Why Seattle Should Say No to the NBA

“for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.”  ― Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being
 
“In this high-stakes game of political poker, Sonics Chairman Clay Bennett laid down his biggest card Friday, informing NBA Commissioner David Stern that his ownership group intends to relocate the team to Oklahoma City as soon as it can get out of its KeyArena lease.” – November 2, 2007 in Seattle P-I

Undoubtedly the world would be a more just place if people – especially those in positions of power – had more empathy. It is clear that the origins of many world conflicts and disputes stems in many ways out of a lack of empathy. The relation of this absence and the yearning for power is also clear. And what is even more crystal clear is that no one really gives a rat’s ass.

With Chris Hansen and Valiant Capital pulling in about $1.5 billion off the Facebook IPO today, the move toward building an arena in SoDo becomes more and more feasible. The amount of private money, long-term planning and city protection built into this plan is astounding and too good to pass up in many respects. Yet I would pass. At least with the framework in place now of how Seattle would obtain sports franchises to fill that space. I don’t really want to be part of a continued thievery of culture, history and memories that the NBA in particular plans to perpetuate.

Recently over at Grantland, writer Brian Phillips (of Oklahoma City) wrote an open letter to Seattle SuperSonics fans in an attempt to explain his fandom and his feelings of sympathy. Well guess what Brian Phillips? Take your sympathy and shove it in James Harden’s beard. Phillips attempts to gain support for Oklahoma City fans by saying at least Seattle had a team at one point. He states:

There’s also the one people don’t talk about, where maybe you love a game a lot, maybe for a long time, and have to resign yourself to the fact that seeing it played on a high level, in person, is just not in the cards for you. And sure, that’s why the universe gave us TV. And who knows, maybe you take a trip to a sports town every now and again, when you’ve saved up enough or when you can swing a vacation from the cracker factory. The town on the jerseys is always somebody else’s, though.

Lot of people in that situation, Seattleite. America’s a big country, and there are dark zones on the major league map into which few explorers dare go.

This doesn’t mean it is ok for the Oklahoma City Thunder to exist. Just as it is not ok for the Sacramento Kings to become the Anaheim Queens of Los Angeles or the Seattle SuperSonics. Phillips goes on to compare American franchises to English soccer clubs and elaborate on the point that we accept the fact that our “franchises” might move because we live in America.

We’ve mostly gotten comfortable with the idea that sports is a business. We’re happy to call our clubs “franchises” (essentially profanity in England), we talk about games as “product,” we memorize cap restrictions and contract details, we fiddle with the Trade Machine. We accept that players are going to play harder in their contract years… It’s just the resting state of the culture at this point. We’re used to interacting with our games as though we were part of the fantasy-entertainment industry that runs them….

So … yeah. We recognize that sports teams are mostly dumb corporations that don’t care about us, which is why our outrage at their corporate-like behavior tends to be inconsistently applied and limited to specific cases.

NOT OK

We don’t have to participate in the American corporate self-interest fest that pervades our sports landscape. We don’t have to want the Sacramento Kings to move here. We may be powerless as fans to actually stop it, but we don’t have to WANT it. We can love the NBA (I don’t particularly but used to before I realized what team basketball looked like). We can root for players. We can even like teams. But that doesn’t mean we have to participate in the empathy-less, greed filled game that the NBA wants us to play.

Can’t we be above saying, “well it happened to us so…” or “I don’t know anyone in Sacramento so why should I care”? Can’t we be fans who know what is like to be robbed? Can’t we be fans who remember attending the rally in front of the court-house only to learn that the slimy Clay Bennett walked out the back exit? (This is where my friend Luis claims I take the moral high ground. And in this case, yes Luis, I am taking the moral high ground because it is damn necessary).

You need a reminder of how awesome the fans are in Sacramento?

Fans of Sacramento, Memphis, New Orleans, and Milwaukee – enjoy your NBA team. I don’t want your team in Seattle. It has nothing to do with the product of the NBA or taxes or traffic. It has everything to do with empathy. I refuse to participate in a system that shuffles sports franchises around like fantasy sports and robs more deserving fans of their memories. We, the citizens of Seattle, will take the suffering so you don’t have to. We know how to suffer better than you anyway. We have Chone Figgins.