Men are simple. Sports are complicated.
Here's your cheat sheet.
Well, if you’re like me, you’ve been alternating time between the NBA finals and the fascinating season of baseball of which we are just about at the halfway point. My team, the New York Metropolitans baseball club is having a truly interesting season (mildly put) but I’ll save that for another post.
Which clears the way for us to talk about the subtext behind this guy and the reason he’s a) dressed like a zombie, and b) wearing the duds of a dead franchise, the SuperSonics which, up until four years ago, played ball in Seattle.
This is Seattle native Colin Baxter. He’s got a long memory, and some excellent self-face painting skills. But, let’s back up for a second to look at just why Baxter flew down to the NBA finals, made up his face to become a member of the legion of the undead, sat in a prime seat (see crowd photo) and hexed the Oklahoma City Thunder all last evening, until they let an imposing lead over the Miami Heat slip between James Harden’s fingers.
The Pacific Northwest loves basketball — the Dude I live with and I were just talking about this last night in the vein of “cities with the best basketball fans who still show up for the games even when the team is on a years-long dry spell.” We struggled to think for a moment, until I said “Portland!” somewhat triumphantly. The Portland TrailBlazers have some amazing fans.
And so did Seattle. What Seattle did not have was leadership, honest management or forthright owners. They had their team essentially stolen out from under them by, depending on who you believe, the CEO of Starbucks or a crafty new owner working in cahoots with a team-moving-happy-league commissioner, David Stern.
Now, anyone who has had a conversation about basketball with me, knows that I have the utmost respect for the man at the top of the NBA organization, David Stern. This is because I feel he makes canny, smart moves to keep the league relevant, exciting, and accessible. But what I saw in Colin Baxter’s equally canny and smart docko about the Sonics “leaving” Seattle to be reborn as the Thunder of Oklahoma City, gave me pause.
Essentially, it breaks down to this: the NBA and the owners of the Sonics colluded to force the city of Seattle to either a) use taxpayer money to fund a new, larger arena, or b) kiss the Sonics goodbye.
But between the lines unfolds a story of deception by the owners, current and (perhaps) previous, perpetrated on the city and the fans. The implication is that the current ownership knew the city wouldn’t pony up the dollars (during the deepest part of the current recession, in 2008) for a new arena, but pushed this as a way to keep the team, making the move look legitimate when the city eventually had to turn the NBA and the Sonics ownership down.
The move to OK City had been planned, Baxter’s Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team concludes, going back to 2005, when Hurricane Katrina forced the New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma City for a portion of its home games. Basketball was a hit in Oklahoma City, and Clayton Bennett, the head of the group that bought the Sonics from Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, sought a way to bring the Sonics there, despite having (allegedly) given Schultz a good faith promise to keep the team in Seattle.
It’s more involved than that, and with much more heartache for Seattle fans, but I don’t want to give it all away: Sonicsgate was too good a documentary. The Dude and I just happened to catch it on CNBC and we were positively riveted. I highly recommend it.
Seattle is still pissed off four years later. I can’t say I fully understand what the emotion is like: I live in New York, which tends to get teams rather than lose them, at least since the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York baseball Giants fled us mid-20th-century. But I was born a Knick fan, and so I know what it is to love the team but loathe the ownership. And if the Dolan family ever schemed to take the Knicks somewhere else, I know I would be getting tattoos and drawing signs and picketing Madison Square Garden, and stalking David Stern, which I imagine would involve a lot of hiding in plain sight.
Bottom line: I’d watch Sonicsgate with your own dude on your own couch. You’ll both dig it, because it’s interesting for you, and it’s about sports intrigue for him.
Subtext is a series that looks at issues sports nuts seem to care about and talk about a lot, without slowing down to inform people who don’t know what they’re talking about.