I’ve already tried like five different times to write this article and it’s next to impossible. Sometimes you just have to stop trying and speak from the heart, and that’s what I intend to do.
I miss the Sonics. The NBA season starts tomorrow and it means nothing to me. Nothing.
I could care less who wins a championship, could care less whether LeBron has an MVP-type season, could care less what happens as the season transpires.
I’ve been reading this week’s Sports Illustrated, the NBA preview edition, and everything rings hollow. The articles are empty, the words are meaningless, the pictures are gray, the entire thing barely occupies my consciousness. I read it out of habit more than anything else.
It’s a sad existence, being a Sonics fan these days. Our team is gone, though the league still acknowledges it exists (or, perhaps more accurately, existed) in the form of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Please. Like Sonics fans would ever have let their players, their team, wear those ugly uniforms. A non-existent blue and onion-ring-sauce orange. Looks like something you’d conjure up only if you were high on LSD.
That’s not our team. They boast just three players who played in the Sonics’ final season. That’s not even a starting lineup. They’re owned by a native Oklahoman, and run by a general manager who spent one year being hailed as a wunderkind. These days he looks more like a guy who will be searching for a job in the next two or three years. Whatever. We can pretend to move past that whole episode, the hijacking of our franchise, but locked in a room with Clay Bennett, handed a weapon, and granted immunity for five minutes we’d all know what to do.
It’s not something that many sports fans ever have to endure. More often than not, when a team leaves town, they do so with years of anticipation and a fanbase that stopped caring decades ago. Not us. Not this team. No matter how David Stern’s evil empire would like to paint the situation.
We rallied. We fought. We wrote. We shouted. We went to games. We cheered. We bought the goods. We did everything you could possibly ask of a fan base. For 41 years we did that. And in the end it meant nothing.
Our lawmakers betrayed us, and years from now they’ll simply be forgotten with the passage of time. They were guilty in failing to uphold their positions as elected officials. They neglected to do what we asked. And they flat-out don’t care. Because most of them spent their childhoods being the last ones picked on the playground. Because they weren’t athletic enough to be any good at sports. Because they would rather watch C-Span than the Superbowl. Because they lost touch with their constituency. Because they were concerned about their images. Because they simply didn’t have the balls to do little more than put on a suit and make money. Because they were afraid. Because they aren’t any good at their jobs.
It’s not right. They’ll be off the hook. Think about it. How many of you can remember the Seattle City Council from, say, 1983? A few of you, maybe. But for most of us, it’s just not that way. The same thing will happen with the likes of Greg Nickels, Nick Licata, Frank Chopp, and the rest of their goons. We’ll forget them. They’ll live peaceful and happy lives. They’ll get old, and one day they’ll pass on. Occasionally some kid will do a class project on the Sonics and the lawmakers will be referenced. That will be their contribution. That will be the entire crux of their being. We won’t villainize them because we’ll forget. And we’ll move on.
Howard Schultz will die a millionaire, if not a billionaire. He’ll have Starbucks to fall back on, and no matter how much we kick and scream about his abandoning the Sonics, he’ll still make his money and get old like the rest of us. His will be a storied existence, living in a certain luxury that most of us will never experience. No one will kill him, even though a day rarely goes by where at least one Sonics fan doesn’t make a reference to the assassination of the coffee mogul. We just aren’t that vindictive, and the magnitude of such a heinous act is greater than anything any sane, rational person could possibly comprehend. But we still joke about it. At the very least we’d like to throw a pie at his face or dunk him in a dunk tank once, twice, a million times. At least embarrass the guy a bit, right? Pants him in public, something like that.
Our heroes will reappear in the spotlight from time to time, but more often than not we’ll remember them in images, video, and our memories. Shawn Kemp will always be that tremendous dunker. Gary Payton will always be that trash-talking, gum-chomping, bald-headed pest. Xavier McDaniel will always be choking Wes Matthews.
We will live vicariously through other teams. We’ll root for this squad or that squad. We’ll follow certain players. We’ll become enamored with Chris Paul’s stutter-step, or Dwight Howard’s dunks, or Kobe Bryant’s clutchness. We’ll talk about it at work. We’ll mention it in our Facebook status updates. We’ll read about it in the paper. But it won’t be the same.
We won’t hold viewing parties for playoff games. We won’t unite at local watering holes to celebrate a victory. We won’t put on our jerseys and revert to our childhood in order to fully display our fandom. It just won’t happen. And somewhere inside all of us, we’ll miss it.
We’ve been robbed. Thieved. Burglarized. Our passion has been murdered. Our love has been tainted.
It’s been more than two years since the Sonics last tipped off a season. We’re still trying to rebound. We might be able to eventually, but not now. Not this year. Maybe not next year. Maybe not for decades. We miss this team. We hurt inside. We look for anything to ease the pain.
But until we find our Aspirin, we’ll just wait, and remember.
It’s a tough time of year and rather than pretend that we’ve healed, pretend that we don’t care about the past, pretend that everything is the same as it always was, let’s be honest. We want the Sonics back. And we’ll never forget what it meant to lose them.