Friday, April 18, 2008

Supersonics vs. the future of the Seattle Center

Although I am a massive sports fan and active participant, I have tried to keep politics and sports separated as much as possible. However the news surrounding the Seattle Supersonics has crossed the line from sports into politics.

The NBA Board of Governors voted 28-2 in favor of letting the ownership group move the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City. The two dissenting votes were Paul Allen and Mark Cuban, owners of the Trailblazers and Dallas Mavericks. Allen is a local guy, owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Cuabn has been the Maverick owner in the NBA often criticizing the league and it's officials.

The Sonics have been in Seattle and the NBA since 1967. This is their 40th season in the league (altough it has been one worth forgetting). One year removed from the World's Fair Seattle was able to convert one of the pavilions into the Seattle Coliseum. Professional basketball was a lot different then. Everything was different then. Going to an NBA game now is a full blown spectacle. When the game isn't going, it's like the circus is in town. During the 60's and 70's it was a much more low-key affair.

It is hard to say what changed exactly. Most of the change can be described in simple economic terms. Players wanted more money, tickets went up. Fans expect more when the pay more and to keep the interests of the casual fan the circus was allowed to go on during pre-game, halftime, and the much maligned "media-timeout."

You could say that it was all about the game back in the day, and that is what made professional sports so popular. You didn't need luxury suites or restaurants in the arena, the game was what mattered.

OKC has tapped into what Seattle tapped into in 1967. The World's Fair was a recognition that Seattle was no longer the last fishing village on the way to Alaska. Seattle was a "Big League City." Seattle was important to the rest of the country in ways it never was before. Seattle was the major manufacturer of air transportation and potentially "Supersonic" Transport.

The Sonics have been a bell weather for our city for as long as they have been here. During the 80's we were overshadowed by LA. During the 90s grunge and the technology boom had the city riding high, the Sonics with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp were the high-flying stars of the explosive Supersonic teams that were title contenders for several seasons.

After the boom, well things haven't been so great. Gary Payton was traded (still makes me a little sad and nostalgic, he's still my favorite player) for Ray Allen, and we haven't seen any success lately. The team has been lost. There seemed to be no direction for the team, and it seemed to be run strictly on the personality of the ever petulant Payton stifling the team's growth and success.

Now the Sonics are a symbol of our political impotence. Our inability to compromise and support our own. The Sonics are a much bigger symbol than the Viaduct, the 520 bridge, or the ferry system. The personalities and egos are calling the shots right now. Greg Nickels and Howard Schultz couldn't agree on a new lease that would have kept the team here and both refused to back down. Frank Chopp wasn't going to let a public financing bill even come close to the floor of the House in the State Legislature and the Governor wasn't putting any weight behind the effort either.

This seems really anti-climatic, it seems over with a whimper. Schultz, who up until this week had been a villian for selling to Bennett, is suing Bennett for breach of contract by not acting in good faith to keep the team in Seattle.

Bennett did spend a lot of money lobbying and designing a new arena, it certainly looked like he tried, just not very hard.

1 comment:

Grant said...

I always thought moving teams was much more of a financial issue. If a team isn't making money in Market A then move to Market B. But this spectacle has shown me that it's about more than just money. It's about egos, it's about power. The worst part is that it is definitely NOT about the fans. This will keep me disintrested in the NBA for years to come. Even moreso than I am now...