” their departure. What people do not realize is that, to many of us, that whole ordeal transcends sports. There is so much more to it than that.
I can deal with athletes leaving town out of free agency or through a trade. Until he turned into a gigantonormous douchebag, I defended Alex Rodriguez when he signed that huge deal with Texas. For $250 million you damn well better believe I will live in Texas for 10 years. When it comes to athletes leaving, the whole “get over it” mentality makes sense. As a Seattle sports fan, I’ve seen it happen. I was pissed when Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Gary Payton got traded. Time heals many wounds. Griffey was arguably the best athlete in the history of Pacific Northwest sports. He did not leave on greatest terms with fans; however when he came back with Cincinnati, all that was forgotten. When he signed on with Seattle instead of Atlanta to end his career, it was total euphoria. At some point in time, Cleveland will once again embrace Lebron James. How many times have you seen stories of athletes signing one-day contracts to retire with the team that put them on the map? Cities love their athletes.
Before I get too much further into this, and in keeping with the “we love our athletes” theme: I have no ill-will toward the players of OKC. In a way this makes it hurt even more. I wish Kevin Durant had the personality of Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant or Alex Rodriguez. Unfortunately (or fortunately for him), he is a classy player. During those final sad days of the Sonics, he participated in the “save our Sonics” cheers. I spend a lot of time working with kids in the mental health world (occupational hazard). While many are sincere in their responses to all the asinine questions mental health professionals ask them, others simply tell us what they think we want to hear. The ones that do this aren’t necessarily trying to be deceitful. In many cases they do this out of intent for self (or family) preservation. Many athletes and politicians operate the same way. Kevin Durant and Nick Collison are genuinely good people and I do want them to succeed.
This is one wound that time (or even adding another team) will not heal. What happened here can be seen as a reflection of so much that is wrong with this world.
You could make a case that this represents ineptitude of elected officials on both sides to come to any consensus on what to do.
You could say that there is evidence of extortion (Bennett bought the team and basically gave tax payers the ultimatum of spending millions on a new arena or else he would move the team; if we were silly enough to give in to his demands, he could sell the team to another owner in what he called a “sweet flip” for a quick buck). After spending tax money on Safeco Field and Qwest, he knew taxpayers were in no mood to shell out any money (the lack of taxpayer contribution toward the current arena proposal is a refreshing idea and also goes to show that there are other ways to finance a new facility).
You could argue that this is an example of greed and capitalism gone wild. Howard Schultz bought the team without knowing a damn thing about basketball. He got in over his head, freaked the fawk out and basically screwed over the community that helped him launch his coffee empire (honestly, their coffee isn’t even that great – only thing Starbucks has going for it is that they have shops everywhere). Did he really think Clay Bennett meant it when he said that he wanted to keep this team here? If you feel that that flurry of legal activity toward the end by Schultz had more to do with him trying to get the team back than simply trying to save face, you are bleeping delusional.
The idea that @$$holes will always come out ahead? Check. Ever feel like there is no justice in this world? Odds are that the jerk speeding down the freeway cutting people off every which way will eventually get caught. Think you will be there to laugh at her (sexism is fun) when it happens? No way in hell. Clay Bennett is one of the biggest pricks of all time and he is revered in OKC. Beyond scrutiny in the public eye, do you think this will have any impact on Howard Schultz’ bottom-line? No way in hell. Well, maybe a bit (my boycott of Starbucks alone should be enough to cause their stocks to fall a little – sell now folks).
Another thing that really pisses me off is when some people think, rather shortsightedly, that we are better off without having the Sonics in town. These people are quick to only point out the negatives of having sports teams (IE a little extra traffic or an influx of annoying tourists). Even if you are not a sports fan, how can you not see how much of an impact the presence of sports teams has on our local economy? How many businesses out there lost a substantial amount of revenue when the Sonics left? What about all that revenue generated for the State from taxes on tickets, merchandising, and even things like parking and use of public transportation? You better believe OKC’s economy is making a nice profit on the thucking Funder.
As it is getting late, I am starting to lose my Thunder (plenty of pun intended). Whether they win or lose in the finals, expect plenty more from me on this topic in the near future. Go Heat/Celtics (preferably Celtics, I would not mind seeing Ray Allen get a championship ring).