With all due respect to Steve Ballmer, the Nordstrom family, minority stakeholders, ex-players, political figures, activists, media members, and anyone else who has helped lead the charge to bring the Sonics back to Seattle, I have to dedicate the following letter of thanks to one man, Chris Hansen. Without Chris, none of this “Bring Back the Sonics” mania even exists. Without Chris, we aren’t sitting here trying to wrap our collective heads around the real possibility that we may get our beloved green-and-gold-clad squad back. And without Chris, we lack the most important thing we need to keep the memory of our team and the prospect of its return alive: hope.
I still remember the day that Chris Hansen came riding into town on a proverbial white horse, seemingly out of nowhere, determined to bring the Sonics back to our fair city. It’s been more than a year. The first time I wrote about the guy was February 9th, 2012. I didn’t even know him, but I wanted to hug him. He got me believing in something that had been comatose, on life support. Who knew if the Sonics would ever come back? It had been three-and-a-half years since they’d left and the political climate from both ends of the spectrum — in Seattle, and with the NBA — was far from favorable.
But then this dude, this hedge fund manager, this guy no one knew — Who? Chris Hansen? The Dateline guy? The predator catcher? — changed all that.
I can’t be more clear about this. I don’t care what Chris Hansen does from this moment forward. I don’t care how he’s gone about trying to get our team back. I. Don’t. Care. The fact is, he’s made one hell of an effort. He’s put this entire town, this entire citizenry of basketball fans, upon his shoulders and carried us to this point. He’s done what no one before him could do. He’s made those who wanted to say “No,” say “Yes.” He’s forced non-believers to believe and believers to believe more. He’s been, if nothing else, inspirational.
It doesn’t all come down to today. Today, the NBA owners decide whether or not the Sacramento Kings can be relocated to Seattle. A vote in favor of relocation would pave the way for Hansen and Co. to buy the team, unencumbered, from the Maloof family. A vote against relocation would essentially allow for a Sacramento-based group led by Vivek Ranadive (and, let’s face it, mayor Kevin Johnson) to seize the team from the Maloofs, assuming the Maloofs would be willing to relinquish their asset to said group. A vote for the latter is what’s expected, the latter that likewise favors the opposition. Regardless of what decision is voted upon, however, there will be backlash. So no, this won’t be over on Wednesday. Not at all.
But let’s say the vote, as anticipated, were to favor Sacramento, not Seattle. And let’s say that the NBA, as anticipated, tried their hardest to get the Maloofs to sell the Kings to Ranadive’s group. Let’s say expansion failed to appear as a viable near-term option. And let’s say that, by Thursday, the situation looked bleak, at best. If Chris Hansen were to give up at that very moment, I wouldn’t blame him. I’d be a little surprised, but I wouldn’t blame him for walking away. And when I looked back upon Hansen’s legacy, I’d be happy for what he gave us over the course of a year-and-a-half. Because he’s given us a ton.
I don’t think Chris will give up, though. I don’t think he’ll quit. Not until the Sonics are more than just a memory. Not until there’s an NBA team inhabiting our city once again. What Chris Hansen and his cohorts have done is beyond amazing. They’ve given us hope, yes. But they’ve also given us clout with a league that turned its back on us just a few short years ago. They’ve given us a voice, they’ve made the world take notice. We’ve scratched and clawed our way back to relevance when it comes to professional basketball, and that’s thanks in large part to one individual who was brought to action by his own bubbling source of civic pride.
Maybe that’s why it will be damn near impossible to ever speak one ill word of Chris Hansen. Because unlike so many other guys who have propped themselves upon pedestals high above us average Seattleites, Hansen is one of us. He cares about this cause as much as we do. He loves Seattle as much as we do. He’s as average as they come, as average as the rest of us, and yet above-average in so many ways. As far as I’m concerned, this guy can do whatever the hell he wants. He’s a saint in my book. He deserves a holiday in his honor. Preferably something in August, because August needs a goddamn holiday. Who wants a day off in August? I know I do. Saint Hansen Day sounds like a good way to spend a summer afternoon.
No matter what happens today, tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade, I have two words for you, Chris: Thank you. You’ve made all of this possible. You’ve brought a legion of fans together. You’ve united a city. You’ve given us passion, you’ve given us fuel, you’ve given us reason to believe. We owe you a gigantic debt of gratitude and I can’t tell you how much all of this means to us. We are the Sonics, all of us. You, me, every fan emblazoned with the Seattle skyline in a green-and-gold semi-circle. Until our ballclub returns, this team is thousands upon thousands deep.
As they say in one of my favorite movies, Remember the Titans, “attitude reflects leadership.” You have led us remarkably. And we are one badass group of basketball fans.
Thanks, Chris. Go Sonics.