In a previous article, I wrote that it is acceptable for fans of the former Sonics to become Portland Trailblazers fans. Then I read an article written by Kevin Cacabelos, a talented writer who is also a fan of Seattle sports, about him switching allegiance to the Trailblazers. While I still feel that it is acceptable, and I won’t look down on him, I’d like to present a case to the contrary.
I grew up as a Seattle Mariners fan. Before I ever touched a basketball or football, my dad was throwing batting practice to me in the back yard. Baseball and the Mariners were my version of comic books and cartoons.
But in 2002, when Lou Piniella left the Mariners, closely following Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and my boyhood idol Ken Griffey Jr., my frustration with the Mariners front office boiled over.
My mom went to the same high school as Ryne Sandberg, so for all my time as a baseball fan I’d followed the Cubs to an extent. I’d even go so far as to say they were my unofficial second favorite team.
The same year that I became extremely frustrated with Seattle’s front office, a young right handed pitcher for the Cubs made his debut as a Cub, Mark Prior.
I was a high school pitcher at the time, and I began to pattern my own pitching mechanics after Prior, and eventually I was more excited to watch Cubs' games than Mariners' games.
I’ve officially made the Cubs my No. 1a favorite team, with the Mariners at No. 1.
However, that decision was not made with haste, I debated the integrity of it. Then decided that because they played in the NL Central, a division the Mariners at the time would never play outside of the World Series, that I’d be able to maintain my rooting interest in both teams.
That’s the key chink in the armor, in my opinion, in the transfer of fan hood to Portland by former Seattle Sonics fans. The rooting interest.
Portland is the only natural rival of any Seattle professional team, isn’t it a bit sacrilegious to become a fan of the former enemy?
That’s like people of Ukraine suddenly moving to Russia for economic benefits, and forgetting overnight the economic repression caused by Joseph Stalin.
Certainly, in this case, “Stalin” is one of our own, whether you place that metaphor as high as Paul Allen or as low as Brandon Roy. However, despite the fact that Allen, Roy, and Nate McMillan all have ties to the Seattle area, two months ago, they were still the enemy, and an enemy for the previous 37 years.
Can you forget that?
Can you forget the hurt you felt when Nate McMillan bolted town? Can you forget Martell Webster teasing the Huskies with his services only to enter the NBA?
This is a personification of why America agrees when Clay Bennett says that Seattle doesn’t care.
Part of being a Sonics fan is hating the Blazers, and part of being a Blazers fan is hating the Sonics, and there is no wiggle room.
Can you imagine Philadelphia becoming Steelers fans if they lost the Eagles? Red Sox fans becoming Yankees fans? Giants fans becoming A’s fans? Knicks fans becoming Celtics fans? Or the Cubs faithful jumping ship and rooting for the South side? I can’t.
Basketball will be back in Seattle, if it’s post-Stern or not. When that happens, and the day of judgment occurs, when the Sonics meet the Blazers yet again, do you really want that sin on your resume?
That is one of the most devastating things about the loss of the Sonics. While the Mariners interleague play “natural rival” is the San Diego Padres, and most of the Seahawks rivals either play in the AFC West, and/or are indifferent to the Seahawks in comparison to their own rivals, the one truly relevant rivalry on equal footing in Seattle is gone.
If you must become a fan of another team, that’s fine, you’re a basketball fan and it's hard not to become a fan of a team when watching basketball.
If I can put it simply, my message to those who will inevitably become Blazers fans is simply this; When you became a Sonics fan, the loyal ones out there, you were a fan through and through. It took the non-existence of the Sonics to change you, that’s part of being a fan, so if you become a Blazers fan, stay one.