ORIGINALLY POSTED: July, 21, 2006 www.myspace.com/cgmmsports
It has been a rough week in Seattle. I don't want to sound like a crybaby, but as a male, some of the only truly deep emotions I will admit to are related to sports.
I remember being nine years old, watching Edgar Martinez double down the left field line in the Kingdome to win the ALDS against the Yankees in 1995. I remember jumping up and down in my living room with my dad, which is a feat because the guy has bad knees, ankles, legs and back, so it goes without saying, he doesn’t jump much.
I remember when the Sonics played the Jazz to get to the finals, and every time Jeff Hornacek and John Stockton put a shot up everyone in the room would sing out "CHOIR BOY!", somehow, from either thirty, or hundreds of miles away, we truly felt we were psyching these guys out.
Last year, one of my most proud years as a Seattle sports fan, I got to see the Seahawks dominate the Panthers for four quarters and rest easy most the game, and begin speculation on the team's chance to win the Superbowl early as their was little doubt. As a sports fan in Seattle who was born after 1979, I have become accustomed to mediocrity from my teams, and I have become desensitized to the thought of them moving.
In the early 90's the Mariners were supposed to be the Tampa Bay Devil Ray's, however like a thief in the night, the founder of Nintendo, who has a local headquarters, came and saved my team.
Later in the decade Ken Behring, then owner of the Seahawks was looking to fill the football void in Los Angeles, and wanted to use the Hawks to do so. This time Paul Allen, co-founder of local Microsoft, donned the cape and saved our city once again. Under their new ownership, both teams have risen from the cellar to the ceiling of their respective sports.
So in 2001 when Howard Schultz, founder of local Starbucks, bought the Sonics for $200M dollars from Barry Ackerly, another local business man, it seemed as though all three Seattle teams were in the right hands. When the Mariners were sold, they immediately looked to replace the dreadful Kingdome, which housed baseball and football, with a brand new, baseball only stadium.
In its first year on the ballot, the plans for a new stadium were turned down, however between ballots Seattle officials approved a deal which would allow the team to construct Safeco Field.
There would not even be a vote for Qwest Field, Seattle officials would simply approve a loan to Paul Allen which would be paid off with the profits he made from the Seahawks. So it seemed safe to assume that the Sonics would eventually work something out, whether it be in Seattle, or in Renton or Bellevue, two nearby highly populated cities.
However, this is a whole new ballgame, Seattle has a new Mayor, and Washington has a new Governer, Christine Gregoire. Between them they have attempted to save Washington residents from themselves, and while that is a different conversation for a different day, I will give a short run-down of the changes that have been made under each of their terms.
Online poker has been deemed a Class C felony if played within the state of Washington, Smoking has been banned from any public venue in Washington State, and Strip Club rules have been completely overhauled in the city of Seattle.
Whether right or wrong, each has been done either off the ballot, or in a devious manner. So maybe I should have been more worried when I heard that the Sonics were negotiating with people the likes of these. On Tuesday I woke up, later than desired, as usual, took a shower, ran up stairs, put together my lunch, and when I got into my car, I turned the station to our local sports-talk station, so I could listen to the 5 minutes I get to hear before I lose reception to that station on my route to work.
It didn't take the whole five minutes for me to hear the news that would ruin my day. I had driven about a quarter mile before the station came back from commercial, the rest of the ride was kind of a haze.
I lost reception shortly down the freeway, as usual, however I didn’t change the station. I sat their, trying to catch any information I could through heavy static. I spent the rest of my work day in disbelief. I could have never imagined actually losing a franchise.
So slowly I got through the first stage of grieving, denial. Well next came anger, I was looking for people to blame.
Do I blame Howard Schultz? He was the perfect candidate to own the Sonics. He even PROMISED the fans a championship within 5 years of him owning the team, and after his fifth year I was perfectly happy to forgive him, and allow him to re-tool the team.
Do I blame Washington leadership? Are Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and Gregoire up to the same old tricks? Do I somehow blame the new ownership group for swooping in stealing the Sonics from me, that's right ME, overnight?
I soon entered into the bargaining phase of grief. The new ownership group said they would wait for at least 12 months before moving the team, they are sincere right? I can trust this ownership group to really give it their all. I can ignore the fact that the city these men are from hosted 31 games of the New Orleans Hornets last year and sold out every game.
Even if we do lose the Sonics, the Portland Trailblazers, also owned by Paul Allen are no longer for sale, hell, they even have Seattle's newest golden boy Brandon Roy, it seems logical that they will be Seattle's next team.
With all those seeming like long shots, and me somewhat coming to my senses, I gathered in for the next stage, depression. I don’t have a lot to say about this, I am not afraid to admit, I am sad. I love sports, I especially love Seattle sports, and I have grown up with the Sonics always being there.
Did I take them for granted? So I am beginning to enter the final phase of grief, acceptance. In all likelihood the Sonics will leave, the Blazers will most likely stay in Portland, the Kings probably won’t move despite their own issues involving a new arena to replace Arco Arena. Even George Shinn, owner of the New Orleans Hornets, one of the most hated and cursed owners in the NBA, even he isn’t heartless enough to play "cutsy's" and get to Oklahoma before this new Sonics ownership, leaving a city with its own grieving problems without a basketball team.
I am not at peace with this issue. I still retain some unrealistic sense of hope. I am still angry at both Schultz as well as the state government. I still can see a basketball team coming back here in the relatively near future. I am still depressed about the potential loss of the Sonics. But I accept the fact that life goes on, I have stepped away from the ledge, I am OK.
I am not a very sympathetic person in general, however I have gained a new sense of sympathy for cities like Cleveland, Houston, St. Louis, and many others (not including LA, once again, another conversation for another day). True sports fans out there, I have a word of advice for you that you may or may not take to heart. Enjoy your local team if you are a fan of them, if not, enjoy them anyways.
All three sports have always been accessible to me, and in hind-sight, I definitely took the Sonics, of all teams, for granted. I would like to thank a few very special individuals. Glove, Reign Man, Big Smooth, Detlef Shrempf, Hersey Hawkins, Dale Ellis, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, George Karl, Lenny Wilkens, I'm feeling generous today, Thank you Vin Baker, there are many more but I will not take up any time, space, or brain power thinking of the names of the other guys I would like to thank, except for one. Kevin Calabro, the long time voice of the Sonics, Thank you more than anyone. You have brought the game to life for millions of basketball fans. For those of you national fans, or owners of NFL Fever on XBOX, you have heard Kevin, but you havent really HEARD Kevin.
Seattle has always been blessed with Calabro as well as Dave Neihaus, two incredible announcers. I don’t mean to be obscure, or cause any arguments, because I am as big of a Neihaus fan as anyone in the world, however Kevin Calabro can truly bring a game to life. To any of your future ventures, Kevin, I would like to thank you for filling much of the background noise of my childhood. Lastly, I don’t know what will happen with the Sonics, my theory on life has always been, "Hope for the best, plan for the worst."
However, it is a sad state of business of sports when a man can buy a team for $200M, sell it for $350M, and while the team lost $60M in the past 5 years allegedly, the pure appreciation of the team has lead to a $90M profit for Howard Schultz, yet he claims his reason for selling the team was because he was losing money. It truly makes me sick to my stomach.