Walking into an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Going to a picnic with oil company executives. Attending a fraternity party at Duke. Talking to anyone from Naperville, Ill.
Yet one could still argue that none of the above can hold a candle to the cast of clowns responsible for the demise of the once proud and mighty franchise known as the Seattle SuperSonics. You’ve got David Stern, the commissioner bent on getting the team out of town. Clay Bennett, the owner bent on getting them to Oklahoma City. Howard Schultz, the former owner who had a fortune from Starbucks but was too cheap to hold onto the team and build a new arena. And then there’s Mayor Greg Nickels, who caved and agreed on a $45 million settlement to let the Sonics go rather than continuing a lawsuit that likely would have kept them to their lease for another two years.
Schultz is filing a lawsuit against Bennett, claiming he fraudulently promised the team would stay in Seattle. According to ESPN legal expert Lester Munson (he has a law degree and stuff, so it’s true) it is therefore conceivable that the Sonics could play in Oklahoma City for a year and then be forced to return to Seattle. That would leave OKC as the city with its pants around the ankles in the whole matter, which would of course create a whole new layer of douchebaggery to be explored at a later date.
One of the only positives to come out of the situation (other than Seattle fans not having to see P.J. Carlesimo coach their team next year) is that the Sonics name, colors and logo will not make the move to Oklahoma, a similar deal to the one made by the City of Cleveland prior to the Browns’ criminal defection to Baltimore.
But some green and yellow shirts and championship banners sitting in an empty arena are hardly a substitute for real basketball, regardless of how awful the product on the floor is. It almost makes me feel guilty for having the Nuggets upset of the Sonics in the ’94 first round as my favorite non-Bulls NBA memory.
If you think this is the last time we’ll see a team’s fanbase get screwed over, though, you’re dreaming. That’s particularly true in the NBA, which is by far the league that leads the sports world in seeing teams jump from town to town.
Did you know that the Atlanta Hawks have played in the Tri-Cities (Bettendorf was not yet respected enough to become the Quad City), Milwaukee and St. Louis? The Clippers have played in Buffalo and San Diego? The Kings have played in Rochester, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Omaha? (OK, I guess I can see why they’ve moved around a lot).
Certainly there have been plenty of moves in basketball’s past that wouldn’t seem to make sense — the Jazz ditching New Orleans for Utah and the aforementioned Kings move from KC to Sacramento — that have worked out. But Oklahoma City’s worth as a big league town is a completely different discussion — one that has put the possibly fine folks of that city under criticism for something they are simply getting as a purloined gift (it “fell off the truck”) rather than stealing.
What matters is that Seattleites are the ones getting screwed over after 41 years of cheering for the Sonics. And as long as sports are a multi-million dollar industry where douchebag owners can request douchebag politicians to raise taxes for a stadium filled with luxury boxes and Personal Seat Licenses for douchebag CEOs or they’ll leave town, it can happen to your team too.
The only question is, “Who’s next?”