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[thecabin.net] Seattle's heartbreak is everyone's loss

Discussion in 'NBA Dish' started by Nice Rollin, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. Nice Rollin

    Nice Rollin Contributing Member

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    The Oklahoma City owner is an A-hole. It's a good read. Thought it deserved it's own thread.

    http://www.thecabin.net/stories/070708/opi_0707080018.shtml

    Seattle's heartbreak is everyone's loss

    by Dustin Faber

    Sports are meant to be enjoyable, not a cruel exercise in destroying the souls of loyal fans.

    While seeing your team lose can be punch to the gut, as I experienced a few months ago when I watched my New England Patriots lose to the pathetic New York Giants, that should be the worst thing a fan has to experience: seeing your team lose.

    Losing your team? That's downright deplorable, and for the fans of the NBA's Seattle Supersonics, Wednesday was the darkest of days. The Sonics said goodbye to Seattle, goodbye to its fans and goodbye to a rich basketball history that spanned more 40 years in the Pacific Northwest.

    How'd it happen? I'll be brief: Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett, who heads Professional Basketball Club LLC, bought the team from Starbucks owner Howard Schultz in 2006, under the condition that he do his best to keep the team in Seattle.

    Apparently, good faith, just like credibility and ethics, meant nothing to the staunch Republican, as he went through with his plans to move the team. E-mails surfaced a few months ago testifying to the lack of effort on the behalf, highlighting Bennett's zeal for basketball in Oklahoma City.


    "I am a man possessed," Bennett wrote to other members of his ownership group. "We'll do everything we can."

    That doesn't sound like an honest effort to keep the team in Seattle. Just another example of a greedy owner pulling a fast one on the fans.

    Bennett contested that KeyArena, the home of the Sonics that was renovated with taxpayer's money in 1995, was not fit for the team and a new arena, also furnished by taxpayers hard-earned dollars, should be built if Seattle wanted to keep the team. The city said no, Oklahoma City said yes to theft, and Seattle accepted $75 million from Bennett and the Oklahoma City (insert terrible mascot name here).

    Now we're up to speed. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it?

    If anything, the people of Seattle should be applauded for putting their foot down. Tax money had already been spent on Safeco Field and Qwest Field, the home of baseball's Mariners and the NFL's Seahawks, respectively. And with KeyArena being financed just over 10 years ago, who can blame people for not cashing out again?

    While there is enough blame to go around a thousand times over, it's evident that Bennett is the one who bears the most of it. He could have spent the money out of his own pocket to renovate the arena in Seattle. But that wasn't good enough for him: he had his sights set on basketball in the Sooner state since the day he bought the team.

    The only faint ray of light at the end of the tunnel is a lawsuit filed by Schultz, who accuses Bennett of not doing his part to keep the team in Seattle, therefore nullifying the sale and returning it to Schultz and the city of Seattle. But that trial might not happen until 2009, which still has the Sonics playing in Oklahoma City (which is also economically much worse than Seattle, NBA-wise). And it's comforting that Seattle will retain the team name, colors and historical records, but what good are uniform colors without players to wear them?

    This sets up a terrible precedent in the world of sports. "Build me a stadium with your money or I'll move the team," an owner could say, effectively holding cities, states and fans that can't afford to go games hostage. Unless tax dollars are used on a new stadium instead of the profits teams have turned, owners in every sport could effectively use the murder of Seattle basketball as a playbook to justify their own means.

    It happened to the Cleveland Browns, the heart and soul of Cleveland with arguably the most faithful fans in the NFL, in the mid-90s (which is how we ended up with the Baltimore Ravens), and whose to say it couldn't happen to your favorite team?

    I'm sure during the glory years of Seattle basketball, when Dennis Johnson was leading the team to the 1979 title, and when Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf patrolled the floor during the 1990s, none of the fans thought this could happen.

    And who's to say that it won't happen in 15 years to fans of the Oklahoma City team.

    It would be deja vu all over again, although after what Seattle fans went through, I wouldn't exactly feel pity for OKC fans.

    It's an effective form of blackmail, one that our elected congressional officials should be investigating, instead of the useless steroids hearings that pop up year after year. As the sniveling Clay Bennett showed, why use your own money to pay for things when you can just move the team to a city who will bend over for your every whim and desire.

    Some would argue that as an owner, he has the right to do this, it's his team, etc. But the man made a promise to try his best to keep the team in Seattle, and he didn't.

    In a society where we hold athletes accountable for every mistake, the owners should face the same kind of scrutiny.

    But it's all smiles for Clay and the naive Oklahoma fans.

    But not in Seattle.

    Dustin Faber is an avid Boston Celtics fan and a page designer for The Log Cabin Democrat. E-mail him at dustin.faber@thecabin.net
     
  2. mrpaige

    mrpaige Contributing Member

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    What annoys me about articles like this one is that they're selective. By that, I mean that there were very few similar articles about the Oilers when they were packing up to leave.

    I don't recall a bunch of similar articles about the Grizzlies, and the press was practically celebrating the Expos finally pulling up stakes and heading for D.C.

    While there may have been one or two articles or columns that expressed some sort of regret or sadness for the people of Houston, Vancouver, Montreal, etc. they sure seemed to be few and far between. Unlike with the Sonics (or the Browns) where we've practically been bombarded with such stories.

