Today was a great day. Spent all morning and afternoon at a beautiful home on the Puget Sound waterfront for a company meeting, then capped off the evening with a heartfelt discussion of the Sonics while on a ferry back from Bainbridge Island.
For those of you who know me, you know I speak passionately. Nothing, however, stokes my fire quite like the topic of our beloved Seattle Supersonics. Nothing. Everything about the Sonics gets me worked up into an absolute frenzy. Over the course of a five-minute conversation on my favorite basketball team, I will typically run the gamut of emotions. From mad, to happy, to angry, to sad, to nostalgic, to excited, to everything in between. It’s rare that you will find such a mercurial topic for verbal interaction.
Two of the coworkers who were part of this rant (which is more or less what this discussion became) are area transplants who have only lived in the Northwest for a few years. The fourth member of our chat was the CEO of the company I work for and a native Seattleite, someone who shares my love for the green-and-gold quite fondly. Together, the two of us both reminisced and lectured, while the other half of our crew played audience to a talk that might sound crazy to those who simply don’t get it.
I’ve tried to explain to people how hard it is to convey to outsiders what having our NBA franchise stolen from us was like. It’s near-impossible. The only folks who truly understand our pain are other Sonics fans. Unfortunately, it seems like those of who supported the team through thick and thin are getting harder and harder to track down.
At one point in today’s conversation, I referred to losing the Sonics as “like a death, but only assuming that you were betrayed upon death at the same time.” Imagine that. Losing a loved one and being betrayed simultaneously. That’s what relinquishing the Sonics was like.
We then discussed our mutual disdain for Howard Schlutz’s coffee company. “I still don’t go there,” I admitted. To which my boss replied, “Neither do I. If a client calls and asks to meet at Starbucks, I’ll let them know that there’s a Tully’s just down the street.”
From there the banter continued, until we reached that point in the conversation where I began to relive individual moments in Sonics history. For me, this is the equivalent of an emotional drunk beginning to talk about relationships gone by. We’ve all been there. We all have that friend that gets a little too liquored up, starts talking about an ex or two, then does one of three things: either a) tries to call or text one of their exes, b) starts crying, or c) leaves the room and doesn’t return for quite some time. After rapidly recounting exactly where I was (a friend’s house after a Little League game), how old I was (nine), and how upset I was (so mad that I was mad at my buddy for not being as mad as me) when the Sonics lost to the Nuggets in the first round of the ’94 playoffs, I stopped, put my head in my hands, managed to sigh “Oh, man,” then was offered a tissue. I wasn’t crying. I’m not that sappy. But it was close. Perhaps a full day in the sun with a little alcohol to loosen the nerves had fueled my near breakdown. Or maybe I was just really that sad.
The fact is, so many of us were touched by the Sonics and now they’re just gone. We talk about this all the time, and yet it’s next-to-impossible to say in what way the presence of the team affected each one of us, uniquely. Everyone has their memories, and now, as my boss would later quip, it’s like those memories have been erased.
And it’s true, when you think about it. There are places we went, things we did, and people we spent time with only because of the Sonics. We can’t go to those same places, do those same things, or be with those same people and experience a similar significance to the one we enjoyed previously, because of a basketball team. My boss, in an attempt to analogize the team’s departure in a way the others could wrap their minds around, would mention that losing the Sonics was like watching your favorite playground as a kid get paved over for a parking lot. Not only has this very important part of your life been demolished, but it’s like the memories that were created there no longer exist.
Not having the Sonics there to rely on during the season hurts. It does. The Sonics were like your favorite sandwich shop, or an old friend, or a comfy pair of shorts. They were there. They were dependable. They were easy to love. They gave you a venue for a first date, a roster to cheer for, a logo to represent, and so much more. And then they were ripped away from us, deposited in the middle of nowhere for nothing comparable in return. Stolen. Kidnapped. Taken.
On the day they left town, I was in a stupor. All I could do was shake my head and try to reason. There was no level of reasoning for what had just occurred, though. Two years later, there is still no level of reasoning. Many of us have resorted to apathy to numb our pain, but apathy isn’t the answer. We can’t forget what happened. We need to discuss it. It’s as simple as reminiscing with a friend on a boat. Or as complex as making a documentary (Sonicsgate, for the win). But it’s imperative that we never forget. Because if we forget, then we will have lost, whether we ever get another basketball franchise in this town or not.
Look. Sometimes we just need to talk about the Sonics. We do. For therapy, for camaraderie, for old time’s sake. Today I did that. And it was wonderful. I suggest you give it a try, too.