Seattle SuperSonics Move: Fans Are the Reason To Stay

Andrew BlanchetteCorrespondent IMay 16, 2008

"Another game. Another loss," I muttered to myself. It seemed to be a recurring comment. As frustrating as a losing NBA franchise can be, losing your NBA franchise can be detrimental to not only the team, but the entire city.

I took my usual place, with the few Sonics fans that could be labeled as "die-hards", by the players' garage, waiting for them to file out and scribble their names on a few pieces of memorabilia for us. It was after a Sunday game.

After a last-second loss to the Sacramento Kings thanks to Mike Bibby, I realized,

"What Clayton Bennett is doing is wrong."

Of course I knew that, but I saw it in a different light. Sure, it's immoral to take a whole city and franchise hostage by purchasing a team and claiming the need for a new arena, but what I saw was one individual hurting another individual.  I looked to my right.

Casey Burr, a plumber from Marysville, about a 40-minute drive from downtown, stands before me, as he always does, with a bag over his shoulder full of Sonics merchandise that would rival that of the team store.

This man essentially plans his work schedule around that of the Sonics. He goes to the Furtado Center every weekend for morning shoot-arounds, only to meet the team at the game that night.

He will wait in the rain, sleet, snow for guys like Luke Ridnour, or Earl Watson, on a weeknight, just so they can sign a card for him. He knows the players by the cars they drive, and always encourages everyone on the squad. He knows the ball boys by name, he invites players for cups of coffee, and he couldn't be nicer.

It was that night when I fully realized what Bennett was doing. As usual, Kevin Durant stumbled into the passenger seat of his Range Rover, and stopped to sign autographs.

While his autograph is coveted by many, Casey always blazes a trail through the scrum in front of Durant's car, allowing the younger fans to get their opportunity to meet Durant up close.

P.J. Carlesimo wheels by in his BMW, and that's a sign to leave. As we all head to our cars, Casey remains.

"Who are you waiting for?" I shout to him, from across the street.

"Paul Westhead is still in there. I'll wait for him to come out."

This is who Clayton Bennett is taking the team from.

On the left of me is a man named Pierre and his grandson, Curtis. Curtis has gained some popularity from the players over the years, for greeting them when they enter, and wishing them off after the game.

But one player in particular, Earl Watson, has become best friends with Curtis. He makes sure to have a lengthy conversation with him every night after the game.

I saw him put his number into the kid's phone, and lastly, Earl has taken him to Texas for road trips, and is taking him to Disneyland after school is out. As the players file out, Curtis and Pierre call it a night, while Pierre wheels off to his car in his motorized scooter. Curtis dons a Watson jersey as they walk side by side down the street.

This is who Clayton Bennett is taking the team from.

There are plenty more. Russell Gay is a huge Chris Wilcox fan. Greg hangs out with his son every night. Jake can recite stats by heart. Dallas doesn't say a word. He just gets signatures.

These people are being wronged by Bennett and his associates. It's more than business, it's more than politics and governors, it's more than a team, and it's more than a franchise. It's a way to forget about everything else, and just wait for a sore Kevin Durant to hobble up to his Range Rover.