    These articles also seem like the authors just noticed that sports teams move sometimes (in this one in particular talking about how the Sonics situation is setting a bad precedent, as if the precedent isn't already out there with the dozens of stadiums and arenas that have been built in the past 15 years or so and the number of teams that have moved to greener pastures).

    Hi there. I'm 1995. You might remember me as the year that our elected congressional officials investigated the effective form of blackmail that sports owners use to get the public to build new stadiums and arenas for teams.

    Of course, I guess I can't expect much from the newspaper of relatively tiny Conway, Arkansas (though one of my cousins who now works at the New York Times started out at the Log Cabin Democrat many years ago). I look forward to what the Arkadelphia Daily Siftings Herald has to say on the matter of franchise relocation.
     
  3. wizkid83

    wizkid83 Contributing Member

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    If Seattle wanted to keep the team, they could've worked it out with the Schults. Obviously they were going to be financially conservative after giving into the Seahawks and the Mariners. But that also sends a message to Stern (who actually actively helped push this through). It sent a clear signal that the Sonics were the #3 in the city while OKC will put them number one.

    They were our main nemesis in the 90's, so it's a little sad to see this happen to a historic team. But from Schultz and Sterns perspective, it made logical sense.
     
  4. hjg877

    hjg877 Member

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    My response to mrpaige is that this situation was such a unique one; the Sonics had been there for 40 years. Whereas the Grizzlies had a .220 winning percentage in six seasons.

    The Expos were ****ed over big time by Brochu and subsequently Loria to the point where fans were essentially prevented from seeing the team play (no TV deal).

    What strong connection is a city fan base going to have with a team that has no history, a history of losing, or no way to even watch the games?

    I just find it difficult to compare what occurred in Seattle (people across the country cared) versus Vancouver/Montréal (regionally secluded; lack of fan base).

    In any event it's a shame what happened in each city (well, at least Seattle, Houston, Cleveland, and Montréal).
     
  5. mrpaige

    mrpaige Contributing Member

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    I don't think the situation was unique. I just think people get a perception of a team or its fan base and make judgments accordingly.

    Houston was seen as a city that didn't support the Oilers (largely based on the fact that people stopped going to games when it became clear that the team was going to move), so the overwhelming perception was that we deserved to lose our team despite the history. Same with the Rams and with the Raiders when they returned to L.A.

    The Browns and the Hornets (and now the Sonics) had a reputation for having a strong fan base, so they get the "How could this happen?" columns and stories.

    The reality of the situation is never really studied in depth in these stories and columns. That would be too difficult.
     
  6. emjohn

    emjohn Contributing Member

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    When I look at this situation, I don't see the Sonics as the ones who dicked over the town. It's easy to paint it that way when the multimillionaire/multibillionaire owners pack up and move for the newer arena and greener corporate money. That's not really the case here.

    The Sonics were in an ANCIENT arena during the Payton/Kemp era and needed to get a new arena to remain competitive financially when the Jordan-fueled NBA boom took place. They compromised with the city and instead of a new arena, agreed on a near-rebuild of Key Arena with revenue splits that would help pay it off.

    Because of the lease agreement, mainly the revenue splits, the Sonics ended up only slightly better off than they were before and were in financial trouble again after only a couple of years. The Rockets tried the same halfway approach when they renovated the Summit (expanded food court) and also found that there was no way around a new Arena.

    Sonics tried a second round of renovations that got shot down by the city. They asked for a new arena that was shot down. They looked into moving to Tacoma to stay nearby and nothing came about.

    I'm fairly sure Schultz did everything he could to find a manageable solution to keep the team in town. But as it was, they had to work on a (relatively) minor budget and couldn't afford to give anyone max contracts. In the end, Schultz didn't want to leave town or at least didn't want to take the heat (as a local businessman) for moving the team. So he sold to Bennett, knowing full well that the team was going to go to OKC. If he didn't know, he's the most naive and foolish man to ever run such a successful company (Starbucks). His lawsuit to buy back the team is nothing more than a sham and a show to protect his goodwill in Seattle.

    Where I'm going with all this is the city, in particular the elected officials, should shoulder the vast bulk of the responsibility for the Sonics leaving. I've kept an eye on this situation for a good decade: the Sonics have been rebuffed every time they try to make something happen and the city has been daring them to walk for years.

    Seattle set up the Mariners and Seahawks, but weren't willing to even set up a plan for a new arena to follow the current lease. They weren't willing to discuss or negotiate item 1 with the team. They made their decision. We would have lost the Rockets if we took that same stance.

    The only other thing I'll add is that it's a shame that the Hornets couldn't stay in OKC, considering how massive a hit they were there. Pre-Katrina New Orleans was a terrible home from the start, fixing figures and double-counting tickets and STILL sitting in the basement with league attendance. It's a shame the league keeps putting teams in the wrong locations (Memphis) and burning bridges with others (Charlotte).

    Evan
     
  7. DaDakota

    DaDakota If you want to know, just ask!

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    Why didn't the city get together with the fans and buy the team ala Green Bay?

    Sell shares etc.....

    DD
     
  8. shipwreck

    shipwreck Member

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    its raining truth.
     

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